ANNAPOLIS – To produce students better equipped for the workforce after graduation, the state’s top education organizations are trying to establish common goals for all schools, from kindergarten to the post-secondary level.
“Seamless education” is what the Maryland State Department of Education, the Maryland Higher Education Commission, and the University System of Maryland say they hope to achieve.
“The 21st century will be characterized by two groups of people: those who are educated and those who are hardly employable,” said Nancy Grasmick, state superintendent of schools.
The organizations presented their ideas for standardized education to four Maryland House and Senate committees last week. Maryland, which has been working on the idea since 1995, is among the first states to design such a program.
With the “K-16 Initiative,” this partnership aims to encourage more cooperation among colleges, high schools, and businesses, so that learning standards are uniform and students are better prepared to handle college-level work and job training, according to materials from partnership leaders.
Among the proposals are joint budgeting for high schools and universities, statewide college entrance exams, more guidance counselors in high schools and linking databases to better pinpoint problems throughout the education system.
College professors have long complained that students are not leaving high school with the skills and knowledge necessary for college-level course work. Too often colleges have to offer remedial courses.
The problem of unprepared graduates also affects businesses, particularly those in the computer and technology fields, who say they find it harder to recruit recent graduates with the skills they need.
The Maryland Business Roundtable for Education conducted a workforce survey last year to determine what college students will need to know before they graduate and what young people will need if they choose not to go on to higher education, said roundtable executive director June Streckfus.
A majority of businesses reported inadequate writing, reading, communication, and math skills in high school graduates, the roundtable found in its survey.
The survey information was incorporated into the K-16 Initiative’s goals for secondary schools.
Advocates of the K-16 system hope to alleviate education problems by erasing the artificial barrier between high school and college and fostering more cooperation among schools, said Secretary of Higher Education Patricia Florestano.
Karl Pence, president of the Maryland State Teacher’s Assocation, praised the idea behind the K-16 program, but criticized the top-down approach to its development. The lack of teachers involved in the design of the program could translate into tepid support for the initiative, he said. The House Ways and Means Committee, the House Appropriations Committee, the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, and the Senate Economics and Environmental Affairs Committee were briefed on the program on Jan. 19. Gov. Parris Glendening has been a strong supporter of education initiatives and seemed to back the ideas behind K-16 in his State of the State address. In that speech he said he hopes students will one day move from high school to college the way they move from middle school to high school.
“If it helps children perform better and reduces the stress during the transition from high school to college, then it should be a beneficial program,” said Raquel Guillory, Glendening spokeswoman, on Friday.
To develop the initiative, college professors designed goals for secondary students, giving high school teachers a better understanding of what students need to know later. Together they determined what elements were necessary for a “C” paper in a college freshman English course.
“High school requirements need to be more closely aligned with the expectations for students entering our universities,” said Donald Langenberg, University System of Maryland chancellor, to the delegates and senators.
In addition, the initiative attempts to equalize discrepancies in courses – some high schools now offer more advanced placement courses, Grasmick said.
And guidance counselors in many high schools are “spread too thin,” Grasmick said. The plan calls for more counselors to advise students on their college options.
It all sounds like a good idea, said Clayton Daniel Mote, president of the University of Maryland-College Park. “I’m quite confident that we’re going to be a prominent participant,” he said. “It’s really fulfilling a flagship responsibility for the state.” –30– CNS-1-28-00