MEADORS: Social promotion won't lead to success

Jeff Meadors

Jeff Meadors

America’s high school seniors are doing disappearing acts. Fortune calls STEM academics the competitive edge of America’s future. In partnership with STEMconnector, Fortune cites research showing U.S. fourth-graders in the top 10 globally in STEM achievement. By eighth grade, U.S. students drop from the top 10 but remain in the top 20. By 12th grade, Americans have disappeared entirely from the list.

Disappeared, gone, out of sight while attending schools called AP Honor Schools.

So at the same time that science and engineering jobs more than double the rate of the overall U.S. labor force through 2018, social promotion and weak leadership handicap American youth, forcing CEOs to hire from abroad and leaving America’s youth with leftover careers of servitude to foreign masters.

This should be the cry that wakes us in our sleep.

High school graduates need competitive transcripts for college admissions and scholarships. They need one-on-one academic guidance, not frenetic shuffling into AP classes that don’t align with strengths. AP classes have become diluted and colleges are now forcing students with AP exam scores of 3 to do placement tests while moving eligibility for most STEM AP transfer credit to a 5. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Living in a world of make-believe where everyone gets gold stars is crippling the future of America’s youth.

A recent survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education found more than half of 700 employers surveyed complained that college graduates lack written and communication skills necessary for employment.

STEM courses set future high school transcripts apart from those lacking evidence of rigorous coursework, and SmartPlanet.com shows STEM average wages for students with a four-year STEM degree ranging from $83,000 to $115,000. Between 13 percent and 24 percent of all jobs require STEM degrees at the top 10 companies hiring STEM graduates. None are in Georgia.

Georgia students can finish high school with a rich transcript if they work hard and start early. The University of West Georgia is at the beginning stages of becoming Georgia’s STEM network leader.

But Rockdale and Newton students have access to community college credit, and Georgia legislators have crafted legislation to allow students to complete from three to 52 hours of transferable college credit. House Bill 149 allows high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to complete college-level algebra, pre-calculus, calculus I and II, survey of chemistry, principles of chemistry, human anatomy, and physics at the college level by the time they walk the high school graduation line. They may even complete courses in engineering.

Edie Fraser, CEO of STEMconnector, believes collaboration is the key to solving America’s STEM shortage. Businesses, high schools and colleges must work more closely together.

The liberal application of “Atta boys” and gold stars coupled with capitulation to political correctness have served us poorly, leaving one word to define America’s high school seniors in global STEM achievement rankings: Absent.

Where are the apology tours for that?

Jeff Meadors holds two advanced degrees in education from Emory University and has served in elected and appointed positions in the field. He may be reached at pjeffreymeadors@gmail.com.