President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address challenge is really a ‘priority’

Last night, in his State of the Union Address, President Obama did indeed address a few key issues on education.  The one capturing most of the media attention today is preschool, a matter of great importance.  After presenting the proposal to send all children to preschool, I waited to hear what he would say about work- and career-readiness for students.  The time has come for this.  Sitting in front of my laptop with Word document on one half of my screen and a browser streaming the president’s address on the other, I was indeed pleased to hear what the president said, in a manner of speaking.

“Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job.  Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job.  At schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.”

“We need to give every American student opportunities like this.  Four years ago, we started Race to the Top – a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year.  Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.  We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.” 

I was happy to hear an oft-over looked building block of a student’s education and preparation for a successful life after school addressed by the president.  Our schools need the participation of the business community.  Partnerships are integral to a school’s success and its students’ readiness for workplace and career success.  I reject, however that this is new or a “challenge.”  This is not a new approach, rather, it is an under utilized and under prioritized model.  And it should not be presented as a challenge.  Challenge suggests competition; a winner, a loser.  This must, instead, be a priority for the American education system.  We must cease presenting our new ideas, our solutions to problems and necessary steps to improving the state of education as part of a race, a test or, whats more, even hint at this being an option in the first place.  It is time to make school partnerships a priority.  As long as there are businesses, organizations, agencies, government officers, employers, workers, parents, and adults in our communities, our communities are more than equipped to respond.

So, yes, Mr. President, “Let’s redesign America’s high schools… [Let’s build] new partnerships with colleges and businesses. [Let’s give students] the skills employers are looking for to fill jobs now and in the future.”

This is precisely what Empowerment Through Education is all about.  It’s bringing the resources to support our students’ success into schools, where our students learn.  Let’s empower them to break the cycles of poverty, to move beyond the traps of “teaching to the test” and let’s Empower our students Through the system of Education in this country.

School partnerships require structure, curriculum and management.
Successful school partnerships are two-way bridges.
Let’s build these bridges for all students in all schools.