Common Core for Business

Why Businesses Need to Know About the Common Core State Standards

When you were in high school, did you ever ask your Algebra II teacher, “What has this got to do with anything?” or your history teacher, “Why do I need to know the date of the Battle of Antietam?”

Kids of today’s generation have even more reason to wonder at the necessity of knowing dates and math minutiae. They’ve got Google. Who needs to know it when they can look it up?

When you produced your first case study or annual report, did you fall back to senior year Lit class to structure your report? Did understanding Catcher in the Rye help?

Was high school a complete waste of time?

Most wouldn’t go so far as to denigrate every lesson in every class. But many will question the worth of what they felt forced to learn.

As an employer, have you ever shaken your head after a wayward interview with a teenager and wondered, “What, exactly, are they teaching kids these days?” If a kid can’t ask a relevant question about a prospective job, what confidence have you that he’ll understand how to DO the job?

It’s been a chronic divide. Schools teach what educators believe kids should learn, based on years of research and empirical data, yet the connections between their education and real world relevance seems stretchy at best.

Good news. Educators are addressing this relevance issue.

Forty-five states are preparing to implement what is known as the Common Core State Standards. Along with consistency across states and global competitiveness, is the stalwart principle of producing students who are college-ready and workforce-relevant.

In a policy blueprint for the US Department of Education, President Barack Obama is quoted as saying:

We must ensure that every student graduates from high school well prepared for college and a career.

Why should businesses care about Common Core State Standards?

You should care because now is your chance to help connect the dots.

The obvious question on the table, from a business perspective, is how on earth schools think they’ll adjust to market needs when they aren’t in the market?

Educators might agree. And businesses might be surprised to learn that teachers really aren’t all about wasting kids’ time with meaningless babble. Besides the frustrations of adopting yet another curriculum methodology, most educators find pride in a finely finished and capable student.

The standards establish what students need to learn, but they do not dictate how teachers should teach.

~from Common Core State Standards FAQs

 So how can businesses have a voice in Common Core State Standards?

While you might not have a voice that’s written into your state’s standards, you can have an impact in promoting career readiness, if you are willing. For example:

The Nashville Chamber of Commerce recognized that “today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce” and have made improvement of public education its number-one priority. The chamber works to engage the community at large in public education and create opportunities for business leaders to participate.

Their Education 2020 program initiative includes a speaker series focused on engaging the community around important education issues, while another brings live examples across a wide array of industries into classrooms.

Imagine how engaged your high school self would have been if a project coordinator or a marketing director or a digital designer came to your classroom and told you how they ended up where they did. You would have understood how art history or persuasive writing or spatial math could actually apply to your future.

It might be interesting to note the Nashville’s Chamber’s purpose and brand statement: We facilitate community leadership to create economic prosperity.

While their Chamber affords networking opportunities to nurture existing businesses, they are keeping an eye toward their community’s future and actively pursuing initiatives that will create the prosperity they seek. The education initiative is tucked between entrepreneurial support, young professional and workforce development as well as health care and a community music council.

What is your Chamber (or business group) doing to enhance and promote K12 education your community’s emerging workforce? Have you invited educators to your meetings? Given them the floor to explain how they envision incorporating area businesses? What would be their perfect world?

Someone needs to take the lead, create the openings and conversation.

The timing couldn’t be better.

How about you? What have you or your community done to connect the business and educational communities? I’d love to hear your success stories. Please comment below or email me and let me know.

Image courtesy of bplanet/

The Common Core Standards will fail to feed our workforce unless…

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.

~ from Common Core State Standards Initiative

Finally, educational standards that make sense for the real-world.

But the way I see it, there’s one huge gap in the conversation. Business people.

In its development, the common core committee consulted national organizations representing teachers, postsecondary educators, civil rights groups, English language learners, and students with disabilities. Where were the business leaders? Who decided what skills will be relevant for work expectations?

Will educators be retooling schools, curriculums and systems while chasing a ghost of a theory? Or can the business community and educators finally find commonality in purpose?

Red tape and fast action don’t live together

As it stands today, the two camps speak different languages and operate within opposing world systems. Businesses, by nature, must be responsive to market shifts. Those who dally, die. Schools, by nature, respond slower, by committee. Case in point, Common Core Standards were adopted in 2010 and are only just now being implemented by some states.

Businesses operate privately, albeit corporations answer to boards of directors and shareholders. Owners and CEOs usually have the authority to innovate and move on opportunity with little bureaucracy beyond industry regulation and tax laws. Educators, on the other hand, are highly regulated. Innovators face skepticism and doubt.

Businesses hate red tape. Educators don’t operate without it.

Businesses profit or die. Schools fail and live.

Businesses have a hard time understanding educational constraints. And operating from a subsidized system, educators don’t live the cost of risk and innovation (unless education is a second career).

With such distance between systems, how can we think the Common Core will succeed in making education relevant to the real world when the two camps are like blind men and the elephant? While each owns a reality, the reality of the pieces resembles nothing of the whole.

As a parent, as an education writer, and as the partner of a serial small business entrepreneur, I’m very much interested in seeing this Common Core succeed. It makes so much sense.

So how do we find the conduit, the vital connection, that will make this work? Who will start the conversation? Who will tell schools how to approach and win business’ support? Who will show businesses where and how they will be welcome within the system?

If nothing else, with this blog I hope to scour, enlighten, question and build a bridge–at least the beginnings of one. Check back as I add my journalistic skill, insatiable curiosity and entrepreneurial experiences to the void.

This could be the start of something beautiful.