Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Kenneth M. Young delivered the 2013 Riverside County State of Education address Thursday, March 21, 2013, to nearly 400 education, business and community leaders at the Palm Springs Convention Center.
The address was hosted by the Palm Springs Area Chamber of Commerce and the Workforce Investment Board.
County Superintendent Young began his remarks talking about the relationship between education and quality life in Riverside County.
“Because of the relationship between education and economic conditions, the continued slump in our county’s economy has brought a great deal of attention on the outcomes of our public education system,” he said. “Economic stability and resurgence of employment are critical to our region’s quality of life. High quality education and technical training are vital keys to solving this repressive, long-term problem.”
Key to a good quality of life for students is preparing them for college and the modern workforce. High school graduates earn more than $10,000 a year more than dropouts, he said. The county’s high school graduation rate was 79.9 percent, the fourth highest in the state compared to similar large counties. Young predicted that the county graduation rate would climb in figures to be released in April.
Educational technology is playing a larger role than ever in classrooms, he said. Students are taking advantage of high quality online lessons they can access on home computers or portable, handheld smart devices to receive instruction on their own time. In so-called “flipped” classrooms, students access online lessons when they would normally be doing homework, then teachers use classroom time to apply and synthesize what they have learned online.
In addition, a group of school districts in the county are collaborating with the Riverside Unified Virtual School to offer online courses to students across the county.
Young called on educators to help students prepare for college, citing figures that 60 percent of California students are not ready for college or good paying jobs and need remedial classes in English and math courses when they reach college.
“This means students need to be in college for an extra year in order to get up to speed,” he said. “This translates into 5 years of tuition, books as well as room-and-board to get a degree instead of four. It also means they’re delayed a year in getting out into the workforce so they can begin their career and start earning a paycheck. It’s no wonder the nationwide college dropout rate is around 35 percent.”
Young said that a number of schools in the county do have significant percentages of students who score at college and career ready levels despite high poverty or high numbers of English learners.
The Leadership Institute of Riverside County, based out of the Riverside County Office of Education, is organizing a program called the Walk to Lead Initiative, which will help educators identify and learn from high performing schools.
Young reported that more than 72,800 high school students in Riverside County took Career Technical Education or Regional Occupational classes last year. CTE and ROP classes have been shown to help students stay in school and graduate on time, as well as preparing them to go either directly into the workforce or to college.
Young issued a call to action for educators to better prepare students for college and the workforce, so they can secure good employment and enjoy a good quality of life.
“Our county has made remarkable progress over the last decade in raising student academic achievement,” he said. “We’ve come a long way, but there is still much work left to do. Now we have to collectively work to change the culture of our county regarding how we view the importance of all students being truly ready for life after high school. This is a massive undertaking, but it is so worth it. So much depends on all of us!”
*Contributed by the office of the Riverside County Superintendent of Schools