A Challenge to the Business Community About What Matters Now
Patrick S. Finn is a NCTAF Commissioner and a Senior Executive, Consultant, Advisor and Investor
A few years ago, I attended the White House Science Fair, where I had the honor to spend a few moments with President Obama on the topic of education in the U.S. He was interested in corporate America’s focus on education. I shared my view that there are 4 reasons why improving education in the U.S. is so important for the future of America and the health of corporations:
(1) Education must be improved for all of our children to ensure a strong and healthy society;
(2) Innovation has to be the heartbeat of the digital era and the evolution of the educational process;
(3) Success for America in the global, competitive environment depends on an education system that produces 21st century critical thinkers and problem solvers; and
(4) Jobs are dependent on a strong education system that values global competitiveness and an innovative culture.
Long after the White House Science Fair, I continue to reflect on President Obama’s question, “What is corporate America’s focus and interest in education?”, which leads me to the important question, “Do corporations really understand the threat to our future if we do not actively engage to support, change, and improve the education system in the U.S.?” The answer, currently, is no or best case, maybe but mixed. This is about more than engaging in STEM projects or sponsoring events. This is about the corporate sector pushing leaders to change the system. It is about business and education truly becoming partners for an outcome that delivers measurable improvements, thereby, bringing the best of business to education in a consistent way.
To achieve these goals, we as a country, with the corporate sector leading the charge with active partnerships and engagements, must focus on the needs of our students, especially those in the highest needs areas. And we must support our teachers, building their profession and encouraging them to grow and develop their practice to, in turn, help to develop students ready to thrive in our current and future economy. Corporate America, representing every sector and industry, has a responsibility to stay engaged at the school, district, state, and national levels to ensure that we are able to build an education system that develops the future employees we need.
Time and time again, evidence has shown that teachers are the most important factor in determining student success and readiness. If America wants to continue to lead the world economy, it’s critical to focus on supporting our most important asset in the classroom: our teachers. In many cultures, teachers are honored and valued not just by their students but also by their nation. Corporate America has an opportunity to support a similar shift in this country. If we make a purposeful investment in teaching, we will encourage the teachers we need – those that are ready to help students discover the skills that our companies demand – to join and stay in the profession.
Two years ago, I was introduced to the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future, an organization with a 20-year history of focusing on supporting the teaching profession in order to ensure that every student has access to great teaching. I joined the Commission to provide the perspective and support of the business community in this critical effort to support teaching and improve education for every student. I have the honor of working alongside some amazing commissioners under the leadership of Co-Chairs Secretary Richard W. Riley and Ted Sanders, and NCTAF’s President Melinda George.
It’s been a wonderful – educational – journey so far. And today, I am very proud to highlight NCTAF’s report: What Matters Now: A New Compact for Teaching and Learning. This report provides guidance on how to reorganize schools in ways that support teaching, drive learning, and provide all students a strong foundation for a bright future. It offers a solution, a guide, and a positive non-partisan approach for change and improvement.
And now I am reaching out to invite my fellow leaders in the business community to join this critical effort. This is no longer a “nice to have.” It’s a must have for America’s success and for the corporate sector to thrive. An easy first step is to read this critical report and then pass it on. The next steps are more complicated but well worth the effort. First, get involved. Take it upon yourself to encourage your government representatives to adopt some of the NCTAF recommendations at the school, district, state, or local level. Link the changes that the report is calling for to the health of your business or industry. And second, consider investing in this movement. It is going to take a united effort to make these changes, and groups like NCTAF are leading the way. Please join us in this effort to support teaching and improve education for all students. This is what matters now in both education and corporations that will impact our future.
This article originally appeared August 19, 2016 as What Matters Now: A New Compact for Teaching and Learning on Patrick S. Finn’s LinkedIn page.