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Working Together to Improve American Public Education
Guest-blogging today is Stan Litow of IBM. Mr. Litow is IBM’s Vice President for Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, and was formerly the Deputy Chancellor of NYC schools. IBM is contributing its time and talent to two signature George W. Bush Institute Initiatives – the Alliance to Reform Education Leadership (an Education Reform initiative) and Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon (a Global Health initiative). We think you’ll like what he has to say: American education is in great need of large scale systemic change. We have an overall reported drop out rate of 25 percent across the U.S., with significantly higher rates in large urban school districts. Even among high school graduates with a diploma, fully one third require remediation when they begin college, and only 30 percent complete their Bachelor’s degrees. Completion rates in our two-year colleges are even lower, with only about one in four completing a degree even at the end of six years. In a single generation, our per capita college graduation rate has fallen from first in the world to ninth. In a global economy which places a premium on knowledge workers – and where education lights the pathway to prosperity – we have our work cut out for us. Working arm in arm with states, school districts, and cities are a number of public and private partners who understand more than ever that we all have some skin in this game. At IBM, we’ve invested technology, and our people’s significant talent and expertise in the future of American education. Whether it’s creating improvements in early childhood education, combating illiteracy, helping teachers improve their teaching of math and science, helping employees to transition to teaching as a second career, or forming innovative partnerships to create a new school model, IBM is helping to close the gap between where we are and where we need to be to compete and win in the global marketplace. Let’s take a look at some specific challenges and what all of us can do to manage through them: •Though college graduates out earn high school graduates by 84 percent, only 41 percent of Americans hold Bachelor’s degrees, and only 30 percent of those who start a Bachelor’s degree finish it. •Men lacking high school educations have lost 66 percent of their median earnings since World War II, and are 23 percent less likely to obtain any labor-market earnings. •In some cities, nine of every 10 community college students fail to finish their two-year Associate’s degrees…even after six years of trying. These statistics are particularly important to all of us because of changes in the workplace, where 63 percent of American jobs will require post-secondary education or training by 2018 – only seven years from now. And even with national unemployment higher than 9 percent – and unemployment among the undereducated and underprivileged more than twice that – more than 50 percent of U.S. employers report that they cannot find qualified workers. As Thomas L. Friedman has observed, America has a skills problem, not a jobs problem. In response, IBM is helping two of America’s largest cities – New York and Chicago – to close the gap between education and jobs with an innovative new model for public schools. In New York, our partnership with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the public schools and the City University community college system has resulted in a new grades 9 through 14 institution that confers both the high school diploma and an Associate’s degree in technology – with its graduates being first in line for jobs at IBM. The Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) model is now being replicated in Chicago, where IBM is working with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and local educators to develop a strategy for a series of grades 9 through 14 schools designed to increase the number of Chicago public school graduates with the skills needed for employment in a variety of growth industries. President Obama recently praised the importance and relevance of the new grade 9 through 14 model, saying that it “suddenly gives kids an incentive. They say ‘Oh, the reason I’m studying math and science [or healthcare or advanced manufacturing] is there’s a practical outcome here. I will have a job. And there are practical applications to what I’m doing in the classroom.’” IBM’s efforts to improve education are grounded in the belief that the economic future for our company, our clients and our business partners depends on an educated and skilled workforce. A company’s success is enhanced by residing in a successful community, and nothing contributes more to a successful community than strong and stable schools. Finally, education is everyone’s responsibility because smarter people make smarter decisions for themselves, for our economy, for our society, and for our planet. Stanley S. Litow is IBM's Vice President for Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, and President of the IBM International Foundation. Mr. Litow was formerly Deputy Chancellor of the New York City schools.