September 19, 2014

Education needs new priorities

Posted 3/31/10

Even in this high tech age of computers, twitter and cell phones, the fact remains: it’s important for people to be able to read and write.

Unfortunately, many schools are under-achievers, not only in reading and writing, but also English, mathematics and science. According to ACT’s Profile Report for the Class of 2009, only 18 percent of last year’s high school graduates in Michigan were prepared for these subjects on the college level.

Studies show that one in every five first-year students at Michigan’s 28 community colleges is enrolled in a remedial education course. This statistic begs the question: what about the majority number of high school students who don’t enroll in college? What is their skill level?

Maybe in the world of great technology where you can hide behind a computer, people in the workplace don’t need these skills. Maybe, as a old-timer, who had reading, writing, spelling, English and math drummed into his head, I’m out of touch with the real world.

But I don’t think so. One guy who agrees is Henry Robinson, the head of Wayne State University’s remedial programs. He told the Detroit Free Press: “For a number of reasons and in a number of ways, we are failing our students, and that means some of the brightest ones, too.”

Place the blame where ever you want — under-achieving schools putting emphasis in the wrong places, parents who either don’t have the time to worry about their kids or simply don’t care, students spending too much time on their cell phones and other non-productive activities — and the never-ending lack of school funding.

Speaking of government financial support to schools, reports show that the cost to re-educate 105,608 community college students in reading, writing, etc. was $28 million over a two-year span.

According to the Michigan Office of the Auditor General, for two academic years starting in the fall of 2005, one in four freshmen on Michigan’s community college campuses was enrolled in some remedial education class.

We won’t even get into how much the tab is at four-year institutions of higher learning.

This all amounts to double dipping into the taxpayer‘s dry well: we pay to educate youngsters in grades K-12, then we turn around and repeat much of the same thing in the form of remedial courses at the college level.

I checked out the posted results of a number of northern Michigan schools’ MEAP scores for the past three years and found a marked improvement in subjects such as reading and math. Why don’t those scores show up when the students enter college? Answer: many think MEAP is a joke.

In my opinion, you can’t blame school administrators or teachers. You can’t take out your frustration on the local school board.

Go upstairs to the power tower of the federal and state government. They make the rules.

Government needs to change its priorities — and the system.

Do you “read” me? Can you do the “math?” It’s all about the “science” of common sense and logic spoken and written in “English.”

(I hope I get an A in “spelling” for this.)

— Jim Grisso was publisher of the Gaylord Herald Times for 40 years before his retirement in 2007. He and his wife, Sue, live near the village of Roscommon on the South Branch of the AuSable River. His column appears periodically. His e-mail address: jgoblue@live.com.

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