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Raising high school standards to meet needs

POSTED: May 20, 2009 4:00 a.m.

Children are our most important resource. Educating them is the best use of our tax dollars.  Over 56 percent of our state budget goes toward education. As a member of the House Higher Education Committee and the Appropriations Subcommittee for Education (K-12), I am expected to keep up with what is happening educationally in other states, as well as in Georgia.

  

University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll Davis Jr. said that one in four of first-year students must take remedial classes at a cost to the system of $25 million per year. Unprepared high-school graduates are a growing problem for the university system, especially the two-year colleges where remedial students are concentrated.

  

The problem is clear to college professors, but it is not one most educators in local school systems want to talk about.  The question of who is responsible leads to multiple answers. The classroom teacher, the principal and the school district are all under constant pressure to tout successes, not failures.

  

Educators in other states are also struggling to raise high school standards to meet college and career expectations in the labor market, which demands increasing academic skills from jobseekers. Chancellor Davis said the university system’s success hinges on how well K-12 schools prepare their students.

  

When the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement released its study showing a large gap between high school class grades and scores on the standardized End of Course Tests, I wanted to know why. I also wanted to know why 65 percent of HOPE scholars lost it the first year.

  

“Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally” is the meaning of HOPE. What part of “outstanding” do we not understand? Students not prepared to enroll in college English and math classes are siphoning monies from HOPE scholarship funds faster than the lottery can replace them. It is estimated that drastic changes are needed before 2011.

  

My questions have led to NGCSU hosting a Special Committee of the House Higher Education Committee Nov. 4-5, 2009.

  

I will be the chairperson of that special committee. In addition to asking why so many HOPE students take remedial courses, we are looking for recommendations to improve the requirements for scholarship recipients.

I am sure that many educators and students from the surrounding high schools and colleges will be asked to testify.  

  

Our goal is to eventually have graduation requirements stringent enough that all students who earn a high school diploma have the right skills to continue their education. Simply graduating from high school for most students isn’t going to be sufficient for careers in a 21st century economy.

  

Reviews of many articles show that the need for technically trained students exceeds the demand for college graduates. Georgia’s HOPE Grant is separate from the HOPE Scholarship and is available to Georgia residents attending a public technical college. The grant is independent of graduation date and grade point average.  

  

The HOPE Grant provides full tuition, HOPE-approved mandatory fees, and a book allowance at public institutions. Full-time enrollment is not required, but students must be making satisfactory academic progress to maintain eligibility. 

  

For more information, visit www.gacollege411.org.

  

Amos Amerson can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533; (706) 864-6589; e-mail hamerson@windstream.net.  Or you can contact Gerald Lewy at (706) 344-7788.

 

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