July 28, 2011
A focus on the basics
Utah business leaders shaping the direction of Prosperity 2020 are exploring a number of initiatives to strengthen public education across the state with an emphasis on Utah’s youngest students. That’s according to a recent discussion of the Prosperity 2020 Founders’ Council.
Prosperity 2020 is a statewide movement of major business associations to improve public and higher education in Utah. United in their belief that education is the path to enduring prosperity, Utah business leaders have come together in a multi-year effort with initial goals to ensure 90 percent of elementary school students are proficient in reading and math and that two-thirds of all Utahns hold a postsecondary degree or certificate.
Early Start to Success
The Founders’ Council overwhelmingly supports the Early Start to Success program, which provides targeted pre-school programs for children most at risk—those living in poverty, refugee children and others who don’t speak English—and an all-day, voluntary kindergarten program.
“The research evidence is very clear that an early start for pre-school children and kindergarten children has a significant impact on their achievement in school at all levels,” said former commissioner of higher education Dr. Richard Kendell, who also serves as a professor of education leadership and policy at the University of Utah College of Education and an advisor to Prosperity 2020. “Kids who receive these services tend to perform better in school whether your looking at standardized exams or their high school graduation rate.”
College and Career Ready
To ensure the public education system is preparing students for college level work, as well as the work force, an enhanced focus on reading and math fundamentals during elementary school is proven to be highly beneficial. The Founders’ Council strongly supports the Common Core State Standards.
The Common Core State Standards is a voluntary effort to establish a shared set of clear educational standards for English language arts and mathematics. The federal government does not lead this effort; it is guided by the participating states. The development of the standards was coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The Standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators and experts to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare students for college and the workforce.
The Common Core was developed using research results and the highest state standards across the country.
“We’re developing, with other states, common leanings for all students in the areas of reading and mathematics clear performance standards,” said Dr. Kendell. “This allows us to measure our student performance both within the state and against other participating states.”
STEM Acceleration K-16
The Founders’ Council recognizes that, in the decades to come, the prosperity of our state and national economies will depend a great deal on the performance of our students in science and technology.
The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiative is intended to identify early the students who show an interest and aptitude for math and science and to provide supportive programs throughout their education.
“These students will be the future scientists, engineers and technicians that create new products, start new companies and bolster our economy long term,” said Dr. Kendell. “Job creation is the hot topic right now but long-term we need to have the workforce to fill these jobs, and create now products and businesses.”
Prosperity 2020 leaders will continue their discussions regarding investment and innovation in both public and higher education. This fall, they will advance a formal legislative proposal to drive Utah toward the 2020 goals.
For more from Prosperity 2020, click here.Posted by: psilberman