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Wednesday, June 19, 2013
What about grammar?Posted Monday, January 21, 2013, at 3:45 PM
While Gov. Terry Branstad continues to push for educational reform of the state's K-12 educational systems, continued emphasis is placed on science, technology, engineering and math disciplines.
According to the governor, increased focus on STEM will lead to "higher achievement and better career opportunities."
Rightfully so. In Buena Vista County, a shortage of technical workers has been reported in the past year, from welders to production operators to computer-controlled machine tool operators.
Across the state, 50 percent of positions are termed "middle-skill," requiring more than a high school diploma or GED, but less education than a four-year degree, such as an associate's degree, certification or apprenticeship. Unfortunately, only 33 percent are currently qualified for such positions.
In 2018, Iowa Workforce Development has projected 11,075 middle-skill positions will be needed in Region 5, which includes Buena Vista, Pocahontas, Humboldt, Wright, Calhoun, Webster and Hamilton Counties. Those employed in middle-skill positions typically make or exceed the area's average salary, IWD has discovered.
However, with so much emphasis on just one area of education, other portions are suffering that offer skills that will come in handy when communicating with future employers.
The Iowa Department of Education reported in December that student levels in the National Assessment of Education Progress's vocabulary section decreased significantly from 2009-2011, especially in the fourth and eighth grade levels.
IDE Director Jason Glass has described the results as "troubling," while noting reading scores have also remained stagnant over the past two decades.
The root cause? Lack of grammatical and syntax education, which go hand-in-hand with vocabulary learning.
When grudgingly taking a mandatory freshman college composition class a few years back, I discovered an alarming trend.
Subjects and verbs were foreign concepts to most classmates, who also struggled with things they should have learned in elementary school, such as punctuation, varied vocabulary choices or lengthening sentences with clauses.
I am guessing this is not confined to just Minnesota. After asking any Iowa student if they know how to diagram a sentence, expect a blank stare.
While future projections have indicated STEM jobs will be one of the fastest-growing sectors of employment in Iowa, it is important students do not become deficient in other equally important educational areas. But how can we expect students to get these jobs, if they lack linguistic skills?
Expecting them to craft a resume and cover letter without proper knowledge of the English language is like bundling up from head to ankle for outdoors winter activities, but then heading out with bare feet.
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