Friday, March 02, 2007

How to Keep America Competitive

Bill Gates, in this Op Ed in today's Washington Post, calls for improving schools.  I don't disagree with anything he says, but I wish he'd been stronger and more specific about the types of reforms needed.  For example, I know he was constrained by a word limit, but he didn't even mention that High Tech High is a charter school!!!  At the very least, he could have added this single word to his Op Ed: "Last year, I visited High Tech High in San Diego; it's an amazing CHARTER school..."

Two steps are critical. First, we must demand strong schools so that young Americans enter the workforce with the math, science and problem-solving skills they need to succeed in the knowledge economy. We must also make it easier for foreign-born scientists and engineers to work for U.S. companies.

Education has always been the gateway to a better life in this country, and our primary and secondary schools were long considered the world's best. But on an international math test in 2003, U.S. high school students ranked 24th out of 29 industrialized nations surveyed.

Our schools can do better. Last year, I visited High Tech High in San Diego; it's an amazing school where educators have augmented traditional teaching methods with a rigorous, project-centered curriculum. Students there know they're expected to go on to college. This combination is working: 100 percent of High Tech High graduates are accepted into college, and 29 percent major in math or science. Contrast that with the national average of 17 percent.

To remain competitive in the global economy, we must build on the success of such schools and commit to an ambitious national agenda for education. Government and businesses can both play a role. Companies must advocate for strong education policies and work with schools to foster interest in science and mathematics and to provide an education that is relevant to the needs of business. Government must work with educators to reform schools and improve educational excellence.

How to Keep America Competitive

By Bill Gates
Sunday, February 25, 2007; B07

For centuries people assumed that economic growth resulted from the interplay between capital and labor. Today we know that these elements are outweighed by a single critical factor: innovation.

Innovation is the source of U.S. economic leadership and the foundation for our competitiveness in the global economy. Government investment in research, strong intellectual property laws and efficient capital markets are among the reasons that America has for decades been best at transforming new ideas into successful businesses.

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