Panel Encourages Innovation and Involvement for Student Success
Some of you may not realize it, but Atomic Learning’s corporate headquarters is located just a bit north east of Lake Wobegon, the fictional town of Garrison Keillor where “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” Minnesota has a long history of education leadership; our state often leads the nation in many of the traditional benchmarks of success. Last Friday, I attended a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce luncheon focused on education. Braving sub-zero temperatures, education and business leaders from around our state met to discuss ways to improve education with goals including reducing the achievement gap and improving high school graduation rate. The key takeaway I discovered was that the business community feels strongly about quality education.
The keynote speaker was Arne Duncan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. He was introduced by our governor, Mark Dayton. A bipartisan panel of state officials spoke later in the day. The political discussion seemed to favor many of the proposals made in the Obama administration’s ESA Reauthorization: A Blueprint for Reform. A panel of local business leaders focused on the question “What are business needs and how can we achieve them?” The panel members included:
- Peter Hutchinson, president, Bush Foundation (moderator)
- Dave Beito, president, Northern State Bank
- Ann Cramer, director Americas, IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs
- Sanjay Kuba, president, GCI Systems
- Kim Nelson, senior vice president, external relations, General Mills
Though the phrase 21st century skills was not mentioned, it was clear that the themes were woven into what the business leaders were looking for in those in the workforce. Problem solving, working in teams and the ability to collaborate, and global citizenship were all very important. The panel was also asked how they encourage innovation in their companies. Beito received a round of applause for his one-word answer: empowerment. Each organization represented on the panel conveys a culture of innovation; trying new things and learning from missteps.
The panel spoke of the need for parents to be involved and the need to support teachers. There were several suggestions on how companies can help through volunteering and offering to support parents in their involvement with their children’s education. Cramer indicated that schools should remember the things business does well and ask for help: human relations and business systems. Of course, she also mentioned that the charitable arms of businesses are a great resource for schools looking for help funding initiatives.
Leaving the luncheon, it was clear that the business community feels strongly about quality education, and is willing to play a part in supporting schools. When looking for ways to innovate in your school, it may be worth contacting a few local companies to get their prospective and ask for their advice. In today’s competitive market, any successful business must make innovation an essential element in their culture. Likewise, successful schools must strive for innovation in order to develop college and career-ready students.
How can the education and business communities work together to improve our schools?