I haven’t had time to think deep thoughts about the new report (pdf) from the New Commission on the Study of Skills in the Workforce. Too much sugar in my system. But I confess to considerable skepticism about making the difficult and useful parts happen. I don’t see how the politics are going to work.
Here’s the Eduwonk-recommended Christian Science Monitor: summary:
What if the solution to American students’ stagnant performance levels and the wide achievement gap between white and minority students wasn’t more money, smaller schools, or any of the reforms proposed in recent years, but rather a new education system altogether?
That’s the conclusion of a bipartisan group of scholars and business leaders, school chancellors and education commissioners, and former cabinet secretaries and governors. They declare that America’s public education system, designed to meet the needs of 100 years ago when the workplace revolved around an assembly line, is unsuited to today’s global marketplace. Already, they warn, many Americans are in danger of falling behind and seeing their standard of living plummet.
In its place, the group proposes a series of controversial reforms:
â€¢ Offer universal pre-kindergarten programs and opportunities for continuing education for adults without high school diplomas.
â€¢ Create state board exams that students could pass at age 16 to move either on to community college or to a university-level high school curriculum.
â€¢ Improve school salaries in exchange for reducing secure pension benefits, and pay teachers more to work with at-risk kids, for longer hours, or for high performance.
â€¢ Create curriculums that emphasize creativity and abstract concepts over rote learning or mastery of facts.
Letting more 10th graders move directly to college would save money that could be spent elsewhere — perhaps on funding lifelong adult education to help workers update their skills as they go along.
Another proposal: Scrap local school funding for a state-funded system that offers more to the needy districts but doesn’t diminish the resources of wealthy districts. The report then calls for giving schools far more autonomy – making them, in essence, contract schools run by teachers or others who are monitored by districts but not owned by them.
The U.S. spends more on education than most other industrialized nations but performs worse, the report says. Remarkably, it doesn’t call for spending more money on education. It calls for spending it differently. This is a sign of seriousness, writes Eduwonk.
This is the first really seminal (report) that I can think of that lays out the hard truth that a lot of this is going to have to be financed on resources already in the system. Thatâ€™s a big signal shift and for a country that has more than doubled its education spending in a generation, itâ€™s a sign of new seriousness about policymaking.
The Fordham Foundation’s Education Gadfly gives an honors grade to the report.
It’s no simple laundry list; the recommendations are tightly linked and closely integrated. They include developing standards, assessments, and curricula that reflect today’s needs and tomorrow’s requirements, and they span and amalgamate several different reform strategies, drawing the essence from each. They’re big and bold. No single faction in American education will like all of them — a universal level of unhappiness is one definition of consensus — and that’s why implementation is going to prove a huge challenge. But this report could turn out to be a fit successor to A Nation at Risk.
By contrast, D-Ed Reckoning’s Ken DeRosa is unimpressed.
A rogue’s gallery of know-nothings who don’t know how to educate children funded by a foundation that has taken nothing but missteps in its short history
Sherman Dorn points out that for all it’s call for new thinking, the commission hasn’t put the entire report online, just the executive summary. You have to pay to read the whole thing. How many people will? Not the best way to start a national debate