Location: Halstead, Kansas, United States

This is my seventh year at Halstead which is also where I live with my wife and my soon to be two year old daughter.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Excerpts from Sec. Spellings

Sec. Of Education Margaret Spellings made gave a speech on September 28th to the National Association of Manufacturers. The speech focused on high schools and the attempt to prepare students for the future work place. I have only taken some sections of the speech but the entire speech is located at the Department of Education website if you want to read it. Spellings seems to be clear that there is a need to change the way high schools operate and in the end it is a moral obligation, that will have positive economic ramifications, to make the changes necessary to help students fulfill their potential. The speech was sent to me by Kelly W. and I appreciate her sending it to me.

From Sec. Spellings

If Katrina shows us anything, it shows how vulnerable we are. In fact, Tom Friedman's latest bestseller, The World Is Flat, spotlights some challenges to our future. Many of Friedman's points about America's waning competitiveness speak directly to education, and I want to highlight a few of these. But there's also one passage I want to address head on. That's the page where Friedman chides political leaders for too often downplaying the challenges of foreign competition. It's hard to have a national strategy to stay competitive, he says, if "people won't even acknowledge that there is an education gap emerging and that there is an ambition gap emerging and that we are in a quiet crisis."
Well, I agree and I'll say it: There is an education gap. And we are on a mission to close it.
As the international playing field becomes flatter, our students need better education and training to compete. Manufacturing executives rank a "high-performing workforce" as the most important factor in their firms' future success. But how can you be a high-performing worker when you don't even have a high school diploma?
If you're not scared yet, take a look at our high school graduation rates. Among ninth-graders, five out of 10 minority students fail to finish high school on time. Overall, three out of 10 ninth-graders don't finish on time.
Leaving our high school students behind is not only morally unacceptable, what the President calls "the soft bigotry of low expectations." It is also economically untenable. Studies show the staggering cost of high school dropouts. In addition to lost earnings for the individual, consider the cost to society.
The one million students who drop out of high school each year cost our nation more than $260 billion dollars. That's in lost wages, lost taxes, and lost productivity over their lifetimes. That equals the combined 2004 earnings of DuPont and Delphi and Intel and Verizon and Xerox and IBM! You and I know this is more than just bad for business, it's also bad for the future of our country's economy. When you lose a million students every year that has a tremendous impact on our economy. And it represents the American Dream ... denied.
Clearly, it's time to focus on improving high schools.
That's why the president and I are supporting high school reform to help more of our students reach the finish line on time and ready for college or work.
The more technology levels the playing field, the more critical postsecondary education becomes. You know this because you're living it. Thirty years ago, a majority of manufacturing workers did not have high school diplomas. Today, not only do most of them have high school diplomas, almost one-third have studied at the college level.
The problem is, not enough people understand how important this is. One of the parts I like best about Tom Friedman's book is what he calls the "dirty little
secrets": the ambition gap, the numbers gap, and the education gap. These secrets matter to business leaders and educators alike, and they certainly matter to those of us who have children. Parents must understand that their children will need math skills to succeed in the 21st century.
Friedman says, "Compared with the young, energetic Indians and Chinese, too many Americans have gotten too lazy." The numbers gap refers to the fact that we are simply not producing enough engineers and scientists. And the education gap means that U.S. high-tech companies are seeking employees abroad, not just because they can pay them less, but also because they are more skilled and more motivated. In other words, they're not following the money, they're following the brains. So the first thing all of us need to realize is that this is not the same world we grew up in. As a nation, we have no more important task than to help our children develop academic skills, and character, and a little ambition if we are going to succeed in this flattening world. I know I can count on you to continue speaking loudly and clearly about the need for continued reform, especially in our high schools and especially in math and science.
Today, there is no Sputnik to galvanize the nation into action, but Katrina has! This tragedy is a wake-up call, and people from every part of our country are responding. The N.A.M. and are helping hurricane victims find jobs. Educators are opening their hearts and their schools to displaced children.
But the long-term solution is to make sure that every member of our rising generation has the education and skills to succeed in the 21st century. The education gap, the achievement gap—the quiet crisis—will cast a very long shadow over our future if we do not summon the will to stay competitive. And competitiveness begins with education.
This is our mandate and our mission, and it's also the right thing to do. Our children and our country deserve no less.


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