Do businesses want state-specified mandates for students to know certain skills which other states would be expected to follow?


Faceless children in Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.” Credit: Wen’s Language World.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, we have all heard by now how Massachusetts leads the nation in public school academic achievement.

So much so that the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study report found that if Massachusetts were a separate nation, its 8th grade science students would rank second in the world only after Singapore.

Great news, right?

Apparently not for certain employment opportunities.

So what specifically has businesses up in arms over the Massachusetts public school system?

(Next page: Businesses say students excel in testing, fail in interpersonal skills)

On March 25, the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education published a startling report that found that more than two-thirds of the 334 employers surveyed said they could not hire people with relevant skills for engineering, manufacturing, technical, and high tech jobs.

While the report praised public schools for producing superb test takers, employers criticized education leaders for deficits in the following skills and abilities:

  • follow directions
  • oral and written communication
  • work well with others
  • prioritize goals and meet deadlines

While many have asked if schools are preparing students for the real world, perhaps another question to ponder is: Do businesses want state-specified mandates for certain skills which other states would be expected to follow?

For instance, if Massachusetts employers insist on producing more technical workers, would California be expected to only produce Silicon Valley “computer” types?

How do school leaders strike a balance between educating students with the necessary tools for the workforce without stifling the joy of learning and creating essentially school factories focused solely on producing workers?

Share your comments in the section below and join the conversation on Twitter @Michael_eSM.