Morgan: Business of education

Fred Morgan, President and CEO

It’s a tale of two reports, but there is no best of times.

“The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people,” according to one report.

This report suggests that for the first time in our history, the educational skills of one generation won’t surpass or even equal those of their parents. Its authors say the promise to our children to secure gainful employment and manage their own lives and the progress of society is at risk. This report, A Nation at Risk, was written in 1983.

Fast-forward more than 30 years. We have a new report, this one commissioned by the Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative, a business-based coalition advocating for improved education standards and better results in our state. Titled Oklahoma’s Business Case for Education Reform, the report’s findings are depressing but not surprising:

  • Of the 55,220 students who entered kindergarten in 2000, only 39,082 graduated high school in the spring of 2012.
  • Only 4,319 of those students – 8 percent – will graduate college in four years.
  • 40 percent of college-bound Oklahoma high school grads have to take at least one remedial class when they get to college.
  • Oklahoma’s schools are producing only half the workers needed to fill increasingly high-skill jobs.

How do we address the issue? Oklahoma needs rigorous standards that ensure that every child graduates from high school ready to enter the job market or go to college with no remediation required. End-of-instruction exams need to test for college or career readiness and be useful for the students and any level of higher education they choose. Our entire education system from K-12 to CareerTech, community colleges and universities, needs to focus on preparing all students to be successful in their chosen career paths.

The question isn’t whether the business community should be involved in improving Oklahoma’s education system. The question is: How can you not listen to the people who create the careers? In the business world, ignoring feedback from those who buy your product or services is a blueprint for failure. It’s the same in education, except that those who will suffer will determine the economic future of the entire state.

This article was posted in The Journal Record as part of Fred Morgan's monthly opinion editorial.

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