To keep America competitive and strong, the business community must be actively engaged on issues related to our nation's educational system as a means to ensure an educated citizenry of self-sufficient, lifelong learners who have the skills needed to thrive in the global workplace, today and in the future. The coordination of community resources, school support systems, family engagement programs, and classroom teachers' efforts can diminish the barriers to learning. Employer engagement must be significant and have the ability to address some of the greatest challenges facing education in this country. These challenges include the lack of preparation of early learners who enter school for the first time, the significant learning and education gaps among groups of students, as well as the unacceptable number of students who never complete a secondary education or have the skills necessary to enter the world of work or continue on with higher education.
I. Building the Foundation - Early Childhood and Pre-K
Studies by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota reveal that the capacity for developmental skills begins in the first five years of life. This is the beginning point for a person's creativity, communication, team working, problem solving, and critical thinking skills. These studies reflect that there is a great need for children to enter kindergarten prepared to learn. Unfortunately, too few young children today are in fact prepared with these tools. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce believes that to begin to address this issue of maximizing educational effectiveness, while remaining fiscally responsible, there must be far greater coordination among the existing patchwork of federal, state, local, and private early childhood programs. Through these efforts, states and localities should strive to provide access to high quality programs for all children. These programs should include a strong family engagement component to facilitate early literacy development; should focus on academic preparation; and be held accountable for their performance. Research shows that lasting benefits of Pre-K programs only persist when staff is professionally prepared and high quality standards are maintained.
II. Identifying Elements of a Successful K-12 System
The toughest, most important competitive race in the 21st Century worldwide economy will be the global race for talent and workers. For the American Dream to thrive, it will require economic prosperity and opportunity for every American—and that requires a quality, rigorous, well-rounded education that prepares our youth for the challenges of today and tomorrow. To ensure every child receives a quality education, the Chamber believes there needs to be a focus on human talent, effective systems, innovation, and measurement.....