You may have sailed through the schooling system with high grades and flying colors. Perhaps you passed up on a college education in favor of dedicating your time and energy to starting your first business. Whatever your experience with the American education system, it isn't over yet.
Even if you don't have children, don't know anyone with kids, or simply feel that you're done with your education, you should still care about it. Big time. As a business owner, your future employees are currently, or will soon run into, the system. And in most parts of the country, it's broken.
In 2015, the U.S. was ranked 31st in Math, 20th in reading and 19th in Science among the 35 participating countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). That's right. The land of the free and home of the brave, with the largest economy is limping behind the rest of the world in basic education. How will this impact our future if we don't address the issue of underfunded and inadequate schooling today?
Entrepreneurs should care about education, regardless of their personal experiences. How kids of today are educated has a massive effect on our economy and society. For example, every dollar spent on public schools in a community, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), serves to increase home values by as much as $20. That's a pretty big ripple effect.
Founder of AmeriSouth Realty, Ruel Hamilton, is a champion of affordable housing in inner cities. Even if residents don't have children in the schooling system, they benefit from the investment in it. According to the NBER, children in subsidized housing have been shown to go on and earn more throughout their lives and have less chance of being imprisoned than those who do not receive housing assistance.
Just to clarify, Hamilton isn't only an altruist or an education visionary. The money he invests into fixing broken public schooling, "pales in comparison" to what it would cost his company to build and develop in more prosperous areas of the Dallas suburbs. He is investing in the future of the neighborhoods and property value, as much as education, and he expects full returns.
You don't have to be passionate about education for education's sake or serving wider causes. Caring about our education, he says, "isn't just the right thing to do, it makes eminent business sense." So, let's take a look at some other entrepreneurs who buy into Hamilton's theory and are shaking up education right now.
1. Courtney Williams, CEO & Founder, TORSH
EdTech startup founder and Forbes contributor, Courtney Williams, didn't always have it easy. In fact, he experienced the broken system first hand. Born in Jamaica and raised in Brooklyn, his high schools were consistently ranked among the worst in the city. With the support of his teachers and parents, and a lot of self-discipline and determination, he was able to break the mold and get an Ivy League education. But he remains incredulous at how U.S. schools spend billions every year on teacher training, with no visible impact on student outcomes.
Like Hamilton, Williams believes that when our schools do a better job of educating, not only do we benefit individual students, but also society. Through the video-based online community and data platform tools TORSH offers, the company aims to help teachers in the classroom by facilitating observation, coaching and feedback. The premise is simple. America needs better teachers to improve education to impact children and society; and TORSH is driving that change.
2. Matt Candler, Founder & CEO, 4.0 Schools
Matt Candler is an education entrepreneur on a mission, with no less than 44 education startups to his name already. Disillusioned with the outdated schooling system, Candler's non-profit incubator for education-based startups focuses outside the system. Providing opportunities and resources for entrepreneurs who want to make a change. Anyone with an idea about how their business can help impact and shape the future of schools is welcome.
He says, "4.0 Schools exists because there are no places to innovate schools and education in the United States." So far, Candler's company has been instrumental in building charter schools, overseeing EdTech companies and building housing and organized communities, by shaking up the traditional, outdated and insufficient schooling system.
3. Janet Coyle, Managing Director, Founders4Schools
Through Founders4Schools, Janet Coyle takes a different approach when it comes to advancing education. Rather than focusing on preparing students in traditional subjects, the company recognizes the value in bringing tech entrepreneurs into schools, to help inspire and prepare students for positions in the new and future economy. According to Coyle, there are still many misconceptions about following a career in tech, despite the success of Silicon Valley power houses and startups.
The career advice given in schools is outdated and prepares kids for traditional roles that may have dramatically changed (or even ceased to exist) in the future. Seeing as how few teachers in schools have hands on experience of working in the tech industry, Founders4Schools believes the best way is to bring in passionate tech entrepreneurs who can share their experiences and give practical advice. Shining a light on the exciting opportunities in high-growth companies to broaden kids' horizons.
4. Tyler Bosmeny, CEO & Co-Founder, Clever
Clever is a pioneering EdTech company like TORSH, using technology to improve education countrywide. Their belief is that everyone can benefit from a better education with the right tools to facilitate improved practices in the classroom. Under Bosmeny's creation, Clever's software provides personalized resources for students, based on their specific needs, and helps teachers keep a closer eye on areas for improvement.
In recognition of his impact on education, Bosmeny made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and Clever currently powers learning technology in over 60,000 schools across the country. Made by educators for educators, the company's team consists of teachers and tech professionals devoted to improving the classroom for all.
5. Dr. William (Bill) Ballhaus, Chairman, CEO and President, Blackboard
Blackboard CEO, Dr. Bill Ballhaus, has made a long and successful career out of shaking up the education system. He was named as one of Forbes' most Powerful CEOs in the 40 Under 40 and ranked 26th on Ethisphere's 100 Most Influential in Business Ethics list. Self-labeled as "education's partner in change," Blackboard helps to bridge the gap between a changing working environment and learners and educators.
Blackboard provides teachers with access to online tools that enhance their experience as educators beyond the classroom. They can access insightful analytics that help teachers and students to connect on a more personalized level and work on their individual strengths and weaknesses, helping them realize their full potential.
The schooling system is not in a vacuum; safeguarding the future of education in American schools doesn't just help students. Improving education for all is in the interests of all, across every industry vertical. It's about time we opened our eyes to the state of our public schools and started to join those championing a change.