OP-ED: Craig Barrett and the Arizona Ready Education Council

Stephen Stollmack January 31, 2013 0

By Stephen Stollmack

According to reporter Cathryn Creno, former Intel chief executive Craig Barrett,who chairs Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s Arizona Ready Education Council (AREC), seems to be still singing his old song about how “weaknesses in Arizona’s K-12 education hinder the state economy”.

Really, so now it is the kids’ fault that we are in this recession? It must have been some really young real estate brokers selling those houses at inflated prices to people with no credit history; or, wait, maybe it was the children of the mortgage brokers who needed new iPhones and the latest games and cars that were making it necessary for their ‘Mortgage Broker’ dads or moms to make another 10 or 20 grand by pushing through the loan to that ‘deadbeat family’ who will never be able to make the mortgage payments. I need to hear more of this story.

Creno’s article also quotes Barrett as saying: “Americans need more education to command a middle-class salary”; perhaps she feels she needs to let her readers know that Barrett also has answers for the nation’s high unemployment rate and the reduction in pay rates for those jobs that are available. Wow, he must have been stuffing his head with computer chips while he was running Intel to know the answer to these highly debated issues. And, of course, it’s the kids dropping out of schools or not studying hard enough that is the cause of the problem, again.

To add credence to Barrett’s position, she adds that:

“… evidence that the United States is behind in math and language skills (is provided by) an international high-school exam called PISA (Program for International Student Assessment). 2010 PISA results show students in countries such as China, Singapore, South Korea and Finland outperform American students in math and language tests. Worldwide, the United States placed 17th in language skills and 30th in math.”

First, this test information has been well explained by Dianne Ravich and many others in the literature as being totally misleading. It turns out that these countries (who supposedly rank much higher than we do), either have very homogeneous populations and/or little poverty, while the American test results are averaged across the entire country where the average poverty rate for children is 22%. Ms. Creno has nothing to say about that or the fact the children in a handful of states, like Massachusetts, are scoring better than any other country. If she had done any checking at all she would have discovered that the majority of education researchers have come to the conclusion that poverty and racial discrimination are far and away the biggest problems facing schools today; all other problems derive from those. She also fails to mention that the US “produces more highest-performing students in science and reading than any other country does; in mathematics, it is second only to Japan”.

The very fact that she refers to Barrett, in the title she gave her uninformed article, as the “reformer” (who is advising Arizona on what it has to do to). “Prepare Arizona students to compete globally” is a total insult to all the very qualified teachers and education academicians, who teach them how to make young minds come alive with the desire to learn. The suggestion is that it takes a business man to diagnose the problems that the American Education System is experiencing. That’s rubbish.

Barrett also failed to note that “about 50 percent of recent college graduates are either unemployed or employed in jobs that aren’t commensurate with their degree”. Even Romney almost got that one right.

Barrett is correct in noting that American graduates are going to have difficulty competing for jobs with “graduates from other schools around the world.” The problem is being addressed, Ms. Credo reports Barrett as saying, “by the introduction of the “Common Core” standards in Arizona.” Ms. Creno neglects to credit President Obama’s Race to the Top (RttT) program for funding the grants to organizations like The National Association of State Governors who hired the experts and facilitated their development of the standards. She erroneously gives the credit to “Arizona Ready Education Council, which includes education and business leaders and meets regularly to track student achievement and advocate for such reforms as Common Core”. Actually, one of the main problems American college graduates will have in the future is that most of the jobs they would historically would have access to are now either being done by robots or they are at companies that have relocated to other countries where there are new natural resources (they can rape) as well as skilled and well educated workers who are demanding much lower starting salaries.

Furthermore, if you ask these companies what they are looking for in their key positions, they certainly do not mention PISA test scores and rankings.

While graduates here are having a tough time finding jobs they are qualified to do, the international or the global

“Supply chain faces a severe shortage of talent at a time when the demands on the profession have never been greater. Globalization, market uncertainty, shifting demographic patterns, and the emergence of supply chain as a strategic function are some of the factors that are driving the skills shortfall.” (‘White Paper Are You Prepared For The Supply Chain Talent Crisis?’ MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics).

So what is “Common Core” supposed to do about the fact that students will have to go abroad (and know something about foreign cultures and languages) to get those jobs they previously only had to move across country to find, Mr. Barrett?