State of Education
Education: A Cultural Awakening
(The following is excerpted from the Riverside County State of Education address, delivered in mid-February by Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Kenneth M. Young.)
Not long ago, an article in the Los Angeles Times noted that a number of students and families are beginning to question whether or not an investment in college pays off. Based on an extensive study conducted by the Brookings Institution, the Times authors noted that "college is not only worth it, it's likely to be the best investment a person makes in a lifetime." Their research reinforces data from the 2010 federal Census where we see huge lifetime earnings differences between those who complete postsecondary education and those who stop once they receive a high school diploma. This ranges from $380,000 to $2.8 million.
Using data from the California Department of Labor, we see that in December of 2011, at 16.4 percent, Riverside County had the fifth highest poverty rate of the state's 11 large, comparable counties. We also see that at 12.5 percent, Riverside County was tied for the state's third highest unemployment rate.
Click here to see the video of the speech, to review the statistical slide show, or to read the text of Kenneth Young's address.
This correlates with the percentage of our adult population that has not received a high school diploma, which is almost 21 percent. It also correlates with the percentage of our adult population without postsecondary education, which is over 73 percent. And from the most recent national data available, we see that Riverside County's college enrollment rate, including public community colleges and universities, along with private and out-of-state institutions, ranked tenth at just under 57 percent.
'We cannot continue to send so many children off to a future where they will live in poverty.'
As a regional public education system, we must spend the next 10 to 12 years focused on getting our students ready for postsecondary education and the workplace, from the day they enter kindergarten, if not before, until they turn their tassels on graduation day. This is a culture issue. If we are going to make significant changes in these results then we must change our county's culture about college and career education. Along with remaining fiscally solvent, it must become our highest priority. It is a moral, societal and economic imperative.
A simple explanation of culture is "the way we do things around here." Every home has a culture. Every school has a culture. Every business, every community, every church, every city and every county has a culture. There are homes, schools, communities and cities within Riverside County where a strong culture of education is pervasive. They hold high academic expectations for all students and they get results. Some of these are higher income areas and some are almost dirt poor. What makes them different than the rest? They know that a good education is essential to a better quality of life and they make that their top priority. They work for it, they skimp and save for it, they talk about it, they eat, sleep and drink it. And, they make it happen.
Now, I realize some will look at our student demographics, they will look at our socioeconomics, they will dig in their heels and say "it just can't be done and we shouldn't be trying -- college isn't for everyone." My response to this is, "I understand college isn't for everyone, but we've heard this excuse time and again and look where it has gotten us. It can be done, and it must be done." Where there is a will, there is a way.
Kenneth M. Young
Riverside County Superintendent of Schools
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