Recent reports and discussion during the present Legislative Session have pointed out that twenty percent (20%) of our high school graduates who go on to college can not pass college math and English classes and must take remedial classes. This is at a cost of almost one-half million dollars ($500,000). Not included in this cost are those high school graduates who do not go to college but enter the workforce and must be trained for the job. The good point is that the college students are receiving remedial help. What about the 70% of high school graduates not attending college whom are members of society and the workforce with only minimal math and English skills? What is the cost to the employer and the South Dakota taxpayer?
We've heard employers say their high school graduates did not have the basic reading, math and social skills to compete in today's world. We've heard college professors bemoan the skills of high school graduates who had to be retrained in the basics of reading, writing and math. The $500,000 is evidence. That's a lot of money for doing something that was supposed to get done in kindergarten through 12th grade.
This is further evidence that our education system has a fundamental flaw and South Dakota taxpayers should ask whether we are getting what we expect from our schools.
For the employer, the possession of a high school diploma is no guarantee that graduates have learned basic skills. Although the expense to business for this remedial training is costly, there is also the expense of spending much more on technology to make up for the employee's lack of basic skills, such as cash registers that make change for customers and provide pictures of food items.
The shortcomings of our schools are not just a dollars and cents problem. The failure signified by the need for remedial education in basic skills is a human tragedy, harder to measure under the dollar sign, but equally important. In the long run we are "short changing" our youth.
Schools do have a tough job, but they must teach everyone. There is no alternative but to find ways to make education work.
Employers and taxpayers should expect that high school graduates be able to:
Schools should consider:
The dollars and cents figure shows the cost of remedial education and it should not be passed on to colleges and employers. The taxpayer deserves evidence that these results will be changed to measurable improvement in student performance. This requires honesty, openness and straight answers. At this time, the expense data and results do not reflect improvement and the real loser in the long run of life is the high school graduate.
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(Ron Williamson is President of Great Plains Public Policy Institute, a research and educational institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and his affiliation are cited.)
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Great Plains Public Policy Institute
Ron Williamson, President
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Sioux Falls SD 57109
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