Mediocre FCAT, new jobs, not good enough for Florida

Last week, Gov. Jeb Bush released the good news that Florida is now in the top spot nationwide as far as job growth is concerned. This fact alone, however, does not mean the job situation for graduating students has improved and says little about quality of jobs created. Combined with other recent claims, it rather paints a bleak future for college students.

Florida’s unemployment rate at 4.6 percent, is lower than anywhere in the nation. This is indeed good news, but the figures alone give no indication about the quality of jobs that have been created. If the claimed number of 168,400 newly created jobs last year is correct, the question remains how many of those jobs are held by employees who have to work two, if not three, jobs in order to make a living.

Such numbers will have to be put in perspective in order to pass as the overwhelmingly good news Bush made them appear.

A similar tactic was employed two weeks ago when the state government released the latest FCAT scores. Bush heralded the test scores as improved, yet said in a press statement, “While I am pleased to see that Florida’s students continue to improve, our results show a need for more academic rigor in middle school.”

The new numbers imply 9th and 10th grade students still score below the national average and are cause for concern. Granted, it could be much worse, but it could also be a lot better. When did we start to celebrate new heights in mediocrity?

As most USF students come straight out of the public school system — the poor performance that these numbers reflect — the knowledge base on which the college classes are intended to build is lower than it could be. This, in turn, means college graduates will have it harder in an already hostile job market because they will compete with students from states in which education fares better.

In order to stop this vicious circle of lower expectations every year, Bush has to go beyond announcing such slogans as “no child left behind.” If a more proactive course is not taken soon, children will indeed not be left behind; it will be the entire state that stagnates.