(This is a guest blog post by Susannah Malarkey, executive director of Technology Alliance, a statewide, not-for-profit organization of leaders from Washington’s diverse technology and related businesses and research institutions.)
If “innovation is in our nature,” then sticking with the math and science graduation requirements should be the natural decision for state policy leaders to make.
On behalf of the Technology Alliance, I feel compelled to add my voice to the growing chorus of indignation at Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn’s proposal to delay math and science graduation requirements. Washington’s innovation community is deeply concerned that this proposal signals a retreat from a commitment to ensure all students possess the foundational knowledge and skills they need to be successful in post-secondary education and 21st century careers.
Sticking to the task of preparing our students to be informed, engaged citizens and to compete for family-wage jobs is not only a matter of economic competitiveness; it is a matter of basic fairness. Our state has a diverse technology sector that creates high-wage, high-impact jobs. Unfortunately, we are not preparing the vast majority of Washington students to benefit directly from the opportunities our economy is creating.
We continually tout our highly-educated and innovative workforce (we rank 4th in the nation for intensity of scientists and engineers), but we ignore how we got there (we also rank 4th for net-migration of college degree-holders).
For years, we have made do with minimum high school graduation requirements that don’t align with the level of preparation students need to be successful in college-level work (around half of Washington graduates entering community colleges must take non-credit bearing coursework on content they should have learned in high school), or even be eligible to apply for admission to our public 4-year institutions.
And now, when we have an opportunity to make significant strides in bringing our education system into the 21st century through the basic education reform work currently underway and federal investments aimed at spurring innovation and accountability within our K-12 system, Washington’s education leader proposes yet another delay in math and science graduation requirements.
How can it be that one of the most innovative states in the nation is still having a debate over whether students should demonstrate proficiency in math and science before exiting high school?
As state education strategies go, it does not inspire confidence. Instead of repeated delays and watering down of expectations, we should be pursuing reforms that would help our students to meet those expectations:
– Implementation of CORE 24 to align minimum course-taking requirements with the expectations of college and the workplace;
– A concerted focus on improving teacher quality and our teacher evaluation system; and
– Data and accountability systems that will empower teachers, school leaders, parents and policymakers to take the steps necessary to ensure our K-12 system is serving the best interests of our students.
Our state leaders need to maintain their commitment to providing a meaningful high school diploma to all Washington students. Anything less is unfair to our kids and unsustainable for our state economy.
Susannah Malarkey is the executive director of Technology Alliance.