More than 250 people gathered earlier this month at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s Education Summit. The participants represented a diverse cross-section of Minnesotans — business leaders, parents, students, teachers, school administrators and leading education advocates for school change at the state and national levels.
By introducing high-caliber national figures with ideas for common-sense reforms in Minnesota and highlighting several promising local initiatives, our goal was to ignite a greater sense of urgency for changes to the education system.
Minnesota has a tradition of exceptional schools and exceptional students. We boast high scores on national and international tests. Some of our kids are doing great. But if you look a little deeper, as Education Trust’s Kati Haycock showed us at the event, there is trouble. The gaps in academic achievement are narrowing in elementary school, but any traction is being lost as students advance in high school.
Addressing Minnesota’s distressing achievement gap between whites and students of color has been something the community has been talking about for a long time, but so far we’ve made only slight gains. We have a long way to go to ensure that all students have opportunities for lifelong success.
The collective message from speakers at the summit was clear: Put politics aside and do what’s best for the children. The 2014 legislative session is about to begin, and we’re ready to move forward again with common-sense ideas like staffing flexibility that will keep “rising star” teachers in the classroom, expand dual-credit options to lower astronomical college costs and provide parents with easy-to-understand information about their children’s progress.
Improving the strength and effectiveness of our education system so that all Minnesotans are prepared for success will strengthen our workforce and strengthen Minnesota’s economy. As we heard clearly at our summit, it’s time to stop talking about the problem and put a full-court press on embracing solutions that are good for all our children.
Sanjay Kuba is chairman of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s education and workforce development policy committee.