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Editorial: STEM schools prepare kids for college, careers

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Passing grades in high school algebra, geometry and other math courses don’t always mean students are ready for college classes.

About 10 percent of the roughly 1,600 seniors who graduated from Johnson County’s six public high schools two years ago needed to take remediation courses in math while they were in college, according to data released recently by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. The commission, which works with Indiana’s public colleges and universities to ensure they’re preparing students for careers after graduation, recently released its 2014 college readiness report. That report details information about the high school class of 2012, including the kinds of diplomas students earned, the types of colleges students selected and what they plan to study.


The report also shows the number of students who attended public colleges and needed to take refresher courses in math, language arts or both; and locally students needed the most remediation in math. The rate of students who needed to take refresher math courses ranged from 7 percent of high school graduates from Franklin and Greenwood to 16 percent of graduates at Indian Creek High School, according the the commission’s report.

The number of students who need the extra help is a concern for local school officials because schools and employers have been putting a bigger focus on math and technology.

School districts have been trying to encourage students to take more math, science and engineering courses so that they’ll be prepared for the hundreds of local jobs expected to open up in manufacturing, health care and other industries over the next several years.

In Greenwood, teachers and counselors also are encouraging more students to take college-level, dual-credit and Advanced Placement math courses so they’ll know what’s expected of them after they graduate, assistant superintendent of learning Rick Ahlgrim said. Last school year, Cummins Inc. let students from Greenwood Middle School use the company’s virtual reality equipment to show students the kinds of work they’ll be able to do if they start studying math now.

“That’s where the kids’ futures are,” Ahlgrim said.

One of the challenges schools face when preparing students for math and other courses they’ll take in college is that universities’ standards vary. Colleges and universities typically assess students’ math and language arts skills before they take their first classes as freshmen. But they often have different standards for those assessments, for example.

While it might be difficult to measure exactly how well students are prepared for particular institutions, it remains important to get students ready in as general a way as possible. New academic standards being developed by the state will help better prepare students for the kinds of math courses they’ll take in college.

Preparing young people for tomorrow’s workforce won’t be easy but is vital for the success of both the students and industries they enter.

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