By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2014, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
For much of this past session, the Legislature and various groups engaged in a debate over the appropriateness of Common Core standards for Oklahoma’s public schools.
In the end, Common Core was repealed and the state Department of Education has been directed to adopt different standards of education for Oklahoma’s K-12 curriculum.
It’s not my purpose to offer another opinion on whether Oklahoma’s decision to nix Common Core is a good or bad choice for our students. Only time will tell whether the new standards will better prepare our students to get good jobs when they finish school.
But I do want to talk about the debate.
The statewide conversation wasn’t limited to educators, parents, and elected officials. Oklahoma’s business community — CEOs, senior executives, and others in corporations and startups alike — weighed in, often supporting the Common Core as a stronger and better standard of education for our kids.
Reportedly, several members of the Legislature took the position that the education of Oklahoma’s youth is none of the business community’s business.
And that got me thinking, just what is the business of business?
At i2E, when we are evaluating the promise of a new company, one of the first things we do is ask the entrepreneur and the founding team to identify the ultimate consumer of the new company’s product or services. What needs does that person have? How well does the proposed business or technical solution meet those needs?
When it comes to public education, the corporations and startups in Oklahoma are the ultimate consumers. They are the ones with the jobs that they (and the graduates of our education system) want to fill.
Our business community is saying that the current education product doesn’t meet their needs. Their message is clear. Whether from high school, career tech institutions, or our colleges and universities, graduates need to be more — not less — rigorously prepared.
Innovative businesses need critical thinkers. They need employees with problem solving skills. They seek workers at all levels who are trained to deal with uncertainty, who create innovation through hypotheses and experimentation.
According to performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, just 25 percent of Oklahoma’s eighth-graders are proficient in math and 29 percent are proficient in reading. Some 40 percent of our high school graduates take remedial classes once they are enrolled in college because they didn’t exit high school prepared for the challenges of higher education.
We’d better accept that the education of Oklahoma’s young people is the business of business. We should invite input from the business community on the appropriate standards of education — that is if we want our sons and daughters to have interesting and well-paying jobs.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
DID YOU KNOW? In nearly every state, the workforce and labor demands are mismatched, with the most prevalent mismatch between the number of type of middle skills jobs available and the number of workers who can fill them.
SOURCE: Achieve Inc.