Dallas Fed Focuses on Educational Attainment as a Pathway to Economic Prosperity

A few weeks ago in late February, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas hosted an event to talk about educational attainment and its impact on economic opportunity. Despite a heavy thunderstorm, more than 200 business and community leaders packed into the Federal Reserve’s auditorium, eager to listen and learn. The interest was spurred in large part because of the widely-recognized need for Dallas to strengthen its educational ecosystem. Nearly 3 in 4 students in Dallas County are considered “economically disadvantaged,” which unsurprisingly correlates strongly with a lower level of educational attainment later in life. Fewer resources in and out of school, fewer enrichment activities, and teachers who often lack formal training severely limits a young person’s chance to pursue meaningful work or school after graduation.

It’s no secret that our education system is outdated, but the presenters at the event—including myself—gave many reasons for hope. Rob Kaplan, President of the Dallas Federal Reserve, noted the role of his institution in promoting economic growth is to ensure businesses have all the resources they need to be successful. That means strengthening our education system to prepare the next generation of talent for the next generation of jobs, which requires addressing educational inequity at every step of the K-14 system. The difference in the length of summer vacation alone between more and less privileged students can create a gap of as much as 6,000 instructional hours between a high-income and low-income student by middle school, according to Big Thought’s President Gigi Antoni. Students at some Dallas high schools have only a 4% chance of earning a postsecondary degree by the time they turn 24. The compounding effect of these inequities is difficult – but not impossible – to reverse, and it will require a retooling and reimagining of pathways to college and careers.

Florence Shapiro, former state senator and mayor of the City of Plano, made a clear argument that Dallas’ education system is at a turning point. Shapiro pointed out that Texas is starting to break down the silos between K-12, postsecondary education, and the workforce. There are already signs that Dallas and Texas more broadly is serious about this commitment: the Texas legislature has just set a goal that 60% of 25-34 year olds have a postsecondary degree or credential by 2030, and is implementing reforms at all levels of education to ensure that students are set up for success in college and careers. Rob Kaplan followed up the event with an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News calling for further investment to ensure all high school graduates are adequately prepared for college and careers. This is a coordinated effort between employers, education providers, and civic leaders to ensure that Texas has the workforce needed for a 21st century economy, and I am looking forward to seeing this plan develop in the next few years.

While it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the scope of the problem—unequal access to early childhood education, vast disparities in resources for public schools, and uncertain prospects for young adults after graduation—the fact that these speakers received sharp attention and thoughtful questions gives me hope that Dallas will demonstrate effective strategies for closing the gap in educational attainment. 1 in 100 students in America go to Dallas schools, meaning that demonstrating what a functional, 21st century education system can do in Dallas could have a profoundly positive impact on this country.

The GradsofLifeVoice Forbes team provides thought leadership, research and expert commentary on innovative talent pipelines and related issues such as the skills gap, income inequality, workforce diversity, and the business case for employment pathways. We seek to change employers’ perceptions of young adults with atypical resumes from social liabilities to economic assets. This post was originally featured here.

Government/Policy, Hiring & Retention Practices, Management & Leadership,
Related News
View All News
Grads of Life's Dismissed by Degrees Report Featured In Washington Post
September 24th, 2019 | By Grads of Life

We are honored to share that Dismissed By Degrees, our joint study with Harvard Business School and Accenture on degree...Read More

Hotel Trade Groups Seek Solutions To Labor-Shortage Problem
January 30th, 2018 | By Grads of Life

LOS ANGELES -- At the Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS), U.S. and Canadian hotel trade groups announced programs to...Read More

Rya Conrad-Bradshaw Featured on Entrepreneur Weekly Podcast
November 29th, 2017 | By Grads of Life

Click here to listen to the...Read More