Lesson Learned: Boost Educational Achievement to Ensure A Competitive Advantage

It’s no secret that Utah is among the best states for business. Again and again, Utah has been recognized because of our thriving economy, strong job growth and excellent fiscal management. Last week, in fact, CNBC ranked Utah as the #3 state for business. (See Governor Herbert’s blog post for CNBC’s America’s Top States for Business.) The report stated, “the economy is abuzz in the Beehive State—the strongest in the nation. But weakness in education hurts the state’s workers.”

Much of our economic success is due to having a high quality workforce.

Make no mistake though; future economic success is put in peril when our education system fails to prepare students for the marketplace of tomorrow. Forward-thinking business leaders have recognized this, and, to address this problem, have developed Prosperity through Education, a plan to move Utah to rank in the top ten among state outcomes in education; emphasizing improved outcomes in reading, math, high school graduation rates and increasing postsecondary certificates and degrees.

Improved outcomes in these areas will allow more individuals to not only reach their potential, but will also provide a workforce that will drive Utah’s continued success.

A Team Effort

Currently, the Utah State Office of Education, Utah System of Higher Education and Utah Colleges of Applied Technology are developing strategic plans to ensure investments in educational support for students and the future well-being of our state. They are working with elected officials to build on consensus goals articulated in Prosperity through Education and by recent work from the Utah Foundation.

The Utah Foundation, for example, researched policies and programs in Colorado to understand how they rebounded from a slip in education rankings nationally. They found that statewide assessments and accountability measures, publicly-funded preschool, full-day kindergarten and specific literacy legislation might account for Colorado’s robust improvement. (See the research report, Lessons from Our Neighbor: Learning from Colorado’s Educational Success.)

The Utah Way

Leading the ‘Utah Way’ includes collaboration in developing the best ideas and adapting them for our circumstances. The recent robust growth in our economy will allow decision-makers to make investments that will impact our economy for years to come. Working together, we can ensure that the future workforce of our state is prepared for the challenges ahead, thus assuring Utah’s continued prosperity.