A quality education is the cornerstone of improving our society and our economy

School Ways

I firmly believe that education is a key component to economic success. While it is challenging to calculate the value of a good education in terms of quality of life, we have become keenly aware of the cost and investment required to maintain a quality school system. 

Great schools support a healthy and growing economy. Oftentimes, we do not think of school divisions as economic drivers; however, there is an abundance of research that indicates that great schools support the health and growth of the local economy.

In his May 2016 article for the United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Eric Hanushek, a noted scholar on economic analysis of educational issues and a Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, indicated that “the economic growth of a state is directly related to the skills of its workforce, and the skills of the workforce are heavily dependent on the state’s schools.”

Hanushek further indicated that there is a correlation between increases in state Gross Domestic Product and improvements in school performance at the state level.

To share a local perspective, a 2013 study by the College of William and Mary’s Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy reviewed the economic impact of Williamsburg-James City Public Schools. Findings from the study determined an average $1 of the division’s operating and capital improvement budgets retained in the region results in $1.63 of regional spending. 

Two local economic impact studies show that public school divisions have significant influence on their local economies. Both studies found that school divisions contribute to spending in the region, have a positive impact on local property values, reduce costs associated with social ills and that earning a high school diploma adds significantly to earning power for local residents. 

Claus Moser, a British statistician and scholar said, “Education costs money, but then so does ignorance.” As Moser ardently implied, there is a cost benefit and loss associated with the success of our school division and the achievement of our students. Consequently, the success of our city’s economy in terms of attracting larger companies, establishing small businesses and increasing family home ownership will be directly impacted by not only the quality of our schools, but also our ability to develop a prepared workforce for tomorrow’s jobs.

What does this mean for Newport News? In my opinion, there is no better way to impact our local economy than to establish Newport News Public Schools as the premier school division in the Commonwealth of Virginia. 

During my entry-plan review, I found that Newport News Public Schools is well on its way. The school division has led the region in innovative practices for several decades. Our mission of ensuring that all students graduate college, career and citizen-ready has guided our efforts. 

Visit any Newport News school and you will observe how our educators are preparing students to be productive and prosperous members of the community. Our schools have collaborative learning zones, flexible seating and desks, technology centers, makerspaces or creative areas and wireless Internet access. These tools, similar to the resources found in businesses across the globe, are necessities for 21st century teaching and learning. 

The curriculum has also changed; our focus is on advancing student learning and achievement. Newport News Public Schools’ curriculum exceeds the required state Standards of Learning by combining the standards with the school division’s college, career and citizen-ready skills including information literacy, communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity and innovation, initiative and self-direction, social responsibility and collaboration. These skills are integrated into instruction at all grade levels. 

Families in Newport News have numerous options and opportunities through the school division to prepare their students for higher education, quality careers and the workforce. We have 13 magnet and specialty programs, including environmental science; science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM; global studies; communication arts; marine science; aviation; university studies; health sciences; the International Baccalaureate program, a nontraditional high school and the Achievable Dream program. 

The school division also offers more than 80 career and technical education courses, which prepare students to earn dozens of career and industry certifications, giving them access to high-skilled internships and careers and advanced post-secondary opportunities.

Newport News Public Schools boasts a 93 percent graduation rate, higher than the state average. Earning a high school diploma significantly increases one’s future earning potential, another positive impact on our local economy. 

While much has been accomplished, there is still more work to do to ensure that Newport News Public Schools continues to provide the skills and tools essential to guarantee that students graduate college, career and citizen-ready. 

Investing in public education is crucial. Our students and our economy deserve it.

Dr. George Parker
About Dr. George Parker 1 Article
Dr. George Parkeris superintendent of Newport News Public Schools and can be reached at 757-283-7850, ext. 10112. For more information about the Newport News STEM education, visit the Newport News Public Schoools’ website at http://sbo.nn.k12.va.us/stem.

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