Boeing Frontiers
September 2003
Volume 02, Issue 05
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Cover Story

Learning Takes Wings

Boeing is sharpening its focus on supporting education in the community with a new strategy to be more efficient, effective and targeted—and to assist the greatest number of students possible.

Learning Takes WingsBoeing has always been a strong proponent of education both inside and outside the company, said Phil Condit, chairman and CEO. Internally, the company actively encourages Boeing people to practice lifelong learning, and since 1998, more than 95,000 Boeing employees have participated in the Boeing Learning Together Program, one of the most comprehensive and flexible corporate tuition reimbursement programs in the world.

Outside the company, Boeing continues to be an avid, active supporter of education, especially in the communities where the company has a presence. Condit said: "In every location where Boeing is, you'll find Boeing people involved in education." This ranges from direct company support of education initiatives to Boeing volunteers helping in classrooms to parents involved in local school issues.

Boeing, as a large global enterprise, wants to "make sure it is taking care of the communities where its people live and work, and making them better places," Condit said. This also makes good sense for Boeing. "If we want to attract highly qualified people to the company, one of the first things a potential employee always asks is, 'What are the schools [there] like?'"

While Boeing for decades has supported the public education system, it has done so "on many fronts, with many initiatives" and multiple motivations, said Toni Bailey, vice president, Community and Education Relations. The previous strategies had varying effects on improving student performance, with many impossible to measure accurately. Now, the United States is faced with new public education requirements dictated by federal "No Child Left Behind" legislation.

While previous engagements were important and worthwhile, often there was a lack of structure, integration and focus. "When you diffuse your resources, you diffuse your ability to make a significant impact," Bailey said.

Boeing's education strategy

  • Aligns and leverages all resources to support systemic and continuous improvement in public school systems.
  • Focuses on teacher effectiveness in K-12 public education.
  • States that initiatives will target math, science and literacy.
  • Is designed to enable all children to succeed in a technological global society.
Community and Education Relations earlier this year began crafting a clear, overarching strategy for Boeing support of education in the community. The aim was to develop a businesslike, well-planned, structured and strategic approach with established targets and a roadmap to get there.

Collaboration and integration were key goals, Bailey said, so that Boeing could maximize leverage by partnering with appropriate internal and external organizations. Flexibility had to be built in, allowing onsite experts to determine local needs while leaving room to accommodate individual passions and the spirit of volunteerism. Importantly, results had to be measurable. And any initiatives Boeing backed would have to be both scalable and sustainable; in other words, they would have to be widely applicable and not reliant upon Boeing for their continued existence, Bailey said.

Prior to developing a strategy, Community and Education Relations staff conducted an exhaustive "environmental scan" about education trends, the future workforce and demographics, Bailey said. The company also called in a variety of subject-matter experts, including one of the authors of the No Child Left Behind legislation. Finally, the group took an introspective look at Boeing and its strengths and capabilities, as well as future markets and the company Vision 2016 statement.

New plan guides Boeing's global community investments

While Boeing has a long U.S. tradition of charitable involvement, this year marks the debut of the first global community investment strategy for company communities outside of the United States.

Beginning in 13 countries and two regions, the new strategy addresses community investment in a systematic way to ensure the company uses charitable dollars effectively and safely in programs including educational initiatives. Boeing is implementing the program in phases that support company global strategy.

"Our top-level strategy focuses on fundamental needs: health and human services and primary and secondary education. Within our target countries, local Community Relations representatives will further refine the strategy to reflect local priorities," said Linda D. Martin, director of International and National Corporate Citizenship for Community and Education Relations.

Boeing directs potential grant recipients—public schools and charitable organizations—to the online grant application system, which is available 24 hours a day anywhere in the world via the Internet at aboutus/ community/global.html.

Charitable strategies are important for ensuring funds go where they are needed most, and that Boeing makes choices in line with regional and country priorities. "Like any other investment, charitable contributions have to be made strategically and with the appropriate due diligence," Martin said. The USA Patriot Act and new guidelines enacted to stop the flow of terrorist financing around the world call for a higher level of due diligence.

"Since 9-11, the whole charitable world has changed dramatically. Before Boeing makes any kind of donation, it's essential to know that while doing good, we're not putting the company at risk," Martin said.

"We also were guided by the fact that we have limited resources," Bailey said. "We want to make the most impact we can, given who we are as a company."

Boeing strategists took their lead from Condit, who is currently a co-chairman of Achieve Inc., a non-partisan association of CEOs of major U.S. companies and governors that promotes standards-based education reform. He also serves as chairman of The Business Roundtable, an alliance of top U.S. business leaders and state governors with a similar interest in improving education performance. The Business Roundtable also advocates meaningful preparation and continuous learning for teachers and school administrators.

What emerged from the environmental scan was a plan for an integrated approach to education support, taking maximum advantage of partnerships within the community, with non-profit organizations and with other large corporations, Bailey said.

The Boeing companywide Community and Education Relations organization decided to focus predominantly—but not exclusively—on enhancing teacher and school-leader capability at the kindergarten through 12th grade levels, a strategy the Contributions Committee endorsed.

