Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Ernst & Young LLP Releases Education White Paper

WASHINGTON D.C. - Ernst & Young, a global leader in professional services, released the findings of a comprehensive independent white paper, written and researched by FSG Social Impact Advisors, to guide corporations seeking to maximize their impact on the U.S. education system.

The full white paper, "Best in Class: How Top Corporations Can Help Transform Public Education," will be released during a live webcast in Washington, D.C. today at 1 p.m. (EST).

The webcast will be moderated by Beth Brooke, one of Forbes' Most Powerful Women in Business and Ernst & Young's global vice chair of strategy and regulatory affairs. Joining her will be Bob Corcoran, president of GE Foundation, Robin Willner, vice president of global community initiatives at IBM, and John Kania, managing director, FSG Social Impact Advisors.

The white paper includes practical recommendations for how companies can leverage the successes of businesses that already are making an impact on the U.S. education landscape. In response to the longstanding evidence and published studies about the challenges facing the U.S. education system, Ernst & Young commissioned the white paper to shed light on solutions. The full white paper can be downloaded here.

Statistics show that:
•  Of 100 9th grade students entering public high school in any major U.S. city, 70 will stay in school to graduate, 40 will enter college/university or technical school, and only 18 will earn a college degree in four years.
• Ten million U.S. jobs could go unfilled by 2010 because the available workforce will lack the needed skills to fill the positions.
• Deficits in basic skills cost businesses, colleges, and under prepared graduates as much as $16 billion annually in lost productivity and remedial expenses.
• America's high-school graduation rate ranks 16th out of 20 developed countries, with Germany, Japan, and France, among many others, all reporting higher rates.

"Corporate America has both an opportunity and an obligation to help the U.S. education system — our future workforce and global competitiveness depend on it," noted Beth Brooke, global vice chair of strategy and regulatory affairs for Ernst & Young. "The business world has unique skills and competencies that both individually and collectively can help to make a real difference in our education system. This white paper is a strategic framework for companies focused on education reform."

Research participants included representatives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, BellSouth Foundation, ExxonMobil, GE Foundation, GlaxoSmithKline, Goldman Sachs Foundation, IBM, Intel, Grantmakers for Education, Junior Achievement Worldwide, Microsoft, and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, New York Public Schools, Teach for America, Business Roundtable, State Farm Insurance, and Texas Instruments, among others.

The research includes valuable lessons from leading companies that are blazing a trail in public-private partnerships on education. It also provides practical recommendations for how corporations can repeat the successes and avoid the pitfalls of past corporate initiatives in education. Opportunities for corporate involvement fall into three key areas that impact student achievement: 1) Teaching and Learning, 2) Human Capital, and 3) Systems and Structures.

The paper highlights six key recommendations to guide corporations and key stakeholders as they design, structure, and implement effective corporate initiatives in education:

1) Start at the top: CEO-level commitment can exert significant influence
on education reform. A CEO's decision to adopt the cause of education
sends a strong message about the importance to employees and local
education stakeholders.
2) Lead with your strengths: Education professionals want help with
something at which companies excel. Experience suggests that
companies which offer initiatives most closely aligned with their own
strengths are most effective.
3) Scale Appropriately: Avoid trying to have large-scale impact on a
school system by applying a small-scale commitment of time and money.
A small investment of funding and time will need to be modestly scoped
and tightly managed.
4) Adapt, don't prescribe: Create programs around local classroom,
school, and district needs - don't offer prepackaged solutions.
The most effective programs include collaboration with partners and
experts around existing entry points.
5) Be in it for the long haul: Education improvement requires a long-term
commitment - quick fixes and shortcuts are not appropriate. Improving
educational outcomes is not a short term intervention.
6) Measure and Manage: Measuring success will ensure a greater
likelihood of improved educational outcomes. Setting measurable,
achievable goals for initiatives is a critical success factor for a
program that is sustainable and delivers results.

FSG Social Impact Advisors notes that corporations can serve as better agents of change by adopting systemic problem-solving approaches to the persistent, chronic challenges facing the U.S. education system today. You can register for the webcast here.

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