If any members of the Kentucky legislature’s Interim Joint Education Committee doubt the country faces serious education problems, they kept those doubts to themselves today as Dr. William E. Kirwan presented stunning evidence of how far the United States has fallen in education worldwide.
Kirwan’s evidence was stark – the US has lost significant ground in the education race compared to other industrialized nations. Once in first place, the country is sliding down the ranking scale at an alarming rate.
Some of the bad news is found on this slide from Dr. Kirwan’s presentation. The slide pretty much speaks for itself.
Kirwan, who is the Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, also chairs the College Board’s Commission on Access, Admissions and Success in Higher Education. The commission was formed to examine demographic, socioeconomic, public policy, and education trends that affect college access and success.
Kirwan’s presentation backed up a number of things the Bluegrass Institute has been pointing out for some time. High school graduation rate issues are no surprise to our readers. We have also written a lot about how poor preparation in Kentucky’s high schools leads to high levels of college remediation, excessive college costs and excessive college dropouts, as well.
Kirwan mentioned a relatively new report, “Coming to Our Senses,” which his group created. Some bullet points on that report’s major conclusions include:
• Increased college prep counseling in middle schools – many kids still don’t know about options for college, what is required, and what financial help is available
• Making college preparation the default high school curriculum – our Senate Bill 1, which Kirwan praised at several points in his presentation, will do that
• Align high school requirements with incoming college requirements – again something in Senate Bill 1
• Simplify college admissions and financial aid processes, and make college more affordable
• Simplify the college transfer process from two-year to four-year schools, including preserving credits for courses taken in two-year programs
• Give a lot more priority to teacher preparation programs – Kirwan honestly admitted that colleges are at fault in this area and need to improve
• Implement strategies to improve college retention – so those who enter complete their degree program.
We are glad Dr. Kirwan came to Kentucky, and we are also pleased that our legislators are attuned to the issues presented and generally seem to grasp the many problems discussed. It looks like we have moved beyond the climate of denial when people like Dr. Kirwan were summarily dismissed rather than listened too, which too often marked the early years of KERA.