President urges action on common goals
President urges action on common goals
“Education is an investment in human capital,” President Obama said, kicking off the White House College Opportunity Day of Action on December 4. “It’s both a moral and an economic issue. When we give young people the opportunity to chase their dreams, we’re investing in our collective future.”
The President was addressing a group of 500 college presidents, school superintendents, nonprofit executives and other education and business leaders who had been invited to join the White House Summit on College Opportunity to support the President’s goal of leading the world in college attainment by helping more students prepare for and graduate from college.
JFYNetWorks executive director Gary Kaplan led a team who are working on the statewide expansion of JFY’s college readiness initiative. The team included former education commissioner David Driscoll, Middlesex Community College Provost Philip Sisson, and Malden High School Principal Dana Brown, the president of the Massachusetts Association of Secondary School Administrators.
Summit participants were asked to commit to new action in several areas of college opportunity. The JFYNetWorks team is working on a statewide expansion of the JFYNet College Readiness program through a network of regional clusters of high schools surrounding community colleges. The first year’s expansion will reach 2000 additional students in four clusters. The focus is on using the Accuplacer assessments to bring all high school graduates to the skill level required by colleges for admission to credit-earning courses. The goal is to significantly reduce the number of non-credit remedial courses students are required to take, and to increase rates of graduation.
“No educational goal is more important today than graduating from college,” said JFY Executive Director Gary Kaplan. “We’re facing a shortage of skilled workers. As the President said, we need an educated workforce for both moral and economic reasons. Every young person deserves the opportunity to reach his or her dream; and from the economic perspective, we need all our young people in the workforce at a skilled level.
“We want every high school student to graduate fully college ready. That means able to pass the Accuplacer or any other standard colleges might use to measure skills. We’re here today to translate our values into concrete commitments. We all agree that college readiness is the goal of secondary education.”
Two recent reports, from MassINC and the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, have warned that Massachusetts is facing an imminent shortage of college graduates because of declining high school enrollments and increasing industry demand for college-trained workers. Two prominent business organizations, the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership and the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, are working with JFY to leverage additional corporate, state and City support.
President Obama noted the growing divergence between those who have the skills required by today’s economy and those who don’t. He said that free broad-based mass education through high school is what drove the US economy to world leadership in the 20th century, but now higher education is no longer a luxury but a necessity.
“Our higher education system is one of the things that make America exceptional,” he continued. “People from all over the world aspire to come here and study. Our own young people should have that opportunity too. But the path to college begins long before students set foot on campus. That’s why school districts and community organizations are partnering with colleges and universities to make sure our young people have the chance to go as far as their talents and their work ethic and their dreams can take them. That’s why we’re here today.
“Nobody is guaranteed success, but everybody should have access to the possibility of success. If all of us work together to make sure our young people are the best-educated generation in American history, there is no limit to what this country can achieve.”
In addition to the President, the conference was addressed by First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro.
JFYNetWorks is a Boston-based nonprofit that establishes and manages blended learning programs in high schools, community colleges and community agencies.