Quality Education is No Longer an Option, it is Essential

Summer 2011

This summer I have had the opportunity to work at the crossroads of business and education. Through my internship in resource development, I have learned firsthand the importance of having Corporate America involved and invested in the dropout crisis. Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend an event sponsored by Gallup, Lumina and the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development called “Public Perceptions of U.S. Education”. This event, featuring top leaders in education nonprofits and research, such as Bob Wise (President of Alliance for Excellent Education), Jamie Meristosis (President and CEO of Lumina Foundation), Dr. Bill Bushaw (Executive Director of Pi Delta Kappan) and other renowned experts on education and business. These leaders along with the almost 300 member audience of educators, education administrators and education leaders discussed the results of a recent Gallup poll asking the public’s perceptions of U.S. Education. The results from this poll led to fruitful and meaningful conversation about key issues in education.

One of the key findings from this poll was that American’s want a high quality education. Though this is not earth shattering news, it sparked a great discussion between the audience and panelists about what it means to provide students with a quality education. American’s recognize the need for high quality K-12 education, but they also see the disconnect between education today. The meaning of teacher effectiveness and the role of technology in education as well as best practices were all ideas that this group of educational leaders grappled with. 

This forum showed me that we have a lot of work still to do to address many of the problems in education, but this type of collaborative dialogue is key is moving our efforts forward. This discussion concluded with a sentiment that resonated with me from an administrator from Xavier University so plainly said, “It’s about students and teachers.” As we talk about education reform, teacher quality and evaluation it is essential to keep the process of teaching and learning and the main players at the center of our conversation: teachers and students. As these conversations in research and public policy are happening nationally, it is rare to see the voice of the teacher or the voice of the student ring through. 

Unfortunately, education too often becomes a political bargaining tool and the heart of the issue is often lost. As a special education teacher, I see the result these issues (lack of funding and resources, ineffective instruction, etc.) unfolding right in front of me. I see the high numbers of students living in poverty and the need for more than we in the schools are able to provide. This is why the need for businesses in education is so critical. Business leaders need to be aware of this dropout crisis and make investments to help support the communities in the most need. This is also why I chose to intern with America’s Promise, because they are actively working on bridging the gap for students at-risk of dropping out.

The portion of the event that stuck with me the most was the conversation around higher education.  As an elementary school teacher, I did not anticipate being interested in this portion but I soon found that conversation centered around getting students on the path to higher education. 

Jamie Meristosis, President and CEO of Lumina Foundation, put it best, “Its about getting students to the starting line.”  

Meristosis, the most poignant speaker on this issue, addressed the essential nature of a quality postsecondary education. According to Meristosis and Lumina’s research, American’s cannot afford to not have postsecondary education, “It’s not just a nice thing to have, it’s essential.” Meristosis cites the Lumina research indicating that “in order to get a good job, you need to have some postsecondary education”. 

He went on to say that in today’s economy, “…having college degree means that you are more likely to live in the middle class. Unfortunately, what the other side of that statistic is saying is the harsh reality that, if you don’t have a college degree, you are more likely to be poor.” 

Meristosis went on to emphasize the importance of postsecondary education. The cost of a poor education is detrimental to the individual and their future earnings as well as to our economy. In light of this statement, we as a nation, have to take an active role and a serious investment in our nations’ education.  The students and our nation are at risk and we do not have time to wait. As a result of this rich dialogue and the knowledge and skills I have gained this summer at America’s Promise Alliance, I understand the urgency of this issue and am ready to work to change our children’s and our nation’s future.