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The lessons of business

November 18, 1998

As Washington County school board members wonder aloud how they'll pay for the projects outlined in a new strategic plan, we suggest that they look at what a Maryland business group is doing around the state to make education reform a reality.

The group is the the Maryland Business Rountable for Education, a group of more than 100 businesses that's been working for six years to improve instruction and the quality of students entering the work force.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the group's chairman, Raymond A. "Chip" Mason of Legg Mason, Inc., said that 30 years ago it was possible for students to drop out of school and make a decent living in the manufacturing area, even if they didn't have good reading or math skills.

Those learn-as-you-go jobs don't exist anymore, Mason said, and the schools must produce entry-level candidates who don't need remedial math or reading work before their on-the-job training begins. But the roundtable's commitment to reform goes beyoind pointing out the school system's flaws.

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Its member companies also provide volunteers who tutor students, oversee educational projects and present lectures on special topics, like the energy series produced by Baltimore Gas & Electric.

Other projects include the Northrop Grumman Corporation's school visitation program, in which engineers help students build models that illustrate the demands of engineering and provide grants for math and science activities.

At the St. Paul Insurance Company, employees not only take students along for a day on the job, but also counsel them on proper dress and business etiquette.

But the rountable's greatest benefit may be the connections it allows students to make between what they learn in the classroom and how that relates to what they'll need to know on the job. The school system has already involved local businesspeople in its planning process. Now it needs to involve them in instruction as well.

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