Applying Business Practices to Improve Education

Jan 31, 2007

By Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
February 27, 2007

Entrepreneur and philanthropist George Peabody said education is a debt due from present to future generations. In an increasingly competitive global economy where nations like China and India are rising to challenge American leadership, we must ask ourselves: Are we adequately preparing our children for the intellectual demands of the modern workplace and a far more complex society?

A new study to be released jointly tomorrow morning by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think tank, finds that this country is failing to prepare students to compete in the knowledge-based workforce of the twenty-first century. The U.S. Chamber and CAP don't often agree on public policy matters, but we are united in our concern over the woeful state of American education.

In a state-by-state assessment of education systems, we found there is not a single state in the country where a majority of students are proficient in reading or math. One-third of all 9th graders will not graduate in four years—almost half of all minority students will not. At least 40% of our students enrolling in college have to take at least one remedial course when they get there.

Failure to improve our state education systems will have dire consequences. The result will be more failing schools, broken dreams for children, and the gradual decline of America as an economic and technological superpower.

The Department of Labor estimates that 90% of the jobs in the fastest-growing sectors of our economy will require some postsecondary education. As our population ages and an estimated 77 million baby boomers retire, the gap between available jobs and available workers with the needed skills could grow to 35 million or more by 2012.

Despite these grim statistics, our study concludes that there are solutions to these challenges. We firmly believe that the traits that have long made the American private sector an engine of global prosperity—its dynamism, creativity, and relentless focus on efficiency and results—are essential to tapping the potential of our educators and schools.

Next week we'll examine four areas where business practices should be brought to bear to improve education and help us meet the debt we owe the next generation.

Learn more.

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