New School Year, Same Education Problems

Jul 31, 2007

By Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
August 21, 2007

As kids across the country return to school, there's no question our learning institutions are failing many of our children. Last February, the U.S. Chamber and the Center for American Progress issued a detailed report on the nation's education system and found much of it lacking. For example, only about two-thirds of all 9th graders graduate from high school within four years—only about half for minority students.

Every student must receive a rigorous and relevant education that provides the necessary skills to obtain good jobs in a technological, global economy. Creating education and workforce development systems that achieve this is critical to U.S. competitiveness. That's why the U.S. Chamber has launched a comprehensive, multifaceted program to reform our nation's schools. Although our efforts include a broad range of activities with many partners, let me mention just three major initiatives.

First, the Chamber is aggressively supporting the strengthening and renewal of the No Child Left Behind law, which expires this year. We believe congressional efforts to reauthorize NCLB must remain focused on raising academic achievement. Specifically, schools and school districts must be held accountable for helping all students to reach proficiency in math and reading by 2014. While states can collect information on additional measures, such measures must not undermine the existing accountability system, including the use of annual, statewide assessments.

Second, we proudly supported the America COMPETES Act, which was recently signed into law by President Bush. This legislation will help reverse the nation's alarming decline in the number of science and math graduates emerging from our schools. It authorizes over $40 billion between fiscal years 2008 and 2010 for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics research and education.

Finally, our Institute for a Competitive Workforce is promoting effective and sustainable business and education partnerships. ICW is working in such states as Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama, and Rhode Island to help businesses support education reform efforts—better teaching, better management, more data, and innovation. ICW has also formed a strategic alliance with the American Association of Community Colleges to strengthen the relationship between business and community college leaders to upgrade the skills of a region's workforce.

At this time of year when teachers and students are returning to school, it is important to remember young people cannot succeed without a first-rate education ... and we cannot succeed as a nation without them.

How do you think we can improve our education system? Comment below!

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