Our state's economy relies on our public education system

From corner to corner of the state, Colorado’s business community understands that the relationship between our public education system and our state’s economy is a symbiotic one—each one depends on the other for survival.

And I can tell you that the business community as a whole embraces both the moral and economic urgency behind improving our state’s public education system, which is the feeder system for our future workers and customers.

But there is one particular aspect of this relationship that demands more attention. The citizens of Colorado, and our high school students in particular, must acknowledge that the pipeline between our schools and our workplaces is changing rapidly.

It used to be that a young person could graduate from high school and land a secure, well-paying job in the manufacturing field without going to college. Those days are pretty much gone.

Today’s manufacturing process is technologically advanced, and the workplace environment relies more on critical thinking and resourceful problem-solving than manual labor and assembly line tasks. The manufacturing jobs of today and tomorrow pay high wages, but also require higher skills.

So more and more, Colorado’s employers expect the standards in our K-12 education system to align with the knowledge and skills that our young people need to be ready for college and career in an increasingly competitive global economy.

I see Colorado’s recent adoption of higher academic standards as a crucial step in the right direction—moving us toward a more rigorous and relevant way of educating our kids for the economic realities of the 21st century.

There is opposition to Colorado’s decision to adopt higher academic standards that are aligned to the Common Core standards. This conflict is misguided, and policymakers, the business community, and other stakeholders must help parents, students, teachers and the general public understand that raising expectations for students at every grade level is a necessary step in the right direction.

One reason why relates to a fundamental principle of business: “What gets measured, gets done.” It’s accountability that drives continuous improvement in business, and the same is true for our schools.

Highly rigorous standards and assessments are critical to delivering a 21st century education. This applies just as much to K-12 students as it does to the adult workforce – in fact, such rigor helps prepare students for the demands of the real world.

The business community understands the implications of slowing down these standards or halting the aligned tests. We stand behind the adoption the Colorado Academic Standards and quality assessments. These are the expectations needed to ensure Colorado’s economic vitality and competitiveness and the economic well-being of our children and grandchildren in this 21st century global economy.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.