Sponsored by IBM, the City Forward website can be used to compare a selected city’s characteristics and challenges to others around the world. In the process, users can identify trends, pinpoint similarities and get ideas for how a city may be improved. These city stories then can be shared and discussed within the City Forward Community.
Completely free of charge, City Forward connects to the work done by Smarter Cities Challenge teams around the world. The website provides data for more than 100 cities, and offers both city leaders and the public the unique ability to consolidate multiple data sources. The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS) recently recognized City Forward with its 2013 Corporate Social Responsibility Webby Award.
Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.
– John Dewey
In my latest op-ed in U.S. News & World Report, I write that only since the end of the Second World War has high school attendance been mandatory. Back in 1945, we understood that while college could be important, finishing high school wasn’t optional – it was essential. But in 2012, the stakes and requirements are much higher. To gain access to 21st Century careers, workers must be significantly better educated than in generations past. And to prepare our children to participate in the global economy, our schools must do a better job of connecting education to employment.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has just announced his city’s intention to do just that. Following the Roadmap for Career and Technical Education developed in collaboration with an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team — and working out of IBM’s playbook, the STEM Pathways to College and Careers School Guide — Chicago plans to open five grades 9 through 14 schools this fall. Each school will be a public-private partnership among the Chicago Public Schools, the City Colleges of Chicago, and a corporate sponsor. Their mission: to connect education to jobs.
Read my full article in U.S. News & World Report. Then follow the links below to read a variety of perspectives on how civic leaders, educators, parents, students and private industry are working together to improve American public education.
The City of Chicago has just announced its intention to open five grades nine through 14 schools that will confer both the high school diploma and an associate degree in technology – creating a direct connection from high school to college to careers. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel comments below about the important roles these Early College STEM Schools will play in the city’s economic development and jobs strategy.
How will these new grades 9-14 schools play into Chicago’s economic development and jobs strategy?
Mayor Emanuel: Chicago’s new STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Schools (grades 9-14) will represent an important step toward strengthening both our education system and Chicago’s skilled workforce. There are 100,000 jobs in Chicago right now that are going unfilled because companies are not finding workers with the appropriate skills. In order to keep and attract businesses in Chicago, we need to provide top employers with the country’s best-trained workforce. STEM schools will help address this gap in skills between employers and applicants.
What are some of the ways you hope the IBM experience in NYC and the Playbook will help Chicago implement this new grades 9-14 education model?
Mayor Emanuel: We worked closely with IBM to develop the Roadmap for Career and Technical Education, which we’ll use together with the STEM Pathways to College and Careers School Guide – the IBM Playbook. One of the major benefits of the grades 9-14 schools model is that it can be repeated successfully for other industries and in any school district. The IBM Playbook will give Chicago a recipe that we can adapt to our unique needs as we connect our educational offerings to jobs.
How has Chicago coordinated the partnerships across secondary and post-secondary schools and with corporate sponsors to create these new schools?
Mayor Emanuel: Public-private partnerships among educators, city leaders, parents, students and corporate sponsors are essential to creating these schools and making them work. Everybody has to contribute, and no single group can do it alone.
Chicago Public Schools, City Colleges of Chicago and IBM are working together on one of the first grades 9-14 schools. An IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team reviewed the Chicago labor market and found that the largest area for job growth over the next six years is in information technology. IBM will work with the school system and CCC to develop the curriculum for the IT-focused school, and will provide mentors for the school’s students and teachers. Graduates will then be first in line for jobs at IBM – a model that all of our corporate partners will follow.
Part of the grades 9-14 school model is to have an extended school day which you also just implemented across the school system. How do you see this helping train our students?
Mayor Emanuel: For far too long, our children have been shortchanged. With the full school day, our students will have the time to dedicate to core subjects like reading and math. Studies have shown that preparing students for 21st century jobs requires more time. Students need the additional learning time and personalized attention to master today’s curriculum – especially in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects. A key component of ensuring that students are prepared for college-level work is bolstering their STEM skills so they will not require remediation in these areas. Students requiring remediation in STEM subjects have a very high post-secondary failure rate.
Which industries, in addition to technology, are expected to provide the greatest opportunities to Chicago’s grades 9-14 graduates with STEM careers?
Mayor Emanuel: After an analysis of Chicago’s labor force, the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team of experts determined that healthcare, hospitality, and manufacturing will provide the greatest opportunities to Chicago’s grades 9-14 graduates. We’re looking at IT jobs in these industries, and not just preparing students to work at an IT company like IBM. Our goal with these grades 9-14 schools is to attract and retain a diversity of top-paying jobs to Chicago by providing a well-trained workforce to employers.
