To ensure that America’s workforce is prepared for the jobs of the future, businesses are investing in today’s students. Research demonstrates by the time students are in middle school, gaps in their educational attainment have largely been set, and will continue to widen as they age. Supporting high-quality early childhood education is critical to ensuring all children are afforded the opportunity to succeed—and America’s business leaders have a responsibility for securing that promise.
Reading comprehension, writing, and STEM —the fundamentals of basic education—have been declining among today’s high school and college graduates. According to a survey of Business Roundtable executives, these are the very skills businesses are struggling to find in potential employees—42 percent of executives said that it was difficult to find candidates with qualified reading and writing skills. For math, 75 percent of executives said the skills were needed, but 59 percent said they were difficult to find.
These gaps in development often begin early in a child’s life, particularly within the first few years of education. Without close supervision from teachers and parents, areas of underperformance can go unnoticed for years.
This underperformance tends to increase as students continue through middle school and into high school. For example, third graders who are not proficient in reading are four times as likely to leave high school without a diploma than those with proficient reading skills. At the current rate of progress, it will take nearly 30-years before half of America’s 4th graders are able to read at a proficient level.
Without a high-quality early childhood education, students will simply not have the skills needed to compete in the modern economy by the time they enter the workforce.
Tackling these problems requires close coordination and collaboration between teachers, parents, policymakers, and the business community. Whether expanding access to pre-kindergarten programs, retargeting state and federal funding, or encouraging greater family involvement in school, Business Roundtable continues to advocate for a multipronged approach to an early childhood curriculum that focuses on providing parents, teachers, and families with the support they need to give children a strong start in life.