What Do Teachers Think About the Skills Gap?
By Robert Birchard, NYAS Staff
If learning is a continuous journey, then teachers are often its overlooked guides. They loom large in the conversation about the ills of the education system so what do they think of the skills gap?
“There’s not so much a skills gap as a skills disconnect,” claims Matthew Martinez, a middle school technology teacher in New York. “This disconnect is between what schools are teaching and what employers value.” Federal and state educational standards attempt to keep up with advancements in technology, but they’re often out of date by the time they’re implemented in the classroom. While Mr. Martinez believes there isn’t any perfect solution, students should have more choice and flexibility in their education. He thinks students should further their own learning outside the classroom in afterschool or vocational programs to supplement their formal education.
According to Patty Mannion, a high school science teacher in New York, the pressure to get into college is also a factor. The emphasis on students to develop the perfect college resume sometimes leads to misguided thinking about avoiding anything that could negatively impact their GPA — like difficult STEM courses. “In science getting an 85 doesn’t mean you’re bad at it. Not all science tests are designed to score 100 right out of the gate,” says Mannion. “Difficult courses better prepare students for the rigors of college coursework so, it’s more important for students to challenge themselves and get out of their comfort zone once in a while, instead of settling for a better grade in a less demanding learning environment.” While she does see a gradual shift towards encouraging STEM programs, this view is still too common.