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Targeting Talented Students

Targeting Talented Students
ETS symposium showcases strategies for the United States to sustain its competitive edge in the world economy
By Ronald Roach

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, giving the keynote address at a recent gathering of education professionals, warned of a “growing disquiet … over the ability of the United States to sustain its competitive edge” in the world economy. Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said the country needs a comprehensive strategy if it wants to maintain its “capacity for innovation.”

Speaking at the Educational Testing Service and the Goldman Sachs Foundation symposium, Jackson explained that such capacity “rests almost entirely upon highly educated science and engineering professionals who are bright, creative, focused, resourceful and flexible.” She said only 5 percent of the U.S. work force meets that standard.

“Chinese universities now produce about 200,000 engineers annually, with Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore graduating about 100,000 each,” Jackson said. “The United States, on the other hand, produces only about 60,000 new engineers each spring.”

Jackson was one of more than a dozen national education leaders who participated in the symposium, which attracted nearly 300 education professionals from around the country. Education experts, educators and other interested professionals examined issues and policies relating to the progress and academic performance of high-potential, underrepresented students as they prepare for admission to the most selective colleges and universities.

“Many underrepresented youth have the innate talent to qualify for admission and success in the most prestigious colleges and universities,” said Dr. Michael Nettles, vice president of ETS’s Policy Evaluation and Research Center. “Our aim is for more students to receive the encouragement and development required to prepare them to tap into their extensive academic potential. That will propel them toward applying to, and attending, selective colleges and universities.”

“The talent is out there — all that needs to be done is to find and nurture it,” urged Stephanie Bell-Rose, president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation. The foundation was cited by several speakers as a leading supporter of initiatives designed to identify and educate talented minority students.

Dr. Edmund Gordon, a renowned senior scholar at Teachers College of Columbia University, said he’s encouraged by the growth of programs that identify and nurture talented minorities. He cautioned, however, that such programs tend to save a few kids while poor public education condemns vast numbers of children from socially and economically disadvantaged communities to lives of virtually no social mobility.

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