I remain convinced that "reading skills" are key to individual, corporate, regional, and national success in the ever-changing information economy and culture we find ourselves in. So you can imagine my dismay at this New York Times report:
Only about half of this year's high school graduates have the reading skills they need to succeed in college, and even fewer are prepared for college-level science and math courses, according to a yearly report from ACT, which produces one of the nation's leading college admissions tests.
The report, based on scores of the 2005 high school graduates who took the exam, some 1.2 million students in all, also found that fewer than one in four met the college-readiness benchmarks in all four subjects tested: reading comprehension, English, math and science.
I would argue that this indicates that, despite Republican-led "education reform" legislation over the last five years, children are being "left behind." Perhaps "taxpayer revolt" movements which argue that quality schools shouldn't be so expensive have had something to do with this too. Maybe the general and repeated anti-intellectualism and anti-science attitude of the Bush administration is coming through loud and clear to our young people. I just don't know. But as a state university educator who teaches a core writing course to hundreds of undergraduates a year, I know that I and my rather low-paid teaching assistants will be next in line to face the challenge of educating this cohort. It's a position from which I think I can quite clearly see the connections between investing in public schools and investing in productive economies. Why can't enough taxpaying private property owners and/or enough taxpaying private corporations see that connection too?
P.S. A related article today, from the Associated Press, on public schools:
Forty percent of public school teachers plan to exit the profession within five years, the highest rate since at least 1990, according to a study being released Thursday.
The rate is expected to be even greater among high school teachers, half of whom plan to be out of teaching by 2010, according to the National Center for Education Information.
Retirements will open up entry-level slots for younger, and cheaper, teachers, which may help ease school budgets a bit. Then again pensions will still need to be paid out to retirees, probably for a long time. Hopefully this demographic shift in teaching won't be used as yet another excuse for defunding education at this critical time in our nation's history. Otherwise, the students of tomorrow will be just as ill-prepared as those of today as they face the expanding universe of cacophonous but detail-rich media, the global panopoly of interests and beliefs which are far more complex than the simplistic struggle of "freedom versus terror," and the end of a century of petoleum dependence which will have devastatingly differential effects in rich, militarily-secure countries versus poor, conflict-ridden ones.