Press for excellence

December 19, 1997|By Raymond A. ''Chip'' Mason

THE MARYLAND State Board of Education's recent bold decision to require students to pass a series of tough tests before receiving a high school diploma should be applauded and supported by every Marylander.

We must expect of high school students what will be expected of them after they graduate. And we must enable our high schools to see that students meet these vital expections.

A high-tech world

Today's high school students will soon find themselves in a world awash in technological innovation, a world caught up in intense global competition for workers and markets.

It also will be a world in which high school graduates will have absolutely no chance for success without mastering reading, writing and math, and the even more basic lifelong skills of thinking, learning and communicating.

Perhaps we in Maryland have become too accustomed to the notion that a high school diploma isn't worth much. Some employers take it for granted that many high school graduates will be unable to satisfactorily read, write or express themselves. We have to change that.

A recent study conducted by the University of Baltimore's Maryland Business Research Partnership found that while two-thirds of the 1,000 businesses surveyed hire workers with only a high school education, most of those companies say that job applicants lack basic skills.

Three out of the four businesses surveyed indicated job applicants have inadequate communications skills. Nearly 70 percent reported problems with writing skills and reading.

The numbers are not pleasing, but they are illuminating. When that many companies are reporting that high school graduates lack the basic skills to even enter the workplace, we have a major problem.

To be sure, businesses must help by doing such things as working with the schools, providing significant support for teachers and staff. That is already happening in hundreds of schools across the state.

Clearly, though, the bottom line is that all schools must have high standards. State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick has led a coalition of educators, business executives, elected officials, parents and students in calling for higher standards for students and more rigorous testing. Now, her charge has been given full sanction by the courageous action of the state Board of Education.

Raymond A. ''Chip'' Mason is chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Legg Mason, Inc.

Pub Date: 12/19/97

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