Our educational system has been called on the carpet for not reacting fast enough to the demands of our shifting economy. Gov. Rick Snyder has been critical, claiming that in 2012 just 17 percent of Michigan students were college-ready. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills declared a workforce-readiness crisis.
America’s education system is at a crossroads between the traditional model of school, and what it should look like for the 21st century.
Our local story paints a picture of high achievement in the face of change. A strong collaborative between the Chamber of Commerce, Ottawa Area Intermediate School District and local school systems provides relevant educational opportunities for students and educators.
Examples include programs such as Educators Working for Relevancy (now called Unite4Insight), tours of local manufacturing facilities for educators, Boomerang, Ladders2Success and the Grand Haven Walkabout field trip. In addition, Grand Haven High School's engineering and design classes have partnered with Light Corp., Science Olympiad offers students access to innovative thinking and building events, and First Robotics fosters a collaboration with Herman Miller.
The story here is that change is under way.
U.S. News and World Report, Newsweek magazine, and Michigan's Bridge Magazine all ranked our local school districts at the top of their lists. Our local manufacturing industries applaud our local schools for providing students the baseline skills they need to be successful entering their careers.
A point our manufacturing community often makes is that there are high-paying manufacturing jobs waiting for individuals who possess career-readiness skills. However, not every student should follow the same path. Our economy relies on a diversified workforce, not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Harvard Graduate School of Education is calling for an emphasis on innovation, creativity and critical-thinking skills. Business and manufacturing call for similar skills: teamwork and collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving, and leadership, to name a few.
College and career-readiness have similar needs, but different paths to reach their outcomes. Our local schools in Northwest Ottawa County are meeting these needs, and the excitement is that the journey is still in its infancy.
There is a reason Ottawa County's economic growth has outpaced the rest of Michigan. Our schools and community have a common understanding that when we support each other, we will not only survive, but thrive in this shifting economy.
— By Kevin Polston, who is the principal of Lakeshore Middle School. He and his colleagues from Grand Haven Area Public Schools will be writing a monthly community column for the Tribune.