Recently, a coalition of nationwide business leaders released a report, “Change the Equation,” that looks at how a state’s schools prepare students for college or the workforce. The conclusions about Alabama: Getting better but not there yet.
Alabama was noted for what it did to strengthen math requirements when the state adopted the Common Core Standards under what Montgomery is calling the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards. Math scores have improved in recent years, but on the average, our students are still well below what is considered proficiency.
We lag behind, according to the study, because students spend less time than their peers in other states engaged in hands-on science investigations, and in the critical eighth-grade year, most of our students don’t have teachers with an undergraduate major in math.
What progress we have made is credited, at least in part, to the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative. Unfortunately, however, that program’s hands-on approach to teaching these subjects is now in only about half of the state’s elementary and middle schools.
The report’s recommendations are so familiar that most educators and politicians could repeat them by heart: (1.) more needs to be done to ease the transition in these subjects from high school to college; (2.) more money needs to be spent on science, technology and math education; and (3.) more needs to be done to improve teacher preparation and support.
There’s not much chance of these happening in a state that is having to raid a trust fund to get money for basic services.
However, there is some reason for encouragement. If Gov. Robert Bentley and his legislative allies are interested in building Alabama’s economy and recruiting good jobs, maybe they will listen to these results.
According to the report, “business leaders in Alabama have sounded an alarm. They cannot find the science, technology, engineering and mathematics talent they need to stay competitive. Students’ lagging performance in K-12 is a critical reason why.”
There you have it. If Alabama’s leaders are really serious about attracting businesses, helping existing businesses grow and putting the state’s people to work, this is what they must do.
Will they do it?