You might recall the legislation I introduced to increase Wisconsin’s high school graduation requirement from two- to three-years of math and science. Based on a recent television ad by Jim Doyle, you might be led to believe that this bill was signed into law.
However, the issues of increasing our math and science requirements and the lack of academically prepared high school graduates keeps surfacing. Constituents talk to me about it at their doors and at public forums, and it’s the subject of national publications and state studies:
- Revamping high school graduation standards to more closely mirror college-entrance requirements and employer needs was a nearly unanimous recommendation of the U.S. Department of Education’s 19-member Commission on the Future of Higher Education this month.
- The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance recently studied the lack of academically prepared students entering the University of Wisconsin System. Almost 17 percent of all UW freshmen took remedial math courses in 2004. At two campuses, more than half the freshmen class needed remedial math instruction. It seems wasteful that our colleges need to spend additional resources preparing students to be there. Among the recommendations of the study was more rigorous exposure in high school curricula.
- The recently released national ACT college entrance exam scores showed that the majority of ACT-tested graduates are likely to struggle during their first year of college. Only 42 percent of test-takers are expected to earn a C or higher in college algebra, and only 27 percent are prepared enough to succeed in college biology.
I HAVE NEVER claimed that a third year of math and science for all high school graduates was a cure-all. Yet, a refocus on our core academic areas is obviously part of the solution. We need more rigorous high school curricula and the courage to increase our expectations of student performance. We also need to re-focus on the purpose for publicly funded high schools.