Study outlines how businesses can better serve local schools

Harvard study reveals how a new roadmap could benefit U.S. public education

education-businessU.S. businesses could increase their positive contribution to and impact on public K-12 education if they adopt a newly-established approach that connects students in poverty to services essential to their success.

The study, released by Harvard Business School’s U.S. Competiveness Project, focuses on communities across the nation that have implemented the Collective Impact approach and have seen meaningful improvement in educational outcomes.

The report, Business Aligning for Students: The Promise of Collective Impact, provides a roadmap for how business leaders can actively participate in Collective Impact. American businesses donate $3 to $4 billion dollars and countless volunteer hours to American public education every year.

Collective Impact provides a process and structure to the system communities usually have for supporting their students. The approach brings together community leaders from the school district, business and nonprofit organizations, government, parent groups, and religious organizations. Collective Impact helps these diverse stakeholders work together to ensure pre-K-12 students are receiving services essential for learning from tutoring to nutrition to mentoring.

By focusing on specific goals, improving the quality and coverage of services, identifying best practices and rigorously measuring results, Collective Impact moves the current service delivery system from chaos to coherence.

“Despite the sustained commitment of business leaders, they are often frustrated by the slow pace of education improvement in their communities. We found that if businesses join forces with others through Collective Impact – they can align and coordinate their efforts and together make more meaningful progress in improving students’ performance,” said Allen S. Grossman, Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School and author of the new report. “We encourage business leaders, who collaborate and rely on data to run their businesses, to take a similar approach to supporting public education. Collective Impact has the potential to be a game changer in American education.”

The Collective Impact report builds on previous HBS research, which highlights for business leaders the current state of U.S. pre-K-12 education and identifies converging trends to improve the public education system. Business Aligning for Students provides a clear pathway for transforming the education ecosystem.

The report shares insights from the first national survey of CI initiatives focused on improving public education, and 70 interviews with initiative leaders and the business leaders involved with them. It challenges business leaders to rethink how they can be more effective through Collective Impact and provides a clear roadmap of how to get involved.

Key findings from the report include:

• Collective impact is a relatively new approach to changing the results of public education that is gaining traction in communities across America.

• Collective Impact efforts across the country are showing impressive gains including Cincinnati, Ohio, the Salt Lake City region, Dallas, Texas, Milwaukee Wisconsin and the Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado.

• In Colorado, a Collective Impact initiative helped make pre-school available to children who previously did not have access to it by retrofitting a school bus into a mobile preschool. Staffed with bilingual teachers, the bus spends two hours, two days per week for ten months in each of six rural neighborhoods, delivering high-quality preschool programs.

• In Dallas and Milwaukee, after Collective Impact was implemented, students achieved improvements in seven of 11 and ten of 11 key indicators, respectively.

• Collective Impact leaders overwhelmingly want business’ involvement. 96% of all initiative leaders (including those with no current business involvement) reported that business involvement was either critical or very important to achieving their goals. 95% of business leaders involved with Collective Impact who were surveyed agree.

• 98 percent of business leaders surveyed cited their main reason for becoming involved in Collective Impact as the “potential to improve public education in our community,” whereas only 40 percent cited their reason as the “opportunity to improve the pool of potential workers in our community.”

• 81 percent of the Collective Impact initiatives surveyed reported their business community was actively involved in their local Collective Impact initiative.

• 78 percent of the Collective Impact initiatives surveyed had C-suite or senior executives active, 76 percent were owners or founders of companies and 54 percent were partners in a firm.

• 65 percent of business leaders surveyed expected to remain involved in their respective Collective Impact initiatives for three years or longer.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

Laura Ascione

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