OUR OPINION: The future of education in Missouri

A new report on the future of education in Missouri may not break new ground, but does offer some concepts that deserve consideration as we move forward.

The report is the product of the six-member state Senate’s Missouri Educated Citizenry 2020 Committee and is the culmination of two years of work.

The committee recommends three goals:

• Kindergarteners will enter school with the essential skills and knowledge to be successful.

• 75 percent of Missouri students in every school district will demonstrate proficiency on the state’s standards achievement measure (now the MAP test) and perform at comparable levels to the highest-performing industrialized countries on international, standardized measures.

• At least 60 percent of Missouri adults will earn postsecondary degrees and credentials (now 39 percent).

We concur wholeheartedly with the first goal. Research continues to show early childhood education facilitates the ability to learn.

With regard to the second goal, the education system continues to grapple with how best to apply standardized testing to students of varying abilities.

In many other institutions – professions, business, labor – people who do not meet and maintain standards are terminated.

In contrast, the education system does not – and should not – adhere to that concept.

As one panel member, Sen. Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, observed: Each district has its own challenges. My district is very, very diverse socially and economically.”

We would break that down even further and contend each student has his or her own challenges. The challenge for the system is how to address individual abilities in a way that helps everyone attain and surpass standards.

The third goal is laudable, but also must account for advances in technology and, by extension, learning.

For example, some elementary students can use technology to perform tasks that cannot be accomplished by parents who hold college and university degrees.

In the final analysis, the report does provide a useful framework for the future of education.

Keaveny concluded: “This isn’t a short-term goal. This is a blueprint of where we want to end up. It’s going to take a number of years to get there.”

In addition to years, the process of shaping the future of education also will take much thought, creativity and effort.

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