By LARRY CARUSO
Your Voice Contributor
There are great things happening in our community to create a more educated population and workforce – make sure you’re paying attention and doing your part to invest in the next generation.
For those of us who are tired of seeing Kentucky schools at the low end of academic achievement compared to other states, you should be proud of the bold and courageous actions being taken by state and local leaders. Our state was the first to adopt new Common Core Standards for our students, and since then 46 other states have followed. These new standards are designed to be more rigorous and better aligned with college coursework and 21st century workplace skills.
We have fallen well behind educational attainment by other industrialized nations. This cannot continue. We are in a global economy and our children have to be prepared to compete not just with other children across the United States but with kids from places like Japan, China and Singapore to mention a few.
The Common Core Standards provide the best indicators for measuring where we want our students to be in order to be ready for college and a career. In business, we follow a similar approach – to achieve goals, you must have indicators that measure the progress needed to reach those goals. I’m particularly invested in this issue for several reasons and I want to encourage others in our community to have the same level of engagement. Personally, education has had a tremendous impact on my life and I want this for all of my fellow citizens.
Professionally, I work in a field and in an organization in which an educated workforce is critical to our success as a business. Education touches about every societal issue and has a tremendous impact on the quality of life in our city as well as across the country.
And lastly, I’ve had recent experience that demonstrates how important it is to have families and the entire community invested in the academic success of our next generation.
This year, I had the opportunity to dive into this issue along with a number of bright, talented leaders in our community. As members of the Bingham Fellows Class of 2012, we were charged with implementing strategies to drive achievement by maximizing family and community involvement in each child’s academic life.
We are implementing a number of strategies to move the needle on this issue, but first, I want to share why this is so essential. Our class had the opportunity to meet and work with national, state and local experts in education, which provided a vital foundation for our work. We read study after study showing that family, home and community are true drivers for student success. We were particularly compelled by the fact that family participation in education has been found to be twice as predictive of students’ academic success as a family’s socioeconomic status.
When families and caregivers know better, they do better. Our class is working to support school leaders, specifically elementary principals and assistant superintendents, to foster this in schools. We’re helping community-based organizations better collaborate with schools to provide wrap-around services for students needing support that extends beyond the scope and focus of schools. And finally, we have multiple projects to educate and support families and caregivers in engaging in learning activities at home.
We want to build a culture of achievement. We want all caregivers to understand how education can positively impact each child’s life. Through media and other channels, we’re helping communicate the simple things that you can do to support learning. From reading and reviewing report cards to attending parent/teacher conferences and providing positive reinforcement, these are simple things that can accelerate a child’s interest and effort in the classroom.
As we review the results of the first Common Core Standards tests, there may be numbers that are uncomfortable to see. However, these are baseline results and give us a place to start. If we’re going to be ready to compete in state, national and global economies, we need to be ready for innovation, which means change.
The information sent home to parents from Jefferson County Public Schools included some time-tested principles we should all be modeling for the next generation. Persistence and hard work matter. Work today means knowledge and skills for tomorrow. My advice to parents is not to be discouraged. This is the start of a movement to make America more competitive. It is not a matter of choice. It is a matter of necessity.
Our future leaders need our support and encouragement today. What can you do to be part of building a better-educated labor force?
Larry Caruso is a Senior HR Executive with GE Home & Business Solutions, located in Louisville. He has been with GE for 12 years. Larry is a graduate of the Bingham Fellows Class of 2012 and Leadership Louisville Class of 2010. He has a BA from Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. and an MBA from The Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth College. Larry and his wife, Gail, live in the Highlands and love Louisville after almost 30 years in Connecticut.