According to local companies, colleges and universities, too many students and employees are entering college and the workforce unprepared to succeed academically and professionally. In addition to lacking basic oral and written communication skills, many students struggle to meet the minimum math and analytical skills requirements.
Our state’s school test scores clearly indicate that many middle and high school students are performing poorly these areas. This means that colleges and employers continue to be challenged with helping students and new hires develop these skills during their freshman year and on the job, a delayed intervention that often doesn’t ensure student or employee success.
So it’s not surprising that businesses across Illinois are concerned about how the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), formerly No Child Left Behind, will affect the State’s current career-readiness standards in school testing. These standards include use of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests, which have been critical in moving the state toward a truly reliable testing system that prepares students for college and future jobs.
Advance Illinois Policy Director
The Chamber’s Talented Workforce Committee recently welcomed two education experts to tell us what’s ahead for the State’s school accountability system. Ben Boer, Policy Director for Advance Illinois, an advocacy group promoting a strong public education system for Illinois, discussed ESSA implementation in Illinois and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Coordinator Mary Biniewicz from the DuPage Regional Office of Education shared her organization’s initiatives to improve student interest and performance in STEM classes and careers.
Ben described how the new federal law will continue to support and even expand the State’s existing school improvement efforts by allowing the State to have more authority to set its own standards, assessments, and interventions, while expanding its current support for at-risk, preschool, and homeless students.
Of special interest to businesses is the State’s new eligibility to apply for federal grants to address kindergarten readiness, reading and math improvement, and college readiness and completion. However, the new law also gives states more room to revise some of the previous law’s rigorous learning requirements. That means that businesses must advocate for the State’s continued use of the PARCC assessments. According to national education standards and policy experts, the PARCC tests are now one of the most effective tests for measuring critical student academic and career-readiness preparation.
DuPage County Schools STEM Coordinator Mary Biniewicz discussed the long-term professional advantages for students pursuing STEM careers, including significantly lower unemployment rates and higher pay. She also described the many unique and inspiring programs her organization presents to excite students about science, technology, engineering and math.
To download the full Illinois State Board of Education’s ESSA presentation, please click here. For more information about DuPage County STEM programs, please contact Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the Chamber’s Talented Workforce Committee, please visit our Talented Workforce Committee page