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Official: Need for higher ed rising

By The Mercury

The need for a higher level of education is increasing, according to a state education official.

Mark Tallman, associate executive director of the Kansas Association of School Boards, met Tuesday at the Robinson Education Center with local school, community and business leaders to outline how the state will meet the educational challenges of the future.

“We have to increase the educational levels and skill levels of the students coming out of our schools to prepare them for their future,” he said.

By 2020, it is expected that nearly two-thirds of U.S. jobs will require more than a high school diploma, with 35 percent of jobs requiring at least a bachelor’s degree.

Nearly three-fourth of U.S. jobs in 1973 required only a high school diploma or less.

Tallman said the three key strategies to meet the need are raising educational standards, maintaining local leadership as stated in the Kansas Constitution and getting suitable funding.

The Kansas Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday on a lawsuit related to the funding issue.

A decision is expected by early January on the state’s appeal of a lower court’s decision that legislators have underfunded schools.

State education officials believe the educational standards have been raised with the Common Core standards.

The standards, which cover math and English, have been adopted by 45 states. Common Core was created by a coalition of governors and state school officials.

Tallman said the standards that are being practiced for the first time this year will help students be more prepared for college and careers.

Tallman said it is important to reach out to the community, because not everybody understands that more education is needed. He noted that is particularly true if students would be reaching higher education levels than their parents.

“You can’t expect people to automatically understand that,” he said.

With the new standards will come a new test this school year, intended to reflect the changes.

Tallman said the test will be more difficult, in order to match the increased standards — so people shouldn’t be surprised to see a drop in assessment test scores.

“Lower scores under these new tests will not mean that our students are learning less or know less,” he said. “It means they’re being measured against a more ambitious set of expectations.”

Tallman graduated from high school in 1978 and used his own experience as an indicator of how standards have grown over the years.

Tallman said he took one year of science and two years of math at his college preparatory school.

State institutions at that time had an open admissions policy, meaning only a high school diploma or GED was required to enroll in school.

High school students who were freshmen in fall of 2011 now face a different set of requirements: three years of science and four years of math, unless the student can meet the ACT college readiness math benchmark after three years of math.

“We have significantly raised the bar already over the last 30 to 40 years,” Tallman said.

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