AUSTIN, TX – Several major trade associations and research organizations today formally launched the Texas Coalition for a Competitive Workforce (TCCW) to encourage focus on career and college readiness in public schools; improved career and technology education; and expanded teacher incentives – all with the goal of better preparing students for life after high school. Coalition members including Texas Association of Business, Texas Institute for Education Reform, Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Governor’s Business Council, and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce kicked off a statewide tour at a press conference in Austin today.
“The Legislature already made great strides to move all young people onto a path to college or career readiness by embracing end of course exams in grades 9, 10 and 11,” said Bill Hammond, president and CEO of the Texas Association of Business. “Now it’s time to take the next step by aligning our curricula, standards and assessments with that goal to ensure students are gaining the knowledge they need to be career- or college-ready upon graduation.”
“Workforce and college readiness must be a priority because the fastest growing occupations through 2014 will require higher levels of education and training, ” said Jim Windham, chairman of the Texas Institute for Education Reform. “Today, sixty-five percent of new jobs created in the U.S. require some college or equivalent skills. However, research shows that the vast majority of Texas students (more than 80% in some cases) fail to meet readiness benchmarks.”
TCCW’s education principles include an improved accountability system based on the degree to which students – in each grade – are on the path to career/college readiness. The coalition also recommends revised curriculum standards – phased in over three years – to reflect the knowledge and skills students need to be college or career ready.
“We need transparent accountability ratings based on the percentage of students who are on track for college/career readiness or who are making progress to be on track within three years,” said Bartell Zachry, chairman of the Governor’s Business Council. According to TCCW’s principles, assessments, standards, and goals would be adjusted upward over a 3-year transition period. Assistance from state and community groups, improvement plans, and professional development resources should be available to help all districts and schools meet their goals. Implementation of TCCW’s principles would be determined by local district officials.
“When our education system focuses on student readiness for college and the high-performance workplace, Texas becomes a more attractive place for employers to build and expand their companies,” said Drew Scheberle, senior vice president of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.
TCCW also supports improvements and enhanced flexibility in the state’s Career/Technology Education (CTE) programs. “Once in high school, students should have access to diverse, yet equally rigorous, academic pathways such as college preparation or career and technology education,” said Brooke Terry, education policy analyst for the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “All high school students should be exposed to a well-rounded course of study to prepare them for the rigors of college or the workplace.”
TCCW supports curriculum for CTE students that remains true to the 4×4 requirement passed by the Legislature. TCCW’s principles call for four years of math, science, social studies and English, taught in a hands-on applied approach to complement CTE coursework.
Finally, the members of TCCW support an increase in funding for “pay for performance” grants for school districts. “We hope the Legislature will embrace policies that encourage school districts to implement incentive compensation programs for educators who perform exceptionally well in increasing student achievement,” said Terry.
In describing the importance of TCCW’s principles, Hammond said “Focus on workforce readiness is critical because the quality of our education system is directly linked to our nation’s economic health. In fact, research shows that even moderately strong improvement in the U.S. education system over the next 20 years would boost the gross domestic product by about 30 percent.”
The Texas Coalition for a Competitive Workforce (TCCW) supports education principles that promote college/career readiness; improve accountability measures; enhance career/technology education; and promote and reward effective teaching.