The business community's impact in public education grew by over $80 million granted to San Diego County schools this past academic year. Businesses and foundations such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Irwin Jacobs, Eli Broad Foundation, Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs, Sempra Energy, Waitt Family Foundation, Solar Turbines, SBC Pacific Bell, Sol Price Charities, Cox Communications, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Irvine Family Foundation, and many others are all contributing. And, it's making a difference.
As the result of a great deal of passion and hard work from its members, one local organization, the Business Roundtable for Education, has also acquired a significant amount to continue to advocate for excellence in our schools.
The Business Roundtable for Education, an organization of 100 businesses, professionals, and community leaders, has been interested in achieving positive outcomes in the ways we educate young people since its founding a decade ago. The Roundtable looks for innovative ways to develop and model educational approaches that have the best chances to influence improved student achievement.
Chief among that group's interests has been the concept of the charter school. The Roundtable has been actively involved in creating educational models that improve student performance, and found the charter school concept an effective way to create those models.
Not only has the organization directly been involved in organizing four highly successful charter schools, it has also provided funds and services to all charter schools to develop strategic business plans and assist them in collecting school accountability data, as well as mentoring students and teachers in the use of technology to improve student academic performance.
The Roundtable also has funded legal, technical and business services for charter schools. One of the most important resources it provides is the Charter School Consortium, founded in 1994 to serve as a forum for the 50-plus charter schools in the area to network, share common challenges and become better informed about running schools in ways that contribute to improved student achievement.
With all that background now in place, we can move on to more current and expansion developments. This past year, the Roundtable was awarded a three-year, $450,000 grant from the state Department of Education to organize and operate the Charter Collaborative Business Network. Better known as "C | BusNet," this project is in collaboration with the San Diego County Office of Education Business Services and the California Regional Network Program to keep all charters up to date on current issues and legislation.
C | BusNet is an important communication link and resource for charter school leaders and business managers that employs Web-based electronic newsletters and quarterly business manager meetings to provide information on specific business and operational topics. The project's ongoing communications goal is to provide charter schools with the level of information necessary to help them do their jobs accurately and in a timely manner.
If there is any one problem plaguing charter schools today it would be inexperienced and the ever-changing business management required of charters. Not all charter schools are so plagued, but enough are to be concerned about finding ways to help them hone and improve solid business management practices.
Because of their relative independence, charter schools are, in effect, mini-school districts and, as such, need access to the same quality and level of information that financial and business officers within traditional school districts require.
The Roundtable is optimistic that charter school business managers will continue to benefit greatly from this collaborative effort. Well-run charter schools carry out their primary mission more effectively, and that mission is to provide quality teaching and learning.
On the academic side of the charter school movement is the issue of how best to assess student progress. For some time the Roundtable has championed, through its Accountability Committee, the use of "matched longitudinal data" as a better way to determine where teaching and learning is most efficient and effective in our schools and even down to the individual classroom level.
The Relative Progress Index, or RPI, co-developed by Roundtable member Tyler Cramer, takes each student's "pre-test" score on the standardized test he or she takes one year and compares it against the same student's "post-test" score on the same test he or she takes a year later to obtain "matched data." Doing this over a period of several years gives it a "longitudinal" quality hence, longitudinal matched data.
Sen. Dede Alpert, D-Coronado, has authored SB 1463 as a step to give students state test score identifier numbers to be able to collect longitudinal data. Such data are not being collected in our traditional public schools presently, which severely limit the maximum value of the state's standardized testing program.
To implement the use of longitudinal matched data in charter schools, where so many innovative educational practices are born, the Girard Foundation has given the Roundtable a $75,000 grant to begin collecting such data in select charter schools. Perhaps this will help traditional public schools see the value of such data for informed decision making.
On a final note, the Business Roundtable for Education's executive director was recently recognized for the emphasis in helping youth prepare for careers in math and science. Last month the UCSD Athena Pinnacle Educator Award acknowledged the work we've done to provide technology training for girls in grades six through eight.
Research shows that eight out of 10 girls drop out of higher math pathways by the end of the eighth grade. It isn't that much better for boys, considering the fact that 27 percent of those hired in this country today with math and science training come from beyond our shores.
Hank Kilmer of New Age Ventures, Jessie Knight of The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and Susan Ten Eyck, senior vice president of City National Bank, were responsible for the award nomination and, in doing so, bringing public recognition to the work that is being done by the Roundtable to help young women prepare for a future in math and science.
So much more needs to be done and it takes of all us to step up and lend a hand.
Hovenic, Ed.D, is president and chief executive officer of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation and executive director of the foundation's Business Roundtable for Education. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.