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Business leaders urge Congress to rewrite No Child Left Behind – Update

A group of chief executive officers at leading U.S. companies is urging Congress to rewrite No Child Left Behind as part of its recommendations for policies that promote business growth in 2013.

The Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies with more than $7.3 trillion in annual revenue, released its “2013 CEO Growth Agenda” and included a section on education reform. It has been involved for years in fostering education policy that its members believe will help grow businesses, helping to push a corporate-based reform agenda that includes high-stakes standardized tests and school choice.

(Critics of education reform note that educators don’t presume to know about business to tell business leaders how to reform their own institutions, but never mind.)

Education blogger Bob Sikes points out that the roundtable used the following three sources, as shown by footnotes, in the education section of its agenda:

22 M cKinsey & Company (2009). The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools.
23 U .S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012). “Employment Situation Summary — December 2012”; and “Job Openings and Labor Turnover —November 2012.”
24 R ivkin et al. (2005). “Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement.” Econometrica, Vol. 73, No. 2; Hanushek, E. (2010). “The Economic Value of Higher Teacher Quality.” NBER Working Paper Series, WP 166606.

Congress is years late rewriting No Child Left Behind; in fact the law has been judged as a failure by so many people — including former supporters — that the Obama administration last year started giving out waivers from onerous mandates of NCLB to states that agreed to implement education policies favored by Education Secretary Arne Duncan. In its refusal to do its job on NCLB, Congress has allowed the Obama administration to take a bigger role in local education than many of its members would have liked. It’s one thing for education activists and school boards to urge Congress to act on NCLB, but when business leaders do, you know it is flawed beyond redemption.

The 2013 agenda includes a call for a rewrite of NCLB as well as immigration reform. Here’s the part about education:

Ensuring a Skilled, Prepared Workforce
U.S. economic performance and job creation require a strong foundation of a well-educated and skilled population, particularly in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. A more skilled and prepared workforce will improve innovation and productivity growth, enabling businesses and the economy to expand. Indeed, it is estimated that closing the educational achievement gap between the United States and higher-performing countries could have boosted U.S. GDP by $1.3 to $2.3 trillion in 2008.(22)


Improving STEM education for all students, increasing the number of U.S. bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields and increasing the supply of workers with STEM skills are critical to America’s ability to compete globally.
America also has a very real skills gap. More than 12 million U.S. workers are unemployed, yet businesses report close to 4 million open jobs.(23) Many of these jobs cannot be filled by previously displaced workers because of gaps in skills and training.
As a nation, we have a responsibility to ensure that all U.S. students are prepared to work and ready to succeed. Specifically, we need a multifaceted approach to improve the U.S. education system, close the skills gap and expand opportunities for all Americans. Common Core State Standards in English language arts and math and the forthcoming Next Generation Science Standards have the potential to be game changers, and Business Roundtable CEOs support their full implementation. At the same time, it is critical that we ensure that all 3rd graders are able to read, as well as increase teacher effectiveness, which research indicates is an important determinant of student achievement.(24) Finally, in addition to building a stronger domestic pipeline of talent, the United States should continue to welcome the best and brightest from around the world.


The CEOs of the Business Roundtable call on policymakers to increase STEM education for all students and take other steps to build a talented workforce, which is critical to America’s ability to remain globally competitive.


Specifically, Congress and the Administration should:


* Reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind, updating it to provide more flexibility while maintaining its focus on accountability for all schools and all groups of students reaching challenging, but attainable, performance targets.


* Reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act to increase focus on education and training that lead to credentials valued by employers.


* Revamp the Carl D. Perkins Act to ensure equitable access to high-quality career and technical programs that are guided by rigorous standards that are aligned with employer needs and prepare students for success in postsecondary education and careers.


* Enact comprehensive immigration reform so that the American workforce remains globally competitive. Such an approach should include making it a national priority to attract the world’s best and brightest innovators, especially those who hold advanced STEM degrees from U.S. colleges and universities. Comprehensive reform must address
other issues as well, including inconsistent or lax immigration laws; the unauthorized U.S. residency of more than 10 million individuals; and the need for future workers across the economy, including in the agricultural, hospitality and seasonal economic sectors.