Should we consider today’s high school graduates defective products of our educational system?

confusion.jpgFirst published July 31, 2008

As school districts across the country have come clean about their real graduation rates in recent years, there has been anecdotal evidence from both colleges and businesses of the need to put newly minted high school graduates through a series of remedial courses to tune up their academic skills before they can handle first year college coursework or move into the ranks of workers.

George Winship, editor of The Anderson Valley Post in California writes about how public school failure financially impacts California citizens.

According to a Pacific Research Institute study released Wednesday, July 23, this remedial education is costing California’s taxpayers up to $14 billion each year, and this on top of the more than $44 billion annually that the state is already spending on K-12 education.

California, the golden state, is hardly unique in this matter. A similar study undertaken in Michigan shows that more than a third of that state’s students leave high school without possessing basic academic skills including reading, writing and arithmetic. The cost of remedial education in Michigan, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, was estimated in 2000 at $600 million annually to teach employees and students skills they should have mastered in high school.

Back then, the Mackinac Center calculated, the national cost to remediate these students in 2000 was $16.6 billion.

This is not to say that there are not good schools in some districts, but these examples document our public education failure in a startling way. Throwing money at the problem doesn't seem to be working. The failure to rethink and re-engineer public schools is costing taxpayers millions of dollars and depriving students of their expected future.

This is failure on a massive scale with no remedy in sight. Just as public schools were originally designed to educate workers of the 20th century, perhaps the current needs of the business community will force schools to update their thinking about the basic skill set required for adult citizenship in this new century. To read Mr. Winship's column in its entirety, click here.

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