Better Education – The Key to Opportunities

Recently in the Northeastern United States, 100 young adults, ages 12 to 18 were asked, “If you were in charge, what would you change in your country?” Surprisingly, the top answer to this question is an

aspect that needs to be addressed in all parts of the United States – improvements in education. America’s growing economy is changing, and we must respond to these changes by helping more Americans gain the skills to find beneficial, rewarding jobs in our 21st century economy.

The key to expanding opportunities is to provide everyone with a world-class education. To help the youngest Americans receive a quality education and learn the basic skills they need, we need to succeed in schooling and academics. Recent results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed that scores for high school seniors have declined in both reading and mathematics. To show just how much that students’ educations are being jeopardized, the following shocking results were also reported.

Due to lacking math and science education, young Americans stand to miss out on job opportunities, will lack the necessary skills for post-secondary study, or will not complete post-secondary study in a timely manner.

Nationally, of one hundred 9th graders, only 67 will graduate from high school on time, only 38 will directly enter college, and only 18 will graduate from college.

Finally, U.S. 12th graders performed amongst the lowest of the 21 countries assessed in both math and science on the Third International Mathematics and Science Study.

Something must be done to prevent the continuous downfall of student academics so that American students can receive the education that is necessary to succeed in the world.

Due to declines in reading, a plan should be implemented to provide a program that would give grants to develop, apply, and evaluate effective reading interventions for students reading significantly below grade level. A program of this type would complement the Reading First State Grants program, which provides comprehensive reading instruction for children in kindergarten through 3rd grade. A program of this type would provide funds to school districts for reading intervention programs to help students catch up to their peers in reading and literature.

Mathematics scores of students in the United States are also dropping. Students would greatly benefit if an increase in money were allowed for the Mathematics and Science Partnership program authorized in the No Child Left Behind Act. An increase in this program would support competitive grants for partnerships to increase student achievement in mathematics. The grants should support projects that have a potential to accelerate the mathematics achievement of all students, but especially low-achieving students. Professional development projects should also be provided for mathematics teachers that are strongly grounded in research to help them strengthen their skills.

In August 2002, President Bush announced the State Scholars Initiative to encourage high school students to enroll in more rigorous high school courses. Twelve sates have already received assistance in developing and promoting strong courses of study, as well as providing special programs for students under the State Scholars Initiative. Most Americans strongly believe that more money should be invested in funding for the State Scholars program to make grants available nationwide.

To ensure that students graduating from high school have the skills they need to succeed in post-secondary education or careers, high school seniors should be included in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Currently, states are required to participate in the NAEP in 4th and 8th grades in reading and math. Extending this requirement to 12th grade would enable educators to assess whether high schools, as well as elementary and middle schools, are meeting the needs of students. It would also help to identify weaknesses of students and to strengthen curriculum to ensure improvement in those areas.

Programs such as No Child Left Behind that strengthen academic performance in all students have already been enforced in school districts all across America. Education is perceived as the key to eradicating poverty, ignorance, and unemployment, and young people from all social classes thought that providing a quality education to all children was important. If more United States citizens join together to strengthen the importance of providing better education, more children will gain tools to help them succeed, and in the long run will be rewarded with higher-paying jobs and valuable skills that will last a lifetime.