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Elliott Smith - Iowa Business Council

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Elliott SmithIowa Business Council members represent companies and institutions that touch every county of our state. Collectively, they directly employ one in six Iowans. That ratio narrows significantly when considering the vast supply chain networks each organization utilizes. These employers need competent, hard-working, ambitious people coming through their doors – graduates of the Iowa preK-12 education system who have mastered critical cognitive skills and can perform in ever-more creative and innovative business environments.

In the 4th century B.C. Aristotle said, “The fate of empires depends on the education of youth.” Today, more than ever, education serves as the fault line between those who will and will not prosper in the new economy, one in which technology dominates as never before. Maintaining any comparative advantage that Iowa currently enjoys with its education system will require meaningful, ongoing reform that:

  • implements common preK-12 core standards which ensure equal access and utilize the most technologically advanced resources;
  • establishes superior accountability and timely performance measures for students and educators;
  • provides competitive teacher compensation and advanced professional development;
  • encourages greater administrative efficiencies on a regional and statewide basis; and,
  • produces graduates who have mastered key skills related to reading, writing, math, science, problem solving, group interaction, and cultural awareness.

Without a doubt, a strong primary school experience lays the foundation for successful secondary-level coursework, desired career opportunities, and meaningful lifelong earning potential. A rigorous, seamless, transparent public school system holds the key to the continued growth and viability of businesses large and small across this state.  

There is no room in today’s global economy to be a follower. Knowledge is the power that enables leadership. A future in which Iowa effectively competes in the world marketplace has its foundation in the quality of preK-12 school leadership.  Just as success in business is determined, in part, by the quality of leadership at the top, so also is the success of students in the classroom directly correlated to the effectiveness of leadership in the school building.

Our youngest citizens must acquire the skills and competencies needed to perform at the highest level on assessments with their global peers, that will best serve their career goals, and allow them to excel in the workplace. Every child deserves the opportunity to receive superior teaching supported by state-of-the-art resources. The goal of any education excellence initiative should be for our students to lead not only the country, but the world in acquiring and applying critical skills.

In 2010, the Iowa State Board of Education voted to merge the Common Core math and English standards with what has evolved since 2008 to be known as the Iowa Core Academic Standards, a.k.a., “Iowa Core” – a broad portfolio of academic expectations for students that, along with math and literacy, also establish competencies in science, social studies, civics, and 21st century learning skills such as technology, health, and financial literacy.

The Iowa Core is benchmarked against the highest national and international standards in order to achieve exceptional educational outcomes. The standards provide teachers and parents with a clear understanding of shared goals for what students are expected to learn. The standards also identify knowledge and skill sets that students should acquire to graduate ready for success in credit-bearing college courses or entry-level workforce training programs.

Iowa’s education system must never settle with regard to expectations. The future will belong to innovative communities whose leaders galvanize their resources and set high expectations, using vision and courage to push new frontiers of learning that unleash the energy of creative thinking. Students must be motivated to achieve at levels like those found in the standards of the Iowa Core – standards rooted in basic skills that also imprint a global perspective. We must remain bold and aggressive in deploying initiatives that spur the development of a world-class learning environment. Aristotle’s words continue to ring true. The fate of Iowa depends on the education of its youth.