NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 9, 2005

One of the factors that influenced Toyota's recent decision to locate a new plant in Canada rather than the American South was workforce competency. It's hard to fault that decision in light of the latest results on Georgia's End-of-Course Tests; about a third of Georgia high school students who took the exams in algebra, geometry, physical science and economics failed, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC).

The scores, released two weeks ago by the state Department of Education, spotlight weaknesses in Georgia education that have far-reaching consequences. Increasingly, jobs require strong science and math skills, and Georgia students without those skills will be at a disadvantage for both college and jobs.

"We are losing our future scientists and engineers around the junior high school level," William R. Brody, president of Johns Hopkins University, warned Congress last month.

  • In the fourth grade, U.S. students score above the international average in math and near first in science.
  • At eighth grade, they score below average in math, and only slightly above average in science.
  • By 12th grade, U.S. students are near the bottom of a 49-country survey in both math and science, outscoring only Cyprus and South Africa.
  • Less than 15 percent of U.S. students have the prerequisites even to pursue scientific or technical degrees in college.

It's critical that higher math concepts be introduced by teachers with the appropriate math background. To quickly get more trained mathematicians and scientists in Georgia classrooms, the state should relax certification requirements, using grad students and university-level instructors, says AJC. While teacher groups have opposed paying math and science teachers more money, there is simply no other way to lure that kind of talent for high school and middle school classrooms.

Source: Editorial, "Schools' major minus: State test scores reflect weaknesses in math, science, put students at disadvantage for college, job market," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 9, 2005.


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