Friday, January 23, 2015

Globalization ... Let's Put First Things First in Improving America's Educational Outcomes ... 'Free' College Isn't the Right Priority ... K-12 Outcomes Need Our Focus

Regarding our system of education, President Obama is trying to answer the wrong question. Instead of debating the pros and cons of taxpayers providing a free community college tuition program, he should be focusing on K-12 global competitiveness.

Accordingly, along with President Obama, here's the question We the People need to ask ourselves with respect to education: How do we get better, faster? So while President Obama wants to discuss making community college attendance tuition free, I have a better idea. Let's choose our priorities wisely.

In other words, why not first exert every effort to make our K-12 system of education globally competitive before making community college free? Let's clean up our act and do first things first.

Cradle to Ivory Tower reveals the comparative large shortfall of the educational attainment of our nation's high school graduates compared to the rest of the world. And here's the real shocker --- the global competitiveness problem is most severe with the very people Obama wants to help --- America's "middle class" students:

"{There's} one big problem with the proposal for free community college that President Obama recently outlined and described anew in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
It’s awfully late in the game.
I don’t mean that he should have moved on it earlier in his presidency. I mean that our focus on getting kids to and through higher education cannot be separated from, or supplant, our focus on making sure that they’re prepared for it. And we have a painfully long way to go in that regard.
College is somehow tidier to talk about . . . . It’s an attractive subject for several reasons. . . .

And it comes with handy metrics: specifically, data showing that the acquisition of a college degree translates into various benefits over the course of a lifetime, including higher earnings. So we look to, and lean on, college as a way to increase social mobility and push back against middle-class wage stagnation. That’s important context for not only Obama’s frequent invocations of college but also for a new report, “Expectations and Reality,” by America Achieves . . . .

Using a survey of hundreds of parents and looking at college graduation rates, the report concludes that middle-class parents who expect their kids to finish four-year college degrees are wrong more than half the time.
The same survey . . . revealed some cold-eyed realism amid that unwarranted optimism. More than 70 percent of parents expressed the worry that their children’s chances of achieving a middle-class lifestyle would be diminished if their pre-college education didn’t become more challenging.
They’re right. We need to raise standards. . . .
The goal is to lift children from all income groups up — and to maximize their chances of success with higher education. . . . there’s a significant difference in graduation rates between students who need remediation after they’ve enrolled and those who don’t. The failures of elementary, middle and secondary schools shadow them.
Those failures persist, and they’re demonstrated every three years when PISA tests — which compare 15-year-olds in countries around the world — are done. American kids tend to perform in the middle of the heap. . . . While American kids from middle-class families haven’t markedly improved their international standing in math and science over recent years, kids from poorer families have done precisely that. . . .

The moral is this: Education is a continuous concern and must be a continuous investment, cradle to Ivory Tower. If we don’t recognize and act on that, our reality will never meet our expectations."
Summing Up

{NOTE: The report "Expectations and Reality" by 'America Achieves' referenced and linked above is worth taking some serious time to review. And after reading the report, if you don't come away believing that the right 'educational' question to be asking is centered around K-12 learning and "How do we get better, faster? --- well, I'll be very surprised. You'll probably also wonder why your local school district isn't a member of the Global Learning Network. The report is definitely a thought provoking and myth destroying eye opener.}

In sports it's harder to have a good game without having a good first half.

And it's harder to have a good first half without being ready to play when the game begins.

Similarly, it's harder to do well in college without being adequately prepared upon entering.

And racking up debt and then dropping out of college will make it even harder to do well financially in adulthood.

So let's get on with the serious work of properly preparing our kids for college success before worrying about how we're going to pay for that 'higher' education.

What I'm proposing may not sound as good and may not be as much of a 'vote getter' as President Obama's offer of 'free' college, but it will be a much better approach for helping both America's 'middle class' and Americans as a whole, including our kids, our economy, our global competitiveness, and our current and future taxpayers.

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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