How can the United States continue to compete in a global economy if the entering workforce is made up of high school graduates who lack the skills they need, and of college graduates who are mostly “adequate” rather than “excellent”?
That was the question I asked in an article “Are They Really Ready to Work?” nearly 6 years ago. That article was based on a landmark survey that declared that our future workers are woefully ill-prepared.
Based on the results of a just released Center for American Progress survey – over 6 years later, employers and our county as a whole cannot take any comfort that our educational system has not made any great strides.
The nationwide survey of high school and elementary students ask students what they thought about schoolwork. Based on hearsay, media, and parents, you’d get the picture of students buried under a heavy load of reading, writing, and arithmetic. But the found the opposite: many students are not being challenged in school.
In almost every state, over half of students report that they are not taught about engineering and technology. Click here and then on “taught about engineering.”
Consider, for instance, that 37 percent of fourth- graders say that their math work is too easy. More than a third of high-school seniors report that they hardly ever write about what they read in class. In a competitive global economy where the mastery of science is increasingly crucial, 72 percent of eighth-grade science students say they aren’t being taught engineering and technology.
Those findings are just the tip of the iceberg. Many schools and large percentage of students report their school work is “too easy.”
- Twenty-nine percent of eighth-grade math students nationwide report that their math work is often or always too easy.
- Fifty-one percent of eighth-grade civics students and 57 percent of eighth-grade history students report that their work is often or always too easy.
- Among high school students, 21 percent of 12th-graders said their math work was often or always too easy, while 56 percent and 55 percent respectively found their civics and history work often or always too easy.
- Almost a third of eighth-grade students report reading fewer than five pages a day either in school or for homework. That’s below what many experts recommend for students in middle school.
In every state, more than 20 percent of students read fewer than 5 pages a day. Click here and then on “pages read per day” tab.
- Eighth-grade students across the country also report that they rarely write lengthy answers to reading questions on tests: approximately one-third of students write long answers on reading tests twice per year or less.
- Thirty-nine percent of 12th-grade students say that they hardly ever or only once or twice a month write about what they read in class. Nearly one-third said they write long answers on reading tests two times a year or less.
Moreover, almost one-third of 12th-grade reading students say they rarely identify main themes of a passage when reading and almost 20 percent said they never or hardly ever summarize a passage.
Given overall low reading and math scores on SAT scores—and the degree to which these basic skills promote more learning—these results should be cause for alarm. Far more troubling, the average mathematics literacy score in the United States was lower than the average score in 17 of the 33 other OECD countries. Reading literacy wasn’t so bad but still not good as the average reading literacy score in the U.S. was lower than the average score in 6 of the 33 other OECD countries
For today’s students, being prepared for college and the modern workforce, acquiring the skills in critical subject areas like math and science is imperative. But the problems in our education are pervasive and deep. The causes are complex….but also as basic as too many students don’t understand their teacher’s questions and report that they are not learning during class. When less than two-thirds of middle school math students report that they feel like they are learning in math class and just under 50 percent of 12th-grade math students admit they feel like they are learning, the alarm bells are ringing loud and clear.
Is anyone listening?