Report urges deeper corporate involvement in K-12 ed

Report urges deeper corporate involvement in K-12 ed

(Mass.) U.S. corporations donate an estimated $3 billion to $4 billion a year to K-12 education but more can and should be done to ensure that philanthropy today actually leads to widespread improved student outcomes in the future, says a new report from the Harvard Business School, Boston Consulting Group and the Gates Foundation.

“Lasting Impact: A Business Leader’s Playbook for Supporting America’s Schools,” urges corporate donors to more closely partner with school administrators and invest in initiatives aimed at transforming the public education system.

What’s more, an overwhelming majority of school superintendents, according to a survey released with the report, would welcome deeper involvement in their schools by the business community.

“Funding is helpful, but more importantly the business community needs to partner with schools to emphasize the importance of education to students. Anyone can throw money at a problem,” one superintendent, echoing comments from several others, wrote in the survey – detailed in a companion report titled “Partial Credit: How America’s School Superintendents See Business as a Partner.”

Of the 1,118 superintendents (from the 10,000 largest districts in the United States) surveyed last fall, 95 percent reported some form of business involvement in their districts, and 90 percent said that involvement leads to positive impact in education. At the same time, just 3 percent of those administrators rated business leaders as “well-informed” about public education, and 14 percent of the survey respondents said corporate leaders are actually misinformed.

Educators view business as a “useful source of near-term funding and volunteer manpower, but rarely as a long-term partner in efforts to transform PK–12 education,” researchers wrote.

Meanwhile, business leaders hoping to make a difference in the growth and lives of students – the country’s future workforce – complain that the bureaucracy of the public school system slows needed change to a crawl and stifles the deeper engagement that leads to reform.

Even so, report authors note, recent trends are opening the doors for more meaningful partnerships between K-12 education and the business world. In naming several transformational approaches business can support, researchers offer examples that show such liaisons can be successful.

“Nationally, for instance, a broad coalition of businesspeople has pushed for adoption, and now implementation, of Common Core State Standards – a move they believe will set the stage for broad-based innovation and increased rigor in America’s schools,” the report states.

In San Antonio recently, business leaders helped win voter approval for a small sales tax increase that will raise $31 million annually to support universal access to quality prekindergarten programs.

And, in Cincinnati, business leaders have joined with educators, civic leaders, and nonprofit heads in the Strive Partnership – an effort to craft an integrated system for supporting the city’s children from cradle to career. The effort has led to new levels of coordinated action and measurable improvement on outcomes that shape the city’s health.

“Taken together, the findings suggest that there is great untapped potential in the alliance between educators and business leaders,” authors wrote. “But tapping that potential will require a concerted and coordinated effort, especially to build mutual understanding and trust between the two sectors.”

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