By Jandel Allen-Davis and David Beal
In the health-care and insurance industries, we depend on evaluation and feedback from our customers and patients to help us provide better products and services. Similarly, our employees use input from supervisors to mark and monitor progress, celebrate wins and identify areas for improvement.
In much the same way, parents and educators need accurate feedback about the critical knowledge and skills Colorado’s students are acquiring throughout their education. Now more than ever, we need to know that our students are prepared for college and career.
Unfortunately, we’re not sure at the moment. By 2020 in Colorado, 74 percent of all jobs will require some post-secondary education. Right now, only 22 percent of Colorado’s students will complete a two or four-year degree program. Simply put, if we stay on this track, Colorado’s kids will not be ready for Colorado’s jobs. This is why we are a part of Future Forward Colorado, along with a coalition of business organizations statewide, to show support for higher expectations known as the Colorado Academic Standards, which include the Common Core in English and math, and aligned assessments.
Higher standards are more important than ever as our industries become more sophisticated. With the advent of health-care reform, providers and insurance companies are adding more jobs that require data management, critical thinking and analytical abilities. We need to know that our students are acquiring these complex skills. The Colorado Academic Standards and their aligned assessments, which include the PARCC tests in English and math, accomplish exactly that. They are based on the knowledge and skills students need to succeed in today’s global economy. It’s a tremendous step in the right direction and, importantly, is paired with an accurate measure of progress.
These new assessments are the education system’s equivalent of one of our most common practices at Kaiser Permanente. From lab and radiology tests to regular check-ins with patients, doctors, nurses, and technicians, evaluation ensures consistent measurement of their patients’ progress. These tests allow us to gauge the status of our community’s health. Without them, we could do our patients harm by missing important medical concerns.
Another essential measurement of health takes place during regular dental check-ups. In fact, Delta Dental of Colorado is leading the way in establishing new training for doctors and dentists in Colorado to better understand how oral health and overall health are linked. The result is a more complete picture of a person’s overall health and better overall heath monitoring.
Well-designed assessments in our schools provide similar feedback, which can inform individual instruction. Tests help teachers determine whether students can take a more challenging path or if they need more help in a specific area. Just as in health care, it’s not about testing more; it’s about designing better tests that are focused on the needs of the individual.
Without accurate assessments, the Colorado Academic Standards are just goals on paper. Business leaders understand that measuring results is the only way to attain real success. These higher expectations mean that our students will be brighter, more talented, smarter and more engaged than ever before — an outcome that also helps us resolve the country’s health problem.
This will not be without challenges, though. There is a strong possibility that test scores will drop in the coming school year. Everyone should know that. However, we should also know that it means educators and parents now have a more accurate picture of where a student’s learning stands and that our children are getting the skills they need to accomplish their aspirations.
Jandel Allen-Davis, M.D., is vice president of government, external relations, and research at Kaiser Permanente Colorado. David Beal is chief financial officer at Delta Dental of Colorado.