Setting a New Foundation for Business - School Partnerships (Special to the Oakland Business Review)
We are entering a new era of public education. With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balanced Assessments, a new approach to teaching, learning and assessment is primed to narrow the skills gap between the completion of high school and the start of success in college and career. These changes provide new opportunities to re-engage the business community to work in partnership with schools by helping student improve their critical thinking and problem solving skills. While there are many possible ways for schools and businesses to work together successfully, work experience programs and technical assistance are particularly beneficial in today’s environment. We all have a stake in ensuring that students have a quality education that prepares them to become the leaders of tomorrow.
New programs and organizational models are needed to promote alignment and collaboration to support students’ transition from school to college and career. The business community has much to offer in providing technical expertise in the development of school programs, academies and in teacher training, particularly in the areas of math and science. The need for robust programs is particularly salient here in the Bay Area as an emerging center for science innovation and new tech start-ups. Teachers are preparing to deliver information in new, more creative and engaging ways and schools will be primed to take on collaborative partnerships that support learning objectives and provide the kind of meaningful experiences that students need to make the transition to college and the world of work.
New standards and assessments in schools focus on student applied knowledge and critical thinking. Students who have the opportunity to test these skill in real-world contexts stand to benefit greatly. This is the new way of work that, in many ways, builds on the assets students bring with them. If we can successfully work to transfer those interests, skills and abilities and apply them in relevant, applicable contexts, it provides a win-win opportunity for students, for educators and ultimately for business and our broader community.
Another important role of business is to provide work experience opportunities for students. Paid and unpaid internships, and apprenticeships offer alternatives for students, especially those who are attracted to project-based learning. This is not the vocational education of the past that often served as roadblocks for poor students and student of color. The career and technical training programs of today provide rigorous, foundational academic skills, along with applicable technical training and are credible alternatives to traditional pathways to higher education and careers. Today, career/technical education and college preparation are not counterposed and can be complementary parts of a menu of options for different students at different points of their educational journey.
As Superintendent of Alameda County Schools, I invite the Oakland and larger Bay Area business community to partner with us to implement some or all of these ideas. ACOE is a natural place for these creative ideas to develop and mature. As a county office of education, we serve as an umbrella organization that can bridge educational and community resources to pilot new ideas and ensure that they are rigorous and common-core standards-based. Our strategy includes a new approach to teaching and learning that emphasizes collaboration, and reflection. I look forward to working with you.
-Sheila Jordan, Alameda County Superintendent of Schools
The Oakland Business Review, August 2013
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