PARCC assessment will lead to a more skilled workforce for N.J. employers
Opinion by Dana Egreczky of the NJ Chamber of Commerce and Melanie Willoughby of NJBIA
We tend to think that millennials, who currently make up the youngest generation in the workforce, are highly advanced because they grew up immersed in transformative technology. However, this is not the case. According to a new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), millennials in the United States rank near the bottom of all workers around the world in skills employers want most: literacy, practical math and even a category called "problem-solving in technology-rich environments." The report is based on a test designed to measure the job skills of adults, aged 16 to 65, in 23 countries.
New Jersey prides itself on its outstanding schools, but no graduate is safe from global competition. OECD also reports that the top American millennials - those in the 90th percentile - still performed worse than their counterparts in 15 countries. This shouldn't come as a surprise. According to the New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education, 47 percent of first year, full-time public college and university students in New Jersey have to retake high school math or English classes.
It's time to face the truth: our children are missing out on a considerable advantage because we have become complacent with their education. We have to know they are receiving the proper knowledge that will equip them with the skills to succeed in college and in the workforce. That begins with stronger academic standards. In 2010, New Jersey recognized the need to raise expectations for all students and adopted new math and language arts standards. Now it's time to gauge how students are performing and whether they are progressing at an appropriate level.
The PARCC tests that New Jersey students have taken over the past few weeks measure all the skills employees seek - literacy, math application and problem-solving - because the assessments are aligned with the state standards. The test results provide detailed information that help parents and teachers work with students to improve their performance and better prepare them for the later stages of their academic and professional careers.
The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the New Jersey Business & Industry Association support building a better workforce in New Jersey, which is why both organizations enthusiastically joined the We Raise NJ coalition and pledged to support the transition to better quality standardized tests for our teachers and students. The coalition's Best Foot Forward initiative works to provide parents with resources and accurate information about the PARCC tests.
This OECD report really caught our attention because it validates what our employer community has been telling us for at least the last decade: students are underprepared for the workplace whether they enter with a high school diploma or a college degree. To us, this is an education reform issue just as much as it is an economic development issue. We will fix what needs to be fixed, but we must keep moving forward - not backward.
Our children, our economy and the future we create demand nothing less.
Dana Egreczky is Senior Vice President Workforce Development at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and President and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Melanie Willoughby is Senior Vice President of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.