I’ve said it again and again – my #1 priority is saving and creating jobs. And I will continue to do everything I can do to help all of us create jobs here in N.C.
But no matter how much we focus on jobs – we can never forget the quality of our workforce and our recruitment efforts are linked inextricably to the quality of our education.
In N.C. we have a business community that understands the correlation of education to economic growth.
Not every state can say that.
Our state’s business and education communities have a strong and long-lasting partnership.
You can see it at this education summit – and in organizations like the NC Business Committee for Education – or in the job shadowing and mentoring experience you provide for our future workers.
Cynt Marshall and AT&T have a marvelous job shadowing program. I’m told that in the next five years – AT&T will provide job-shadowing opportunities to more than 100,000 9-12 grade students across America.
For those of you who don’t already have job shadowing programs – my husband, First Gentleman Bob Eaves, started the Students at Work initiative – which will help NC businesses of all sizes start job shadowing programs.
The point is – we are in this fight together for NC’s business and education to lead America in the global hunt for economic success.
I have set a clear goal for education in this state – and today I ask NC’s business community to join us in making NC’s education goal a reality from Murphy to Manteo.
The goal is simple – Every kid in NC – no matter where he or she lives -must graduate high school with what it really takes to succeed in a career, in college or in technical training.
Career and College – Ready Set Go. That is the mantra and purpose for NC’s education system in these early years of the 21st century.
We learned today that NC’s graduation rate increased slightly this year – from 71.7 percent to 74.2 percent.
That’s a positive step – but it doesn’t address the need to increase the quality of a NC high school diploma.
It does NC no good to graduate more students who need remediation when they get to college – or who lack the skills to compete for jobs in a global economy.
Our universities and community colleges spend too much money – more than $30 million – on remediation for students coming from our high schools.
Too many of our businesses have trouble finding employees with the skills to go straight to work.
Nationally – 8th grade test scores in math and science for America’s students are at the middle of the pack compared to those for students in other countries. And our 12th grade test scores are worse -they’re near the bottom of the pack.
Career and College – Ready Set Go aims to change that here in NC.
Ready Set Go has three parts – starting long before our children set foot in a public school – and continuing straight through higher education to the workforce.
Ready – Enter school healthy and ready to learn through good early childhood programs – like Smart Start and More at Four – and make progress year after year – until they master reading and math by the end of third grade.
Our NC test results show that Students who are not proficient in reading and math by the end of grade three continue to lag on performance throughout school.
Basic reading and math skills are critical to everything else a child does in school and in life – it is the foundation for learning and is the difference-maker between a student who stays on track to graduate high school ready for careers and college – and a student who drops out.
I fought hard in this year’s legislative session to give teachers tools to allow them to monitor a student’s progress in real time all year – so that a child who is falling behind can have remediation and a child who excels can be accelerated right then – instead of at the end of the year when it’s too late for the off-track kid – or the bright child who is and has stopped learning.
Set – raise expectations for students and raise the bar for academic success in this global economy.
You all know that to make an organization perform better – you must have effective leadership – that’s why a critical part of Ready Set Go is making sure we have strong leaders in our classrooms and public schools.
This month – we’re launching a leadership program geared toward turning around low-performing schools in northeastern NC.
Another way to raise performance is to raise the bar for what students are expected to learn.
NC is one of the first states in America to adopt the national Common Core Standards -and I am the only governor in America to direct all of our higher education institutions, public and private, to do the same.
I believe that NC’s students are no different than students in Florida, New York, Kansas or California. They all need a common set of education goals to enhance the competitive edge of American workers.
Go – students must graduate high school with a firm foundation and clear pathway to success in a career, college or technical training.
And it does not stop there. Students entering higher education must complete the degrees or certificate programs they come to get.
I’ve directed our community colleges and universities to move aggressively to graduate more students from technical training and from two and four year colleges. The dropout rates or non-degree or certificate completion rates for NC’s higher education systems are much too high.
Only about a third of UNC-system students complete their degrees within four years (two thirds complete within six years).
And only one third of community college students leave with a degree or certification – (although that only measures full-time community college students entering school for the first time).
But to be ready – to be set – and to go onto a career – every piece of our education system must produce results – just like you expect every piece of your businesses to produce results.
The reason for Career and College – Ready Set Go is pretty simple – Business leaders like you need to know that when you hire someone educated in NC, you will get a worker who can hit the ground running.
I urge you to take this message back to your local school boards and superintendants and teachers – and to your business communities.
I’m calling on all of you to commit to working on Career and College Ready Set Go with our public schools – our public and private universities and colleges -and our community colleges.
I believe in this so strongly – that I’ve directed the SBE Chairman Bill Harrison, UNC President Erskine Bowles, Community College President Scott Ralls – and Independent Colleges and Universities President Hope Williams to work on this goal – and to report on their progress no later than January 2011.
When I put together my budget proposal for the next biennium – I want to send a budget to the General Assembly where all of the education community and the business community are united behind Career and College – Ready Set Go.
And I’m told Cynt is about to lay the hammer down – and ask this chamber to report to me in January on what your businesses are doing to support Career and College – Ready Set Go.
Now more than ever – NC and America are fighting for each and every job – with fierce competition from countries like China – and India – and Germany.
As governor – I talk with business leaders like you every week – as I work to convince them to create jobs in NC.
And every single one of them asks me about the quality of our workforce – they ask about our community colleges, our universities and our public schools.
Every one of those business can see that right now NC is losing one-third of its skilled workforce because of high school dropouts. NC shouldn’t lose jobs to other states and countries because we don’t have the workers businesses need to grow.
I believe NC can and will win fight after fight for jobs – even in this tough economy.
But to do it – our business and education communities must unite behind one goal – Career and College – Ready Set Go. One goal – one agenda – for every student in NC.