Bill Gates was the keynote speaker for this weekend’s education summit in Washington, D.C. Governors and business leaders want to improve high schools.
“Our high schools were designed 50 years ago to meet the needs of another age,” said Gates, whose philanthropic foundation has committed nearly a billion dollars to the challenge of improving high schools. “Until we design them to meet the needs of this century, we will keep limiting, even ruining, the lives of millions of Americans every year.”
. . . Gates and other speakers enumerated a list of alarming statistics to back up their argument that high schools are failing students, particularly low-income or minority children. The United States ranks 16th among 20 developed nations in the percentage of students who complete high school and 14th among the top 20 in college graduation rates.
Math and science education is a particular concern; U.S. students fare poorly compared to students in other industrialized nations, and China and India are coming up fast on the outside.
The summit’s leaders said high schools need to reshape their curricula and make high school more rigorous. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), the NGA vice chairman, cited a study that found that the key predictor of whether a student would finish college was neither race nor income but whether he or she had been exposed to a rigorous curriculum in high school. “This is about the starting line, not the finish line,” he said.
The Washington Post editorial board urges them not to demand lower standards in the name of flexibility.
Achieve, Inc., cosponsor of the conference says that only 68 of every 100 ninth-graders will graduate from high school, 40 will enter college, 27 will enroll for a second year and only 18 will graduate with a two-year or four-year degree within six years. More than half of college students must take remedial English or math in college.
In the Baltimore Sun, Tom Toch writes that small is beautiful. The Gates Foundation is putting a lot of money into small high schools.