As business people, we must do our part to boost student achievement on an upward trajectory here in Hartford.
Research strongly indicates that students who have completed rigorous coursework in elementary and high school schools are better equipped to succeed in college and in the workplace, as well as continue lifelong learning that will position them for career changes along the way.
Recent studies abound that hiring managers cite a shortage of qualified workers as their biggest recruiting challenge. Additionally, by the end of this decade, the nationís work force will face a shortage of more than 12 million college-educated workers.
With these alarming statistics, itís hard for companies to be optimistic about winning the war for talent. Fortunately for those of us in the Hartford region, itís not all gloom and doom.
Under the direction of Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski, Hartford Public Schools have been making excellent progress in closing the student achievement gap in the last two years. Dr. Adamowski has set high expectations for students in Hartford, calling for each student in the district to not only graduate from high school, but also go onto college. But, we canít expect Dr. Adamowski and the educators within Hartford Public Schools to close the student achievement gap on their own.
Therefore, as a member of the Hartford business community, we, at Evolution Benefits, feel strongly that we must invest in the future of our work force, be it through volunteer efforts, donations, or the development of school support programs.
Bob Patricelli, chairman and CEO of Evolution Benefits, and the Robert & Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation chose to develop a program called TeacherDollars in partnership with the Hartford Public Schools.
TeacherDollars donates special-purpose debit cards to teachers in Hartford Public Schools that have demonstrated significant gains on key indicators of school progress, including results on Connecticut Mastery Tests. The cards allow teachers to purchase needed educational materials for their classrooms, which support the achievement goals of the Hartford Public Schools. These materials include, for example, math manipulatives, flash cards, books, and even food for family events to enhance parental engagement. The cards function only at selected merchants who provide classroom-related products.
With the help and donations of employees at Evolution Benefits, as well as Connecticut Light & Power, Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, Newmanís Own Foundation, Northside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance, The Hartford Financial Services Group and Womenís Health USA, the program is now in its third year. This year, the total number of teachers receiving cards increased substantially Ė from 280 in 2007 to 380 in 2008.
Emily Goetz, an 11th grade Latin teacher at Classical Magnet School and recipient of TeacherDollars, explains why the program is so helpful. ďWe teachers frequently reach into our own pockets and pay for those materials ourselves,Ē she said. ďNot only does the [program] recognize teachers and schools who are bridging the achievement gap in Hartford, it also provides us with $200 more that we can spend on our classrooms to continue the challenging and rewarding work that we are doing with our students.Ē
Yes, itís important to our business and our community that we have a capable work force in the years to come. But a quality education provides much more than that. It helps our young people build their self-confidence and their satisfaction with other aspects of life and to become strong, useful citizens. What could be more important to all of us than that?
We canít back down now. Please support the TeacherDollars program. To learn more on ways to contribute, visit our Web site at myteacherdollars.com.