06 Feb 2014

America’s Education System at a Crossroads: New Research and Insights on Business-Educator Partnerships in PK-12 Education

Harvard Business School, The Boston Consulting Group, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation release new research on how business can best work with educators to improve America’s schools

BOSTON— Today, Harvard Business School (HBS), The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation released two new research reports on the role business leaders can and should play, in partnership with education leaders, to transform PK-12 education in America. The three organizations came together in 2013, as part of Harvard Business School’s U.S. Competitiveness Project, to research the role of business in improving the nation’s education system. The research phase culminated with the Business and Education Leaders Together conference last November at HBS, where more than 100 business and education leaders convened to review and revise the insights.

The partnership’s first report, Lasting Impact: A Business Leader’s Playbook for Supporting America’s Schools, examines how business can best work with educators to improve the nation’s education system. “The most progressive business leaders are moving away from mere ‘checkbook philanthropy’ toward long-term relationships with educators,” said Jan Rivkin, Harvard Business School Professor and co-chair of the U.S. Competitiveness Project. “For young Americans to succeed in today’s workforce, they must out-innovate and out-produce the world’s best. Business leaders in America have a profound stake, economic and moral, in seeing that today’s students are equipped with the skills to keep our country competitive.”

The report highlights three kinds of actions that business “champions” can take with education partners to improve the education system in America:

  • Laying the policy foundations for education innovation: Business action is urgently needed to ensure Common Core State Standards are actually put into practice, for example.
  • Scaling up proven innovations: Business leaders can partner with educators to scale up innovations that are already showing results.
  • Reinventing the local education ecosystem: Business can help educators set and implement comprehensive strategies to upgrade education in specific cities and towns.

The second report presents results from the first-ever nationwide survey of superintendents on the role of business in America’s education system. The survey was administered to superintendents of the 10,000 largest school districts in the country. Partial Credit: How America’s School Superintendents See Business as a Partner identifies key findings on business’ role in education, including:

  • Business is involved in 95% of America’s school districts, but mostly in a fragmented array of efforts that focus on short-term benefits for students rather than long-term improvement of the education system.
  • Though some superintendents are frustrated by how business has approached education in the past, most have favorable impressions and would welcome greater business engagement in the future, in new and deeper ways.
  • There are, however, important barriers to greater engagement, including stark differences between education and business leaders in their assessments of America’s schools.

The survey findings show that conditions are ripe for business and educators to come together to create truly improved and sustainable outcomes. “At its best, the business community can play a positive, catalytic role in education. Together, business and education leaders can help chart a course that supports hard-working teachers and administrators to benefit children and, ultimately, improve U.S. competitiveness,” said J. Puckett, senior partner and leader of the global Education practice at The Boston Consulting Group.

In the coming months, the goal of the HBS, BCG, and Gates Foundation research partnership is to inspire business leaders to collaborate with educators and, together, find innovative ways to improve America’s schools. “Strengthening our schools is a big challenge. To get this job done, we must all work together. From designing new classroom tools to engaging with businesses, our educators must not just be included in the process, they must help lead it,” said Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

For more information about the PK-12 education research partnership or Harvard Business School’s U.S. Competitiveness Project, please contact Devin Farley at (202) 772-3573 or Devin.Farley@edelman.com.

About the HBS U.S. Competitiveness Project

The U.S. Competitiveness Project is a research-led effort by Harvard Business School to understand and improve the competitiveness of the United States – that is, the ability of firms operating in the U.S. to compete successfully in the global economy while supporting high and rising living standards for Americans. The Project focuses especially on the roles that business leaders can and do play in promoting U.S. competitiveness. Current faculty research focuses on improving PK-12 education; closing the middle skills gap; and improving America’s aging infrastructure for moving people, goods, and information.

The Boston Consulting Group

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a global management consulting firm that partners with clients from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors in all regions to identify their highest-value opportunities, address their most critical challenges, and transform their enterprises. Together with HBS, BCG is working to improve America’s PK-12 education system via the PK-12 Project by bringing together leaders from business, education, and government to find viable solutions for our nation’s schools. For more information on BCG, please visit www.bcg.com or www.bcgperspectives.com.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health with vaccines and other life-saving tools and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people – especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. For more information on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, please visit www.gatesfoundation.org.

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 250 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and PhD degrees, as well as more than 175 Executive Education programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching, to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. The School and its curriculum attract the boldest thinkers and the most collaborative learners who will go on to shape the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.