The Honorable Rahm Emanuel was elected the 55th mayor of Chicago on February 22nd, 2011 and was sworn in on May 16th, 2011. A native of Chicago with three terms representing his North Side district in Congress, Rahm Emanuel is deeply rooted in the life of the city.
Imagine being asked to live and collaborate for three weeks with six people you have never met. Factor in a problem that has to be solved in less than 30 days. And not just any problem, but one that matters – with a potential solution that could make a huge difference for a city and its citizens. I had the opportunity to face this challenge as part of an IBM team working with the City of New Orleans.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu delineated the city’s problems to us directly in our first meeting: New Orleans needs a 21st century government with active community partnering, data-informed decision making, and an outcome-based culture. The mayor, the city’s workers and the city’s residents share the same clear vision. New Orleans is a great city that can – and should – be even better.
Our challenge was to determine how to use information technology as a catalyst for transforming New Orleans into a great city. Our standard was the 4Cs of City Greatness. New Orleans already is Cosmopolitan and has loads of Charisma – two of the Cs that make a city great. What the Smarter Cities Challenge team was there to help develop were the remaining two Cs:
- Currency – New Orleans’ ability to shape the world through economic impact;
- Concentration – New Orleans’ transformation into a vibrant city without urban blight, where all neighborhoods thrive with life.
But for New Orleans to realize its potential, the city’s leaders had to stop governing “in the dark.” Cities, like companies, must get smarter if they hope to thrive. And New Orleans’ residents and municipal workers recognized the transformational power of information to unearth new opportunities. They understood how smarter data management could help them affect organizational change. They wanted to transform their city into one in which information sharing exists so that citizens can hear and see what is going on in their neighborhoods.
Our primary recommendation required a foundation that would promote data sharing to create a new supply chain of information. This information supply chain would allow data to flow freely – enabling community leaders and citizens to view the progress and outcomes of government programs. Through the intelligent use of data, the people of New Orleans would be able to benchmark and track improvements in the city’s infrastructure, education system, and public safety.
Next, the Smarter Cities team provided an action-oriented report – a blueprint for how New Orleans can create the information supply chain needed to help realize the city’s vision for its future. The blueprint will help New Orleans improve its approach to becoming an outcome-based culture, and will enable data-informed decision making with active community partnering. The Smarter Cities report shows how New Orleans’ vision of becoming a smarter city can become a reality.
As part of IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge, I had the chance to spend three weeks in Syracuse, New York helping city officials understand how to reduce residential property vacancy rates. More than four percent (about 1,500) of Syracuse’s 35,000 to 45,000 housing units are vacant, and their byproducts – urban blight, street crime, and declining property values and tax revenues – are impacting residents’ quality of life. My IBM colleagues and I were onsite to show civic and community leaders how to use technology to analyze, predict and ultimately prevent the spread of vacant residential properties.
So, what’s the connection? How can technology help solve the problem of empty houses and urban decay? It can be a difficult concept to grasp, but the short answer is that technology can turn data into insight. Cities can use data to build predictive mathematical models to forecast the spread of vacant properties. In Syracuse, they needed to identify and aggregate the information that was stored in many different forms and places so it could be used to develop workable plans.
In short, Syracuse needed to move from decision making based on anecdotal knowledge and reactive strategies to development of proactive policies based on informed, holistic insights. The city hadn’t been able to find or afford the kind of expertise they knew they needed, which is one of the reasons why working with them through the Smarter Cities Challenge was so rewarding.
Since 2008, more than half of the world’s population has lived in cities, and municipal leaders everywhere are grappling with how to support successful growth, better deliver services, engage citizens, and improve efficiency for greater numbers of constituents. The need for better city management has never been greater, as urban populations continue to increase. And the Smarter Cities Challenge has already helped cities like Edmonton and St. Louis use data to help reduce traffic problems and improve public safety.
Syracuse has a broad and diverse ecosystem, with committed stakeholders – policy makers, police, social aid agencies, housing authorities and neighborhood associations – who are uniformly and passionately committed to making things better. I don’t imagine the Syracusans we met were that much different from committed and passionate stakeholders in any of the other cities that have received (or will receive) Smarter Cities Challenge grants, but I would bet they are somewhat ahead of the curve when it comes to appreciating how critical the analysis of data is to making better, more informed decisions.