Map the present to determine the future
Editor's Note: In celebration of Houston's 175th anniversary, we asked leaders to imagine the city's future. In this essay, Catherine C. Mosbacher, president and CEO of The Center for Houston' Future, discusses how improving education is the key to the city's success.
When we talk about the last 175 years, as well as the present and the future of the Houston region, I think we can all agree that education has been at the forefront of critical issues across the decades. From worrying about sewing skills for girls and carpentry for boys in the earliest years of settlement to tackling the transition from a manufacturing-based economy to a high-tech knowledge-based world today, the core concerns remain constant: Preparing our children with the knowledge and life skills that are crucial for success.
When you hear about the Center for Houston’s Future, you’d be safe in assuming that we do a great deal of research and investigation about the kind of future the region is creating. What you might not expect is that we do a big piece of that work by studying, measuring and mapping the present.
And for the last year, together with excellent researchers in academia, business, non-profits and government, we’ve been gathering the facts about education, especially as it relates to the pipeline from early childhood development all the way through to workforce preparedness.
Houston has added more private sector jobs than any other metropolitan area since 2007. That’s the good news. On the other hand, the city ranks 94th in matching conferred degrees with what employers need.
The results of this study are included in our annual report to the people of the region, the 2012 Community Indicators Report: Human Capital Development and Education, that we’ll be unveiling at a public Symposium on Friday. We’ll be hosting national experts to talk about best practices and local big-picture thinkers to discuss the results of the study, the real-world challenges and practical solutions to improve education in the eight-county region.
The Community Indicators Report, along with the Symposium, offer new ways to understand the greater Houston area in a regional, national and global context and measure our progress towards sustainability and competiveness.
Houston has added more private sector jobs than any other metropolitan area since 2007. That’s the good news. On the other hand, the city ranks 94th in matching conferred degrees with what employers need. As a result of this talent gap, there are good jobs going begging, particularly in the engineering and geosciences professions.
Continuing further down the education pipeline, the 2012 report finds that nearly half of local college freshman need remedial classes to catch up with their college-ready peers, leading to higher non-completion rates in that group. Only 53% of greater Houston ninth graders are passing Algebra I, a ‘gateway’ course that is a strong indicator of their ability to succeed in more advanced math and science coursework.
The 2012 report finds that nearly half of local college freshman need remedial classes to catch up with their college-ready peers.
Less than half of third graders are reading at the commended level, with an even lower percentage for economically disadvantaged children. And 88 percent of children entering kindergarten have spent the crucial earliest learning years with no formal education or in a child care system with extremely low teacher education requirements.
The reason for gathering all these statistics is simple: if you can measure it, you can improve it. By conducting these studies on sustainability and competitiveness year after year, the Center for Houston’s Future broadens access to information, encourages public debate and dialogue, builds consensus, and helps to develop shared solutions.
The unvarnished facts about how Houston stacks up – from our talent gap in the workforce to successes and shortcomings in our schools – are now gathered and ready for you at Friday’s Community Indicators Symposium. Join us in rolling up our sleeves and tackling the worthy work of preparing our children for a happy and prosperous future.
Click here for more information about the 2012 Community Indicators Symposium.