Education is vital for America's economic security, but American high school students aren't ready for college or careers.
A new report this week found 28% of high school graduates who took the ACT didn't meet college readiness benchmarks in English, Reading, Math or Science. Just 25% met the benchmarks in all four subjects. That's a slight improvement from four years ago, when just 22% of students met all four benchmarks. The ACT report also notes that student scores in Math and Science have improved, but the numbers are still nowhere close to where they should be.
U.S. businesses are feeling the effects. Even with 12.8 million Americans looking for a job, industry leaders say they can't find workers with the right skills. Businesses are importing foreign workers - and they would import even more if the U.S. government would let them. According to data from the Brookings Institution, U.S. companies applied for an average of 294,108 H-1B visas between 2010 and 2011. The U.S. government caps the number of available visas at 85,000 each year (exceptions apply for educational and non-profit institutions).
While other countries are busy producing engineers and doctors, the U.S. is partying. This week, The Princeton Review released its annual ranking of the top party schools. Another survey found that American college students who binge drink are happier than those who don't!
At least those kids are in college! What are we doing to get everyone else there?
We already know that 312,700 local school jobs have been lost in the last 3 years. More than half of school administrators say class sizes are getting bigger. They are cutting back summer school and non-academic programs.
Don't miss Your Bottom Line next week (September 1st at 9:30a ET). Christine will sit down with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to find out how he plans to fix America's school system.
From Christine Romans
The most important job in America is a good teacher at the head of a classroom. The very future of our country – its innovation, its military, its ability to compete against a rising China – depends on the kind of skills we are giving our kids.
By the same logic, the most dangerous job is the ineffective educator. Wasting time going through the motions just doesn’t cut it in today’s world. (Minnesota is the only state where college-bound high school grads met at least 3 out of 4 ACT benchmarks for college readiness.)
Even worse, though, is someone in the classroom who is actually hurting a child’s education.
This week I reported on the extremes.
First – the good. I interviewed the 2012 National Teacher of the Year on CNN's Starting Point. Rebecca Mieliwocki is a seventh grade teacher in California who uses lessons from her business background to run her classroom. She’s into accountability and results – metrics from the private sector she applies in school every day.
Many have noted that Rebecca’s path to the class room began in the public sector.
“I didn't start out as a teacher.” she told me. “I kind of came into teaching from the business world, and in that community, results matter. You have to be on your game. You have to get your job done. And you have to be good at what you do, and that's how you rise to the top. And I took that idea, that ... unusual business model into the classroom, and it's about getting results with kids.”
Specifically, how does she do this?
“I make sure that kids are front and center in their own learning, that they're taking ownership of what it is that they want to know, and then, I help explain to them what it is that they need to know. We'll do things like we do a lot of small group activities. They'll partner together.”
She pushes group projects that will have meaning in the real world, but are also fun for kids.
“One of the assignments I had my kids start the year with was they all designed an app for a Smartphone that an incoming middle schooler can use to help navigate school life and whether it could be an academic app that could help with homework or study tools, whether it would be a bully locater, whether it could be cafeteria lunch rating system, those kinds of things.
They have to design the app and do the little thumbnail write up and the graphic. Those are real world skills. They might go to work as a computer programmer or some sort of designer, graphic designer. That might be a job they could have, and so, I design projects that give them an outlet for work that they may do when they grow up.”
Brava. Mrs. Mieliwocki.
But then there’s this.
Cherry Hill, New Jersey. A suspicious dad wires 10-year old special-education student and is heartbroken to hear adults in that classroom laughing at, ignoring, and even mocking his son.
To listen to those seven hours of tapes is to hear a child bullied by school employees that taxpayers pay to help him.
The father told me this week that listening to those tapes were the worst minutes of his life.
Parents and teachers of kids with special needs know the drill. Sensory processing can be difficult for some kids. (Loud sounds, bright lights, change in routine can be devastating for a child.) Some have a hard time making transitions and need positive reinforcement about what is coming next. Difficulty communicating is a hallmark of Autism Spectrum Disorder as well. The wide range in behavioral differences in children is what professionals are trained to understand in the classroom.
The women whose voices you hear on this tape seem oblivious to these simple facts. They sound actually cruel to this child. If you haven’t heard of this case, you must watch Saturday 9:30 am ET for Mary Snow’s in-depth report on the boy and his father. The district tells us an aide has been fired and a teacher reassigned. As the week unfolds, a 23-year veteran teacher in that classroom is now fighting back, and denying she heard anything inappropriate and says she was not in the classroom for the first hour of the tapes. She is accusing the father of being “disingenuous.” The father says the tapes speak for themselves.
On the show you can hear advice from an attorney who represents families fighting their school districts to get the care they deserve for special needs kids in public schools.
These stories this week reinforce my belief that like real estate and politics, all education is local. Please tell me what you are seeing where you live. What separates the effective schools from the rest? What’s the best tactic you’ve ever seen in teaching? And for teachers – what is your biggest frustration?
Watch us on Your Bottom Line Saturday 9:30 am Eastern, and let’s keep the conversation going here.
Have a great weekend!