Update on our Nation’s Report Card

Ronnie Musgrove, also known as the chairman of the National Assessment of Educational Progress’s High School Achievement Commission, and the former governor of Mississippi, responded to the New York Times article, “Jobs Go Begging as Gap is Exposed in Worker Skills,” which points out that as factories begin to hire again, they are finding that their pool of candidates lack the skills required to perform the required work. Specifically, technological advancements has increased the need for individuals with computer skills. For example, companies who produce medical devices and wind turbines are two industries looking to hire employees with a more advanced technological skill set.

Musgrove agrees:

It’s an inescapable fact: a high school education no longer adequately equips American workers for the high-skill jobs that now drive the global economy. That reality was starkly illustrated in your July 2 front-page article “Jobs Go Begging as Gap Is Exposed in Worker Skills.”

Musgrove’s response:

Toward that end, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the Nation’s Report Card) is redesigning its 12th-grade reading and math tests so they can serve as reliable national indicators to show whether high school graduates are prepared for job training and higher education. Remarkably, no such benchmarks currently exist.

Musgrove’s Response

As with all things, education specifically, that happen on a national level, we can not expect to see any changes happening for quite some time, as this op-ed indicates, first the Nation’s Report Card has to administer the tests that they are redesigning, then, assess the information that is returned and then, begin the long battle to insert yet another element into a high school curriculum. Then I wonder, how long will the need be there. By the time this system is put in place at the high school level, will we not have figured out that it is possible to receive an associates in two years that will equip one with the skills they need to do a job. Then it is a matter of intention.
Should we invest in an industry that our citizens have no interest in working in? Stepping back one step, are our citizens interested in participating in a highly mechanized job force? If so, by all means, let the training begin.

This situation reminds me of a short story by John Updike called, “Learn a Trade,” which was published in The New Yorker in 1981. Of course, I did not read this story when it came out, but it is a very interesting story which blurs the lines between trades and crafts, skill sets and interests–to some extent, the skill set you choose to invest in must hold your attention, you must maintain some interest in it, or you have already “lost” the job. Updike’s character, for example, sites science, as a practical trade, and filmmaking as something for the “creative types.” Are a trade and a craft really that different? Undoubtedly, it depends on the industry. Perhaps a trade is that which creates a product for which there is demand.

What about you, can you site Homer and create something that flies all in the same day?

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