Chamber of Commerce: Preparing students, state for bright future


Sherry Menor-McNamara, President and CEO of Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, authored this piece about higher standards for students for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.



Set amid our island landscape is a global business community hungry for skilled workers who can help drive and sustain economic growth. That means we're looking for the best and the brightest within our shores, even when many predict the workplace will be more demanding in the next five to 10 years. A recent study conducted by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce claims that by the year 2020, about 70 percent of jobs in Hawaii will require some college.

Hawaii isn't the only state facing a workforce challenge. Young people in Asia, Europe and South America consistently outperform American youth. The Chamber of Commerce Hawaii is asking itself what role does our organization and members play in reversing this trend?

As business leaders, employers, parents and citizens, we must continue to support schools, principals, teachers and most importantly, our students, so they will be equipped to innovate and compete for jobs.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable had described the country's education system as a "patchwork of disparate state standards and uneven expectations. An ‘A' in one state may be equivalent to a ‘C' in another." States that opt into the Common Core adopt a consistent set of goals that puts them on equal footing.

Fortunately, Hawaii is one of many states that have adopted the Common Core Standards. The Hawaii Common Core focuses on lessons that will help students apply knowledge that is relevant today.

As the state Department of Education launches a new assessment to measure students' understanding of the Hawaii Common Core we expect to see lower proficiency scores. The Smarter Balanced assessment​ will show how students in Hawaii are performing in comparison with their mainland peers, and whether they are on track to graduate ready for college or careers.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation recently published its "Leaders and Laggards" report card​ on K-12 educational effectiveness, which included state specific results on 11 areas critical to the increasingly competitive global labor market. The report card analyzed academic achievement; academic achievement for low-income and minority students; postsecondary and workforce readiness and international competitiveness.

The report showed that Hawaii made significant strides in academic achievement, while posting high marks for gains made by low-income and minority students. It also revealed areas in need of improvement. Hawaii scored poorly in postsecondary and workforce readiness, international competitiveness and fiscal responsibility.

Our public education system is making the necessary reforms for our keiki, but all of us play a role in supporting these efforts. We need to get behind our schools to help them provide a high-quality education to our children. Some businesses lend support by helping to provide for a good foundation for educators in the classroom.

The Chamber and many member organizations hold school supply drives every summer. The needs of our island children are varied and great. Last year, Atlas Insurance held a school supply drive that included new footwear for Puuhale Elementary students, and this year, Hawaiian Airlines had its employees collect new school supplies, then pack them all in individual backpacks for students at Nanaikapono Elementary.

In our middle and high schools, many of our members put their financial muscle behind various robotics competitions, and/or support interscholastic athletics.

We all can play a part in our school communities. Knowing the strategic path of our Department of Education provides the Chamber with the confidence to not only support ongoing reforms, but also optimism for a future filled with a healthy, local, competitive workforce.

​​Achieving! on Pinterest​

Learn more about what the Department is doing to raise the bar to help prepare students for college and careers.

​​Family resources on new standards, assessments

Supports​ to help students be ready for learning — and demonstrating learning.

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