Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How about "Open for Progress" instead of "Open for Business?" - How education can be a target of collaborative efforts rather than partisan warfare

David Bornstein wrote an interesting Opinionator column for yesterday's New York Times on a community wide initiative in the Greater Cincinnati area to improve school performance.  The project known as the Strive Together Partnership involves collaboration among:

       ". . . early childhood educators, school superintendents, college presidents, business leaders, foundation directors and a range of civil society executives. They came together in 2006 after a report noted that Ohio and Kentucky were lagging behind other states in college attainment rates. Community leaders were concerned about remaining competitive in a global economy."

The partnership involves major businesses in the Cincinnati region like Proctor and Gamble, Fifth Third Bank, Toyota, J.P. Morgan Chase, working with:

1.  Community groups like United Way, Urban League of Cincinnati, the YMCA;
2.  Unions: the Cincinnati Federation of  Teachers:
3.  Business associations, the Cincinnati Business Committee
4.  Charities such as the U.S. Bank Foundation;
5.  Public school districts and parochial school associations;
6.  Local universities and technical colleges.

Money Quote from the Strive website:

"After three years of reporting on ten key student success indicators in the Strive footprint (Cincinnati, Newport and Covington, Ohio), the Strive Partnership will rally around seven priority outcomes: kindergarten readiness, 4th grade reading proficiency, 8th grade math proficiency, high school graduation rates and ACT scores, and postsecondary enrollment and completion."

Strive's three year report card is out.  Bornstein summarizes: 

". . . kindergarten readiness has jumped 9 percent; fourth grade reading and math have increased 7 percent and 14 percent, respectively; and the high school graduation rate is up 11 percent. At the University of Cincinnati graduation rates for students from local urban high schools jumped by 7 percent; at Northern Kentucky University, by 10 percent."

If you are a business owner, thinking of moving to a new locale, does an initiative like Strive look appealing in terms of planning for a stable and educated work force?  Does an initiative like Strive signal that the local community values cooperation between private business, government and schools to achieve success for the community in the future? 

The leadership approach of Governor Walker, the Wisconsin GOP legislators and the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce is on the far end of the spectrum from what is happening in Cincinnati.   Instead of demonizing teachers and public workers, pushing class warfare among the state's citizens, needlessly usurping authority from local municipalities and school boards, and imposing government will without meaningful dialogue, the GOP in Wisconsin needs to make a sharp turn if it really wants to advertise Wisconsin as being a great business climate.  Here is a suggestion for a new slogan for Governor Walker and the Fitzgerald brothers, that should appeal to the types of businesses we need for Wisconsin to be a strong economy:  "Open for Progress."

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