States are learning that partnering with local business leaders and chambers of commerce results in industry support for Common Core and technical skills. In designing curriculum for the 21st century, these partnerships are vital.
Irwin Edenzon, president of Mississippi’s largest employer, Ingalls Shipbuilding, announced the creation of the Mississippi Tech Master Scholars program, which will recognize, and help employ, high school graduates who meet standards set by business leaders.
Leaders of MEC, the state’s chamber of commerce, also reiterated support for implementation of Common Core education standards in Mississippi public schools.
“Mississippi over the last two decades has changed from low-skill, low-wage jobs to what is known as a middle-skill economy,” Edenzon said. “… We cannot meet our demand for skilled craftspeople. For the last 20 years, we have not encouraged those students who choose to become craftspeople. This disparity ends today.”
About 1,400 business leaders attended MEC’s annual Capitol Day in Jackson on Wednesday. They heard from state leaders including Gov. Phil Bryant, who was out of town on an economic development trip and addressed the group by video.
The Tech Master program is starting as a pilot in seven counties: Jackson, Lincoln, Jones, Madison, Bolivar, Panola and Union. It will require students to have at least a 2.5 grade-point average and take math and science courses including geometry. They have to score at least 18 on the ACT test or 36 on the military aptitude test, perform 40 hours of community service and pass a career certification test. They cannot be suspended from school and must have a 95 percent attendance in high school years.
MEC will honor the students and provide certification and encourage companies like Ingalls to hire them. MEC President Blake Wilson said he anticipates the program, expected to eventually be implemented statewide, will help reduce the state’s high dropout rate.
Wilson also voiced support for the implementation of national Common Core standards in Mississippi public schools. The standards are new guidelines for math and English that have been adopted by 46 states, aimed at making U.S. students ready for college and career and more competitive with other countries. Mississippi schools have been working toward the new standards for several years, and students will be tested on them starting next year. But tea party and other conservative leaders oppose the standards and say they will allow federal takeover of Mississippi’s school curriculum.
“For MEC, Common Core is a priority issue,” Wilson said. “We cannot turn away from Common Core in Mississippi. The Severstals, the Toyota plants, the Nissans — they don’t want to see this standard for New York, this standard for California, and then, ‘Oh, just trust us in Mississippi on standards of education.’ ”