Missouri Business Headlines

Lack of rigor in high school costs students and the economy – legislation poised to reverse that trend in Missouri

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Only 15 percent of Missouri business owners believe that Missouri high schools are preparing students for the workplace, according to a Gallup survey commissioned by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  Missouri employers spend millions of dollars each year bringing new employees up to speed for the workplace.

A nationwide report released by the Education Post and Education Reform Now revealed that when high schools fall short in preparing students, it also cost students and parents.  According to the report, more than half a million college freshmen – approximately one in four students who enter college the fall after high school graduation – had to enroll in remedial coursework during their first year of college. That costs the students nearly $1.5 billion annually, including $380 million in loans for content and skills they should have learned in high school.  The $1.5 billion figure does not include the extra general taxpayer costs for post secondary education subsidies.

“Remedial classes are a hidden cost of college and a hidden drag on our economy and taxpayers,” said Ryan Stauffer, Missouri Chamber director of workforce development. “That’s why demanding more rigor in high school coursework makes good sense on so many different levels.  It is astounding that failing a quarter of our students has become acceptable in America.”

The cost of this failure is more than just remedial courses. Students that require remedial coursework in college have significantly higher odds of never completing their degree. Those who do graduate take almost a year longer than their peers to complete a bachelor’s degree, according to the report.

“It is not just a financial concern,” said Stauffer.  “We are setting our students up to fail by ignoring this obvious problem in our education delivery system.”

The Missouri Chamber is a supporter of the House Committee Substitute for House Bill 1613, a bill that takes aim at reducing the number of students that leave high school unprepared for college or the workforce.  The bill is sponsored by Rep. Kathy Swan, a Republican from Cape Girardeau.

The bill requires each school district in Missouri to develop a system by 2018 for identifying ninth-grade students who are at risk of not being ready for college-level work or for entry-level career positions. The bill gives students the opportunity to develop a personal plan of study with help from the school’s guidance counselors to help set goals to keep the students on track.

The bill cleared the Missouri House, with near unanimous support. The bill was heard by the Senate Education Committee last week and is expected to be votedworkforcebadge out of the committee on Wednesday.

In addition to legislative action, the Missouri Chamber is working to address the growing problem of remediation through a program called Show-Me Scholars. The program is designed to encourage students to take more rigorous classwork in high school by bringing in business leaders as mentors.  Eighth-grade Students meet with business mentors when signing up for high-school classes and continue to meet with students throughout high school to keep them on track. A joint effort of school districts, chambers of commerce and the business community, the Show-Me Scholars initiative is a proven way to show students the importance of challenging themselves for their future continued education and careers.

For more information on this bill or the Show-Me Scholars program, you can contact Stauffer at rstauffer@mochamber.com or by phone at 573-634-3511.

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