by James DeChene
Reported this week in the News Journal, 42% of Delaware students entering their freshman year of college at a Delaware school are required to take remedial classes, for which they receive no credit, and more importantly, on material they should have learned in high school.
Delaware, it is noted, is 14th in the nation for education spending per student, yet 40th in terms of student achievement. The billion-plus dollars we spend on public education represents over a quarter of the annual budget, and is matched only by the state spend on public health.
Delawareans, and especially the business community, should be appalled at these numbers. These students represent the future of Delaware’s workforce, who will be stewards of the economy, and quite simply they are not, as a whole, receiving the education they need to be successful. Even more alarming is the flip side of the coin not mentioned in the article—if this many college bound students are forced to take remedial classes to bring their knowledge base up to basic competency, what is happening to the students who aren’t going to college? What skills gap do they face, and how do they position themselves to achieve a measure of success?
Anecdotally, we hear that employers are spending more and more time and resources to educate new hires on basic math and English skills in an effort to make them productive. This trend seems to be growing, and represents a glaring fundamental issue with Delaware’s education system. More and more students are graduating without the basic skills to be successful, and the incremental gains we see are nowhere near where they need to be, and certainly not worth the amount of money we spend.
Ultimately there needs to be a change in how education is provided in Delaware. Frustration is growing surrounding every facet of public education—the curriculum, the amount of testing, the amount of money spent, and on outcomes. For Delaware students to have the chance to compete and be successful in life, the primary foundation, education, needs reform.
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.