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The Role of Businesses in High School

A panel discussed the topic at the U.S. News Education Summit.

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The relationships between businesses and schools have grown in significance in recent years. At U.S. News's first education summit, sponsored by Intel and held in October at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Editor Brian Kelly led a panel discussion on the topic.

The following are excerpts from that conversation.

Why does a large corporation decide to put so much energy in education?

WILL SWOPE, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel's corporate affairs division: It is the cornerstone of our philanthropic work, and we have done education since we started. There is no question, right, part of it is absolutely self-serving. If a strong math and science training makes it easier for us to do the kind of incredibly complicated research that we do, we can't move forward in our technology without very deep fundamental understanding of the kind of technologies and fundamental raw physics that drives this kind of capability. Over and above that, we believe it's fundamental to move the Earth forward. The kind of issues that we face on the planet are such that we think those require very strong math and science orientation going forward.

We spend more than $100 million a year in our philanthropic work, the vast preponderance of that on education—and we have for the last decade. So, we train teachers around the world; professional development for teachers is probably more accurate. And that's an extensive series of programs that grew all around the term Intel Teach. We do software for after school for Intel Learn, for clubhouses that we have developed. We do science and mathematics software for schools, which is called "Skoool." We work with schools of distinction. We do work to try to honor schools around the world that are good at this and, of course, the two huge programs that we run in both Intel science fairs, which are a worldwide basis. You know, we have—I'm pretty sure today that we have about 20 million children around the world competing in those fairs to get to the top 1,500. And then, within the United States, we do the science talent search, which is a few thousand students right now.

Does the increasing role of business undermine local school board control?

ANNE BRYANT, president of the National School Boards Association, representing 15,000 school districts across the country: Absolutely not. In fact, we have something called the Key Work of School Boards, which is an eight-part framework that lays out what is the board's governance role. And one of the eight parts is collaboration and connection with the community and working with businesses. Wisconsin and Georgia have invested lots of money into apprenticeship programs. Well, what [is] the value of those programs? And this is research based: Attendance goes—skyrockets—up; dropout declines dramatically. The connection: What we have to understand about dropout is, yes, sometimes it's about economics, but a lot of it, relevance; students don't feel that their work and their academic life is relevant, so they drop out.

So, any of these partnership programs where it's—whether it's a career or tech program, and the old voc tech is gone—I've got to tell you, the career academies, the career technical programs now going on in schools today [are] light-years beyond what we used to think of as voc ed. So, I think the school board's role is to make those connections, and it can't be short term.

Is the role of business a mixed blessing?

GENO FLORES, chief academic officer of the Prince George's County (Maryland) school system: No, I think they are a welcome blessing, and they should take an interest in public education and education of all of the youth in America. As stated earlier, it's not just for benefiting our population, but the world's population, helping children understand the application of the concepts that they should be learning about and delving into much deeper in everyday education. The other important part that business can play and corporations can play is really being the venue for getting students excited about how I use this knowledge. We all at some point joked about, when am I ever going to use A squared plus B squared equals C squared? When am I ever going to do that? And after I pass that test, do I get to put it on the shelf and say I'm not going to apply that any longer?