Public Education Has Failed to Prepare Most Grads for Workplace

October 14, 2013  |  No Comments  |  by Barney Bishop  |  Columns

Published in: Context Florida

Education continues to be contentious in Florida and for good reason.

Public education has failed miserably to adequately prepare most graduates for the workplace.  I say most because students in the top 10 to 15 percent of their class do well. But the rest are at best mediocre.

I’m a well-taught product of Florida’s public education but that was two generations ago and much has happened since then.  For most employers, a high school or college degree is less meaningful than it once was.  No longer can employers depend on a piece of sheepskin to demonstrate that the individual possessing it has rudimentary skills.

Employers have discovered that grade inflation has almost become the norm.  Consequently, when many of today’s graduates are asked to think outside of the box, compose a lucid memorandum, draft a grammatically correct letter, or succinctly explain an idea, they often fail.

America’s education system for many students has not kept pace with the demands of our technologically driven world.

That’s why we were fortunate that during Gov. Jeb Bush’s tenure – and since – he dedicated himself to becoming Florida’s “Education Governor.”  Some will disagree with his ideas, but no one can argue about Florida’s improving educational outcomes.

His idea of doing away with social promotion was cutting edge even though it still exists.  His idea of every student selecting a career path in the sixth grade was brilliant because it helps a student to focus on a goal and work toward it.

Likewise, the FCAT addressed the need for students to be tested and compared to other Florida students.  Now Common Core has been presented as a way for all American students to be compared on core competencies.

And while I hope that Florida students will do well compared to students in other states, what we really need to focus on is the ability of our students to compete with students in South Korea, China, Singapore and Japan.

Recently the Council for Aid to Education created a new standardized test called the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus (CLA+). It is designed to demonstrate to employers what a graduate can actually do.  “Employers want to see something that they can rely on,” according to Michael Poliakoff, vice president of policy for the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

“The test will measure analysis, problem-solving, writing, quantitative reasoning and reading” and will be administered to seniors at a growing number of colleges and universities around the country.

We need to reform America’s educational system and resist the tendency to defend the status quo.

If you’re frustrated because your child can’t get a job, think about how employers feel about the lack of quality graduates they deal with every day.  Reforming education is essential: Just ask any employer.

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