Getting It Right for Texas Students, Employers
Dynamic Economy & Jobs Require Flexibility
Rigor and readiness are more than just buzzwords in the debate over how best to improve our public education system. Whether you’re a student, parent, educator or employer, we can all agree our kids deserve the best education that equips them for their future.
We all want every student to graduate from high school with skills necessary to successfully pursue post-secondary education or to enter the workforce prepared for one of many high-paying jobs in demand throughout our growing economy.
In today’s 21st century economy, career options for students after high school have never been more varied or required more diverse experiences and skills. In fact, today’s jobs require far more sophisticated and specialized skills than a generation ago.
Every Texas public school student should graduate from high school equipped to take on the rigors of college, career and technical training, or entering the workplace.
So how do we get there?
We need to broaden opportunities for Texas students by providing flexibility for them to learn valuable career skills alongside of the fundamental core curriculum that they will need to succeed in life and in work. Flexibility will ensure that students can graduate from high school well prepared to take on the challenges of a two-year or four-year college, or to seek out a professional certificate. All forms of education are in demand in an increasingly competitive, high-tech driven job market.
House Bill 5, passed resoundingly by the Texas House and Senate, embodies flexibility and signals forward-minded recognition that rigor can take many forms.
This education reform has enjoyed broad-based support among Texas lawmakers, as well as parents, businesses, educators and industry trade groups. In fact, the Jobs for Texas coalition – which represents more than 300,000 Texas businesses that employ 6 million people – supports broadening of our high school graduation plans to meet the diverse interests of students and meet the needs of Texas employers.
The fastest-growing sectors in our economy offer jobs that run the gambit from robotics, nursing, oil and gas production, computer analytics, petrochemicals, health care technicians, construction, electrical specialists and many other fields within a very diversified manufacturing industry. These are good-paying, high-quality jobs.
Just as career fields have evolved over time, so should our public education system. House Bill 5 sets Texas on the right path for long-term success.
It’s been far too easy to try to parse this debate into the number of tests a student should be required to take or the level of math that is required of every high school graduate. Clear minds rightly determined that a rigid approach to education does not equate to rigorous or relevant learning.
A newly-released study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation suggests that most students can succeed without advanced algebra in high school. The study’s findings reject the notion of a “one-size-fits-all” approach to high school curriculum and instead suggest that students should have more relevant options in math, science and other courses that fit their interests.
For example, students with a technical interest can take advanced, applied math and emerge from high school ready for the next stage of education and training. The need for flexibility and the varied skills required in today’s economy is no surprise to those of us on the front lines of industries ready to employ these young Texans as they complete high school and their post-secondary studies.
The world and our economy are rapidly changing, and the jobs of today and tomorrow necessitate a modernized education system. Raising the bar on education means rigor, relevance, readiness and flexibility must all be present, allowing students the options that lead to opportunities for success.
If our goal is to graduate more students, reduce the need for remedial coursework and ensure students are equipped for college, specialized training, and a sophisticated workplace, then House Bill 5 is a powerful opportunity to make it so.
Will Newton is Executive Director for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), a proud member of Jobs for Texas – a broad-based business coalition of 22 industry trade organizations representing more than 300,000 Texas employers and over six million Texas jobs.