Governor Tom Vilsack says the state needs to set new and significantly higher standards for high school coursework. State policymakers have traditionally let local school boards set their own standards, but Vilsack says as legislators wrap up the work of the 2006 session he wants to see the state tell schools it’s time to beef up the high school curriculum to compete with kids who’re getting better educations in other countries.
“Look, we’re in a global economy,” Vilsack says. “The reality is that our young people are really challenged.” The governor says no generation of Iowans has faced the “competitive challenge” they now face. “With all due respect to local control, we have got to send a message that we’re serious about education,” Vilsack says. “If future governors, if future legislatures, if future Department of Economic Development directors and board members are going to be able to recruit businesses to this state, there has to be a quality education system.”
Vilsack says you cannot get by with two years of math or trying to slide by on science — or failing to learn another language. He says high school graduation standards need to be part of the education reform measures passed by the 2006 legislature. “Hiding behind the old traditions in an effort to try to avoid dealing with the reality of a tough, competitive world is not doing right by our children,” Vilsack says.
Currently school districts set the requirements for graduation — for example, the minimum number of English, science and math courses a student must take in order to graduate. Vilsack wants the state to raise the bar on what should be the minimum set of courses for graduation.
Vilsack says he recently talked with the president of a major American university who told him they have deep concerns about the number admission requests from Chinese students who have perfect S-A-T scores. The governor says that shows the level of committment students in China have to their academics.