THE importance of education has been highlighted once again through a federal effort to increase the number of immigrant visas. Among other things, the bipartisan Startup Act would increase the number of visas provided to highly skilled foreigners, especially those who studied math and science at U.S. universities.
The business community supports the measure to increase the pool of human capital so vital to success in the modern economy. This is one indication of how much they value employees with high-level math and science skills — and how our domestic education system is failing to produce those workers in sufficient numbers.
Yet even as the door of opportunity is opening for foreign-born students, some are trying to close it for Oklahoma children by seeking repeal of the most basic high school graduation standards.
A 2005 law that takes effect this year requires Oklahoma high school seniors to pass four of seven end-of-instruction exams in Algebra I, English II, Algebra II, geometry, English III, biology or U.S. history. Those who can't pass four of the tests can't get a diploma.
The tests are designed to ensure graduates achieve basic competency in core subjects — in short, that a high school diploma means you have a high school education — yet some school administrators have vehemently sought elimination of the standards.
At the same time companies are seeking workers from abroad, these Oklahoma officials find it outrageous that a high school senior should have to master freshman math!
Oklahoma schools can and must do better. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 73 percent of eighth-graders in Oklahoma are below proficient in reading and 72 percent are below proficient in math.