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Students recognized for potential, encouraged to excel

Speaker: Education gives people tools to understand, solve problems

Posted: Thursday, January 27, 2011

Students excelling in Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain high schools were given a strong message Wednesday night — education and the needs of the labor force are changing and more demanding than ever.

Students who were recognized have high PSAT scores, are enrolled in honors, take advanced or Advanced Placement courses, keep an overall grade point average of 3.5 or higher and/or participate in Advancement Via Individual Determination. This group includes 319 Thunder Mountain and 504 Juneau-Douglas high schoolers.

“It’s a great night to be coming together for the right reasons,” said superintendent Glenn Gelbrich. “We are here to celebrate achievement and support achievement for our students. It is a choice for our students to succeed. The students here tonight have made that choice, maybe with a little bit of help. ... Students don’t get this kind of achievement without a support system.”

Frank Coenraad, JDHS guidance counselor, emphasized the need for U.S. education standards to change.

There is “nothing more important facing our lives than reversing the trend of our student performance,” he said. “There should be urgency in the soul of every participant in this forum to change the face of education. That includes more rigorous courses and students entering college well prepared. More students should be taking advanced placement courses ... so they have the right skills, behaviors and attitudes in college without remediation.”

Al Mijares, vice president of the College Board, was the keynote speaker and shared the need for the United States’ youth to excel in education. Education, he said, gives people the tools to understand situations and solve problems when they don’t.

“The most important thing in my opinion, simply put, is that education allows you to understand your world,” he said. “It helps you to proceed, solve problems and influence others. It is utterly exasperating when you don’t understand the situation.”

He also emphasized statistics on the long-term benefits of an education, saying 90 percent of people in state penitentiaries are high school drop outs. He also said poverty is tied to education levels, in that those who have less education tend to earn less, and those without much education die sooner than those who do.

Mijares emphasized the need for teachers who are called to teach.

“If you could do anything else with your life but teach go do that,” he said. “We only want the people who feel called; who say ‘I can’t do anything but teach.’ That’s who we want. They’re gonna put up with a lot of stuff. ... There are all kinds of problems present in the classroom and they have to see beyond that. Education is so profound.”

Mijares said the development of the World Wide Web has accelerated information and education.

“There is tremendous change going on and this change is going on with hurricane force,” he said. “There is an explosion of knowledge beyond our wildest dreams. There is so much information today we’re being deluged by it.”

He said when the U.S. issues Class H1 Visas, they are gone within an hour. These are for engineering, nursing and other skilled careers.

“What fires me, is when I see our young people dropping out of school who hang out on corners and don’t excel in education,” Mijares said. “They should be doing those jobs — whatever it happens to be. We outsource not just for financial reasons.”

Mijares said he isn’t slamming immigrants, as there is a need and place for them as well. Mijares’ father immigrated to the U.S.

“Nationally, for every 100 ninth-grade students, 69 graduate high school, 42 enter college, 28 return for the second year of college and only 20 graduate six years later. We no longer have the labor pool to meet the needs of this country. That is why the College Board works with the U.S. Dept. of Education and other agencies who are committed to this national imperative that we have to change this.”

Mijares said the U.S. used to be the leader in education. China is excelling and they have a passion and a hunger for education.

“This is the greatest country on Earth and we have to protect it,” he said. “We have to start visualizing what will happen.”

Mijares gave data that says 86 percent of new jobs created will require some form of post-high school education and that today’s jobs are in the information industry.

Mijares promoted AP courses as a way to excel.

U.S. calculus students ranked 21 out of 22 countries participating. AP calculus students who scored a three or higher (on a scale of 0-5) ranked No. 1. AP calculus students who scored a one or two tied with top performing countries for the No. 2 position.

U.S. physics students ranked last. AP students who scored a three or higher ranked No. 1. Those who scored a one or a two ranked No. 4.

According to Juneau School District data from the 2009-2010 school year, in AP Biology 31 of 34 students received a three or higher. In AP English Literature 18 of 19 received a three or higher. In English Language 24 of 29 received a three or higher. In AP Calculus 17 of 20 received a three or higher. Those students will get college credit for those courses.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.



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