"Make no mistake about it. Our main focus is on the student," Bailey said. "We decided to narrow in on teachers because of the leverage it provides. This is a company that believes strongly in the impact teachers can have on multiple, multiple children. ... It has the potential to move the needle."

Although many factors affect student performance, Boeing found teacher effectiveness is one of the biggest influences. What teachers know and can do is one of the most important determinants of student learning, accounting for greater than 40 percent of all learning differences after controlling other factors, according to figures in a recent Business Roundtable briefing paper on education and the workforce.

Why focus on the entire kindergarten through 12th grade spectrum? "Data shows that for students to be effective in math and science, interest must happen early on. Likewise, a long-term turnoff also happens early. It's in the fourth and fifth grade that we tend to see a performance decline in children in math and science classes," Bailey said. As students progress toward high school graduation, many now stop taking math and science, U.S. Education Secretary Richard W. Riley told the Washington Post in July.

Why the focus on public education, specifically U.S. schools, when Boeing is a global corporation? The majority of students in the United States attend public schools, Condit said. This allows maximum leverage of the funding, gifts-in-kind, volunteer work and other contributions Boeing makes. The company citizenship strategies for international engagement also include primary and secondary education in support of local needs.

Learning Takes WingsSandy Kress, an attorney specializing in law and education policy and former senior education advisor to President George W. Bush, believes Boeing is headed in the right direction in its support of education in the community.

"Boeing is doing three things that are very positive, very commendable. It is organizing itself, despite having such a disparate workforce and geographic footprint, so it can have a meaningful impact; it is thinking where it can focus its energies to make the greatest impact; and it is working to help teachers and improve teacher quality and effectiveness," Kress said. The emphasis on math and science, Kress added, "may be the place Boeing can make a really positive difference."

As with most of the company charitable contributions programs, Boeing distributes the budget for K-12 contributions through local sites. There, contributions decisions meld the overall company education vision with local strategies. Local Boeing community representatives, who constitute most of the organization, "have a wealth of understanding about the school systems and the challenges there," Bailey said. "They are in the best position to end-focus the Boeing strategy for their locations." During 2002, Boeing worldwide giving (cash and in-kind) totaled more than $52 million. Approximately 40 percent of that goes toward education.

Typical teacher and school-leader enhancement activities include professional development opportunities and improving subject-matter knowledge, especially in math and science. There is an acute shortage of math and science teachers in the United States today.

A prime example of Boeing support for school leadership is its participation in the New Leaders for New Schools program in Chicago. Very often, schools promote good teachers into administrator jobs without coaching on what leadership means. The nationwide NLNS program was developed to provide aspiring urban school principals with a new avenue to be effective leaders.

Learning Takes WingsA key part of the program is matching them with a mentor leader. Ten senior Boeing leaders are participating as NLNS mentors this year, including Condit; Mike Sears, executive vice president, chief financial officer and member of the Office of the Chairman; James Bell, senior vice president of Finance, corporate controller; and Laurette Koellner, executive vice president, chief People and Administration officer, and member of the Office of the Chairman.

"This is a high-leverage and high-impact way to improve public schools. It addresses improving the leadership of public schools, and it fills a crying need. There's an enormous shortfall of qualified school leaders. In Chicago alone, there's a 40 percent shortage over the next five years," said Jim Newcomb, a Boeing Community and Education Relations specialist with responsibility for the Chicago area.

During the next decade, NLNS estimates it will prepare 2,000 highly efficient principals nationwide, and that these will influence 1 million children annually. The organization will measure success by tracking student results and academic progress in New Leaders schools.

Although Boeing continues to fine-tune its strategy for supporting education, the Community and Education Relations organization already is looking for ways to leverage even greater impact from the contributions, gifts-in-kind, surplus donations, and volunteer and executive time the company provides to improve community education.

One promising option is applying the world-renowned Boeing expertise in large-scale systems integration, and its intellectual capital, to the challenge.

Learning Takes Wings"I would like to see us really use the skills we have, the intellectual capability and expertise we have within our own business, to help the external community," Bailey said. This means collaborating even more closely with teaching colleges and engineering schools, and working to improve undergraduate teachers' preparation, adding or enhancing math and science courses within their curriculum.

It means getting more engaged with school boards and school districts, knowing the community and educational system so well that Boeing can be proactive and offer valued foresight, counsel and guidance on issues, instead of reacting to proposals that come in. It means making the larger Boeing network more knowledgeable about Boeing support of school-related strategies and goals, and how Boeing people can contribute.

Theoretically, Bailey said, Boeing support of school-related issues could be almost a moneyless engagement, with the company instead offering a much more valuable commodity—expertise and the power of its tremendous intellectual capital.

"When you hear people talking about corporate citizenship, you always hear them talk in terms of the dollar value," Bailey said. "In the future, I want Boeing to be regarded as a bank—an intellectual bank—with the experience and expertise on how to resolve school-related issues."

Learning Takes Wings


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