Ready or not

Only 70 percent of students graduate from high school on schedule, concludes an Education Week report, “Ready for What?” Utah, which spends the least per student, has the highest on-time graduation rate, 83.8 percent; South Carolina ranked lowest with a 53.8 percent rate. Among large school districts, Detroit has the lowest graduation rate — just below 25 percent. Nationwide, about half of black and Hispanic males graduate from high school in four years.

It takes more than a high school diploma to earn a decent living. Workers with a high school diploma or less cluster in the lowest “job zone” with a median annual income of $12,638.

However, only 40 percent of jobs require college skills. The rest require communications, problem-solving, good work habits and ninth-grade academic skills. The problem is that many high school graduates lack the academic and “soft skills” employers demand.

Young people must also be able to work comfortably with people from other cultures, solve problems creatively, write and speak well, think in a multidisciplinary way, and evaluate information critically. And they need to be punctual, dependable, and industrious.

The feature about schools that try to teach soft skills makes me wonder: If a girl scores a 71 percent in understanding the content of Algebra 2 but 100 percent on collaborating with team members and 135 percent (?) on speaking skills, is she a C student in Algebra 2? A B student? Maybe an A student? She might be a success in life without understanding advanced algebra, but she isn’t really a success in advanced algebra, is she?

States are just starting to look at what happens to their high school graduates in college or employment, writes Kevin Carey on Education Sector.

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Comments

  1. Well, SOMETHING is wrong with that “Learning and Earning” article at Education Week. It includes a link to a map of “Jobs With A Future”, which shows a county-by-county breakdown of where the jobs that require substantial education or formal training beyond high school. This map:

    http://www.edweek.org/media/ew/dc/2007/40jobs-map-large.pdf

    Look down at Texas. Travis and Williamson counties (Austin is in Travis and Williamson is the next one north) show up as “average” in this measure, but these are home to Dell Computer, Samsung’s chip plants, a huge local software industry and so on. Starting from San Antonio and running northwest nearly into the panhandle are a string of counties marked “well above average”. Those counties are some of the most rural in the nation with population densities generally running less than fifty people to the square mile. See this map:

    http://www.census.gov/dmd/www/pdf/512popdn.pdf

    So, the “Jobs With a Future” map would have me move to the middle of nowhere to find a “job with a future” (or, more properly, encourage kids in those areas to extend their education as far as possible). Man, those counties mostly host “jobs with farm animals”, not “jobs with a future”. That map is obviously based on some completely bogus methodology.

    Note also that the county around San Jose, where Silicon Valley is located, shows up as “average” in terms of “jobs with a future”. Ditto for the Houston area (tons of petrochemical jobs that require more than a high school education and home to NASA and all of the NASA contractors). Most of the extremely rural, unpopulated parts of Arizona and New Mexico show up as “above average”.

    The map seems like it’s almost the opposite of reality.

  2. So, the “Jobs With a Future” map would have me move to the middle of nowhere to find a “job with a future” (or, more properly, encourage kids in those areas to extend their education as far as possible).

    “Which maybe explains why so many perfectly contented Yanks in the east kept shouting, ‘Go west, young man,’ whenever they ran into somebody who was too dirty and rowdy to put to work in a factory.”

    —The Boomer Bible, Yanks 28:28

  3. …which shows a county-by-county breakdown of where the jobs that require substantial education or formal training beyond high school…but these are home to Dell Computer, Samsung’s chip plants…

    No disrespect intended, but somehow I don’t see assembling computers and chips requiring much formal training at all, let alone beyond high school.

  4. What makes you think the bulk of the employment in the home of Dell Computer or Samsung’s chip planet consists assembly line workers?

    Then there’s the “huge local software industry” which doesn’t consist of all that many unskilled jobs.

  5. Actually, lots of jobs in a chip plant are skilled. A lot of it is clean-room work, which takes training. Probably 20% of labor in a chip plant is centered around quality control and that takes training. Then there are all of the sales, marketing, IT and engineering jobs that require college degrees.

    You see, assembling the computers or chips is only a small part of the job. Someone has to design, market and sell them.

    My guess would be that fewer than a fourth of jobs at Dell or Samsung (or any of the high-tech manufacturing businesses in town) require only a high-school diploma. Probably a lot fewer.

  6. wahoofive says:

    The phrase “skilled” that Rob uses really illuminates what the issue is here. No one expects people to learn the skills to work in a clean room in high school — they have to be trained on-site — but they do need to know how to follow directions. A college degree (and to a lesser extent, a high school diploma) is evidence of being able to figure out the rules and follow them for a few years. That ability, more than any specific learning, is what most employers need.