Sep 30 2011

“All your people must learn before you can reach for the stars.”

Published by at 9:18 pm under Wave Guide 4: Education

…According to Captain Kirk on Stardate 3259.2 (“The Gamesters of Triskelion”). If he’s right we face significant challenges according recent evaluations of U.S. schools.

In 2011, SAT scores in reading and writing have gone south like never before.

For example, according to The Space Foundation the situation is simple.

The basic problem is that the U.S. education system is not producing students in quantity and at a level of achievement to be globally competitive.” This is because of “declining interest and achievement in the math, science, and technology subjects that are critical to the space industry.

This is reminiscent, as we’ve pointed out previously (See #4), of the declining U.S. educational situation in the 1950s, just prior to the surprise Soviet launch of the first satellite Sputnik. This “Shock of the Century” was a game-changer for K-16+ education in the U.S., and we may currently be reliving key elements of this 1950s chronology.

While math scores have plateaued over the last decade, the even more fundamental reading and writing SAT scores of the graduating class of 2011 have set new lows. According to the College Board, which runs the SAT, the average reading and writing scores were “the lowest ever recorded,” (Wall Street Journal; S. Banchero, 9/15/11).

Of the 1.6 million high school seniors who took the SAT this year only 43% achieved scores high enough to indicate they were likely to succeed in college. This mirrors the concern about student achievement generated by the other college entrace exam, the ACT, which showed that only 25% were ready for the academic rigors of college.

At the precise time the importance of a college degree is increasing, the ability of the U.S. to compete in a global economy is decreasing,

concluded Jim Montoya of the College Board.

The retired chair and CEO of Lockheed Martin, Norm Augustine, agrees. But surprisingly his emphasis is not on math, reading, or writing. It’s on history, the subject on which current American high school seniors do worst, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (Wall Street Journal, 9/21/11).

Augustine faults the “rote memorization” used by some history teachers as a large part of the problem and contends that poor history performance “puts American employers and America’s freedoms in a worrisome spot.”

A failing grade in history suggests that students are not only failing to comprehend our nation’s story and that of our world, but also failing to develop skills that are crucial to employment across sectors.

These include critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and communication. Importantly, students who develop skills in these areas have a much higher probability of being employed and also “tend to perform better in science and math.” agrees because the likely directions of our Star Trek-like future are best revealed by historical patterns in the economy, technology, and geopolitics over the last 200+ years.

No responses yet

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply