The new standards are designed to better prepare students whether they go on to college or enter the workplace upon high school graduation. That means they are more demanding and require students and teachers to work harder. But the outcome will be a more highly skilled workforce — one that is better equipped to meet the needs of employers at home and around the globe. That is particularly significant for Kentucky’s business community, which is why the Kentucky Chamber Foundation is working with education leaders to build support among employers for the standards. We believe that support is critical to moving Kentucky in the right direction.
In doing this work, it is important to remember the basics, as reflected in some of the questions we encounter around the state:
Why does Kentucky need to improve students’ preparation for college and career?
To compete in a knowledge-based global economy, we must improve the academic performance of our students. The way things stand now, if we don’t do something different, too many students will drop out of high school or graduate unprepared for adult success and our workforce problems will only increase.
State education officials estimate that 25 percent of our current eighth-graders won’t graduate from high school. That’s more than 12,000 students per year who will be competing for the 8 percent of anticipated jobs that won’t require a high school diploma — jobs that most likely will not pay a living wage.
Of those who stay in high school, only 34 percent, or 17,000 of Kentucky’s current eighth- graders, will be considered ready for college and career readiness measures. That means Kentucky employers won’t have a supply of workers with the skills needed for the jobs available.
What does it mean to be college and career ready?
High school students must score at a specific level on certain tests or hit academic and technical benchmarks that determine career readiness.
The tests that indicate college readiness include the ACT, COMPASS and ACT Work Key among others.
The new tests determine aptitude for skills much different than previously, with a much greater emphasis on problem-solving and critical thinking.
What can employers do to show their support?
• Inform your employees about the new developments in Kentucky schools and the importance of supporting students, teachers and schools.
• Reach out to schools to find ways to help students understand the real-world demands of the modern workplace.
• Encourage your civic groups to learn more about the work now under way in schools. Visit readykentucky.org to schedule a free presentation in your community.
• Speak up publicly at civic groups, through letters to your local newspaper and other ways, especially if people start pushing for a return to the older, easier system. (The scores that are to be released later this year could be lower than those in the past, due to the more challenging work, which could prompt some push-back.)
More information about the new standards, and what they mean for Kentucky and the nation, is available at several online sites: achieve.org/achieving-common-core; readykentucky.org; corestandards.org; pta.org and others.
An informational video also is available on the Kentucky Chamber’s website, kychamber.com. We encourage you to take a look to find out more about the latest developments in Kentucky’s schools.
Dave Adkisson is president of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.