Texas schools must improve math and science education in all grades and improve low graduation rates if the state is to remain competitive in the global economy, a panel of business, education and government leaders have said in a report.
The report by the Governor's Competitiveness Council also called for holding schools fully accountable for 'producing results' in making sure their students acquire the knowledge and skills they'll need.
And the 29-member panel said state and education leaders must begin work now on a solution to expected 'critical' workforce deficits in six key industries. Among those: energy, computer technology, advanced technologies in manufacturing, and aerospace and defence.
'In a competitive global economy, companies will locate where there is a constant stream of available human resources that can rapidly fill workforce needs,' the report said.
But in Texas, the council noted, the state's economy is 'creating an employment demand that will far exceed the supply created by the state's skills pipeline. In coming years, this employee supply deficit will be exacerbated by the retirement of the state's skilled baby boomer population.'
'If the state's talent development system [schools, colleges and training programs] does not make critical changes at every level to ensure a dependable workforce is available, Texas will not remain a high quality place for doing business.'
Gov. Rick Perry commented on the report at a conference on July 6, signaling his support for the panel's recommendations and promising to work with the Legislature next year to enact many of their suggestions.
'We need to do a better job developing our state's talent,' Perry said. 'In particular, we need to equip our education and workforce systems to get Texans ready for the jobs demanded in the global economy.'
Former Bush education adviser Sandy Kress, a member of the council, also spoke at the conference, saying that while Texas schools and colleges have done many things right, they also have failed in key areas.
For example, he said, Texas is near the bottom of populous states in percentage of its workforce with a college degree, and he noted that half of college freshmen in Texas are enrolled in remedial classes. Further, he added, only 18% of high school students who took the ACT met college readiness standards in all four core subjects.
'All this data should surprise us and shock us, and should force us to take dramatic and aggressive action,' said Kress, an Austin lawyer and former president of the Dallas school board.
In calling for improved, uniform curriculum standards in kindergarten through 12th grade, the council said a 'great disparity' exists in the way standards are now implemented and taught in the state's 1,031 school districts. The State Board of Education is revising the state curricula in core subjects.
'Texas needs to develop or identify model curricula and teaching practices, particularly in science, technology, engineering and math courses,' the council said in its report.