Our soon-to-be high school graduates all across Maine have plenty to think about concerning their futures as they plan to go to college or start their professional careers.
The Maine business community has plenty to think about as well. Are we going to be able to fill high-skill jobs in the future? Are our high school graduates ready to help us compete in today’s global economy?
These are important questions to address, because there are concerns that Maine’s education system is not getting the job done for our students and for Maine businesses. Fifteen percent of Maine high school freshmen do not graduate within four years. On top of that, according to a 2013 report released by America’s Edge, a national business leader organization, only four in 10 Maine students taking the SAT college admissions test during the 2011-2012 school year scored at proficient levels in math, reading, writing and science.
Maine is taking an important step to address this problem by implementing more rigorous learning goals and higher quality assessments to ensure Maine students acquire the core academic knowledge and deeper learning skills — critical-thinking, communication and collaboration — that Maine businesses need to innovate and grow.
These reforms will not solve all the problems of our education system, but they are an essential step in the right direction for Maine students and businesses.
Students also can benefit from innovative high school models that provide project-based learning opportunities to help them apply their knowledge and skills to real-world settings. These models, such as Jobs for Maine’s Graduates and Career Academies, help kids apply their studies to the real world through a specific career pathway, such as engineering or health care, integrated with core academics. These approaches also help students apply their knowledge outside the classroom with experience in the workplace through internships and work-based training with local employers.
If we scale up successful high school models such as Career Academies and Jobs for Maine’s Graduates and implement more rigorous learning goals, we will go a long way to ensure the future success of Maine students and businesses alike.
Coupled with higher-quality student assessments and greater school accountability, we will be able to strengthen student academic outcomes and enhance Maine’s economy through a highly skilled workforce for our state’s businesses.
Peter Gore is vice president of government affairs for the Maine State Chamber of Commerce