Peter Geiger’s recent guest column on school standards is exactly right (“Maine Voices: Nothing sinister in school standards,” July 27).

Enhancing Maine’s current school standards to align with the common math and English standards will help improved educational rigor for our students; honors Maine’s long tradition of local control over curriculum; is an open process welcoming input from parents and the public, and will provide new and improved testing so students, parents and teachers can better evaluate our students’ achievement.

It is also a crucial tool to help fix the skills gap challenge facing too many Maine businesses. My business leader colleagues and I need strong, smart and nimble workers to replace the hundreds of thousands of current workers who will soon retire.

The needed skill set – mastery of core academic knowledge, the ability to think critically, communicate effectively, solve problems and collaborate well – is becoming harder to come by. Fewer than half of the executives surveyed in an American Management Association study nationwide rated their employees as above average in necessary skills.

If we simply maintain the status quo in our current education and labor trends, this challenge becomes greater and more urgent.

In 2010, the Maine Legislature adopted a law stating that all publicly supported high schools must achieve a 90 percent graduation rate by the end of the 2015-2016 school year.

We can get there through higher standards, ongoing preparations for teachers to support their teaching of the higher standards, and increased access to innovative high school education models that provide students both the rigor and real-world relevance. Together with revised standards and high-quality assessments, students will be better prepared for both college and careers.

As Peter Geiger said – when we give our students the highest-quality education, it will fuel our economy and build productive citizens.

Steven M. Pound, Ph.D.

associate director of workforce development, Cianbro Institute

Cianbro Corp.

Pittsfield