Businesses need to support school districts as they switch to new, tougher education standards which will help stock American companies with a competitive workforce.
That’s what Kelli Wells, who heads education efforts for the GE Foundation, told a Florida business group at an Orlando discussion of Common Core State Standards.
Florida, 44 states and the District of Columbia have fully adopted Common Core standards for math and English language arts. The standards focus on deeper knowledge of fewer subjects, and not only ask students what they know but to prove how they know it.
The standards, speakers said, emphasize focus, coherence and rigor. They are also designed to allow better comparisons between states, and to foreign students.
But while the change is necessary and worthwhile, Wells said it won’t be easy. Businesses need to back up politicians and schools districts who might become wobbly when fewer students are passing the new, tougher standardized tests which will accompany Common Core.
“When the educators get nervous, stay focused,” Wells told the Florida Council of 100, a business, civic and academic group. “If this fails, 20, 30 years from now Brazil, Russia, India and China will be so far ahead of us.”
Wells said that teachers who are trying out the new standards say they have had to change 70 percent to 80 percent of their teaching methods. A class might spend two to three weeks on a topic they now spend one to two days on.
“It’s an enormous change in practice,” she said.
One way business can help, Wells said, is offering school districts business advice for their human relations or finance operations. The GE Foundation, she said, has helped school districts find cheaper or more efficient ways to do things such as providing student schedules.
The discussion continues this afternoon. You can watch here.