China and India rising

The Competition that Really Matters comes from China and India, argues the Center for American Progress.

While “the state of America’s children has improved dramatically in the last century,”  the U.S. advantage is eroding, the report warns.  ”Educational attainment and achievement gaps that track income and race groups have become more entrenched— and more worrisome.”

Meanwhile, China and India are investing in the next-gen workforce.

No math, no job

High-tech manufacturers are hiring, but many job applicants don’t have required math skills.

North American Tool Corp.’s Jim Hoyt has two openings right now . . .

“I’ll write a few numbers down, mostly numbers with decimal points, because that’s what we use in manufacturing, and have them add them or subtract them, or divide by two,” Hoyt says. Job applicants often can’t do the math.

Manufacturers are “growing our own” workers using a system of “stackable” credentials.

Help wanted: educated workers

Worldwide, demand for high-skilled labor is growing faster than supply in advanced economies, concludes a report by the McKinsey Global Institute. Demand for low-skill labor remains weak. Lower-skill workers —including 75 million young people — are struggling with unemployment, underemployment and stagnating wages.

The global labor force will approach 3.5 billion in 2030, the report predicts. By 2020, the global economy will face skills shortages:

– 38 million to 40 million fewer workers with tertiary education (college or postgraduate degrees) than employers will need, or 13 percent of the demand for such workers

– 45 million too few workers with secondary education in developing economies, or 15 percent of the demand for such workers

– 90 million to 95 million more low-skill workers (those without college training in advanced economies or without even secondary education in developing economies) than employers will need, or 11 percent oversupply of such workers

The population in China, as well as in many advanced economies, is aging. Most new workers will live in India and the “young” developing economies of Africa and South Asia.

Scientific illiteracy disqualifies many young Americans from good white-collar and blue-collar jobs, writes Rishawn Biddle on Dropout Nation. “The average American working in science, technology, engineering, and medical fields will earn $500,000 more in their lifetime than peers outside of those fields — and are more likely to stay employed even in periods of economic recession.”

Academic or vocational skills?

For the first time ever, a majority of jobless Americans 25 and older are college graduates or people with “some college.”  Should our educational system focus less on academics and more on teaching workforce skills?

Colleges rethink training for energy jobs

Many “green job” trainees have had trouble finding work, so community colleges are aligning alternative energy programs to local employers’ needs.

New York colleges are adding training programs for natural gas drillers, despite the state’s ban on “fracking.” Job seekers lined up at a job fair at a college near the Marcellus Shale belt.

Wanted: College-educated workers

Despite the rise in college graduates — 38.5 percent of working-age adults have an associate degree or more –  employers will need 23 million more college-educated workers by 2025, predicts a Lumina Foundation study. But does producing more graduates guarantee productivity and prosperity?

Community colleges are “where the workers come from.”

Learning ‘myths’ — or not

Answer Sheet’s Valerie Strauss lists Seven misconceptions about how students learn, which she links to “standardized test-based public school reform.”  The list, which came from the Independent Curriculum Group web site, is based on “21st-century science,” Strauss alleges.

First comes the “myth” that “Basic Facts Come Before Deep Learning.”

This one translates roughly as, “Students must do the boring stuff before they can do the interesting stuff.” Or, “Students must memorize before they can be allowed to think.” In truth, students are most likely to achieve long-term mastery of basic facts in the context of engaging, student-directed learning.

I don’t think anyone argues that students shouldn’t think till they’ve memorized a bunch of facts. People do argue that students think more intelligently — more deeply or critically, if you prefer — if they have a base of knowledge.

Perhaps Dan Willingham, a cognitive scientist, will take it up on his new blog.

Some of the other myths are straw men, such as “Rigorous Education Means a Teacher Talking” or  ”Covering It Means Teaching It”  or “A Quiet Classroom Means Good Learning.”

But it’s possible fogies think “Teaching to Student Interests Means Dumbing It Down” or “Acceleration Means Rigor.”  The devil is in the details.

“Traditional Schooling Prepares Students for Life” is her final myth/straw man.

Listening to teachers and studying for tests has little to do with life in the world of work. People in the work world create, manage, evaluate, communicate, and collaborate.

My traditional schooling in the mid-20th century  included a lot more than listening to teachers and studying for tests. I did a lot of reading, writing, discussing and even some collaborating. I learned workforce skills too, such as meeting deadlines, adapting to authority figures, dealing with boredom, typing. At more progressive schools, would I have spent more time “engaged” and less time reading under my desk?

Growing up is hard to do

Growing up is hard to do: Young people are extending their school years and delaying work and marriage, according to America’s Youth Transitions to Adulthood (pdf), an analysis of Americans 14 to 24 from the 1980s to 2010 by the National Center for Education Statistics.

In 1980, 16 percent of young adults ages 22 to 24 were enrolled in college compared to 30 percent in 2010, NCES found.

Fewer teen-agers hold jobs, notes Inside School Research.

From 1980 to 1999, 30 percent or more of 16- and 17-year-olds were employed at least part-time, but that percentage has been plummeting since 2000, and by 2009, only about 15 percent of teenagers in that age group had a job.

Only 49 percent of high school dropouts held a job in the year they left school, compared to 64 percent in 1980.

Educational expectations are higher:  “Among the poorest 25 percent of young people, only 11 percent of high school seniors in 2004 said they did not expect to complete high school, compared with more than a third of the poorest students in 1972.”


U.S. college edge is shrinking

The U.S. leads the world in college-educated workers, but competitors are catching up, according to an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development study of developed countries. The U.S. is the only G-20  country in which new workers are less educated than those who are retiring, notes Ed Week‘s Inside School Research.

“It’s not that the United States is doing worse; its that other countries are starting to do what the United States has been doing for a very long time,” said Andreas Schleicher, the head of the indicators and analysis division at the OECD’s Directorate for Education.

China’s young workers are much more educated than the older generation. And there are lots of them. In 2009, 36.6 percent of the world’s new college students were Chinese; 12.9 percent were American.



Schools will be blamed for America’s slide in competitiveness, predicts Walt Gardner on Reality Check. Pressure will increase to move to the business model of education, he adds.

Corporations write curricula, train principals

Corporations aren’t writing many no-strings checks to schools. They’re helping to write curricula, design classes and train principals, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

In St. Paul and Mahtomedi, 3M has already helped schools develop science curricula and teach lessons. Cargill executives coach 11 Minneapolis charter school principals on management and business. And this school year St. Louis Park High School will ask corporations for help in designing electives.

“My concern is that many partnerships benefit the company more than the school and students,” said Susan Linn, director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a Boston advocacy nonprofit.

A look at such collaborations around the country finds IBM helping to open an inner-city public high school in September. The school will prepare graduates for entry-level technology jobs, possibly at IBM.

In Nashville, Tenn., a high school joined with a local credit union to open a student-run branch in the cafeteria, open during lunch periods to students and staff.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has asked businesses to “adopt” schools, giving both expertise and dollars.

In Minneapolis, Cargill, General Mills and Medtronic helped set up a $2.8 million, three-year leadership development program for principals. Corporate human resources executives will coach Minneapolis principals this year on management and other issues.

. . . 3M volunteers advised Mahtomedi Public Schools on an engineering curriculum this year, but the 3M Foundation’s Barbara Kaufman said the district led the curriculum conversations.

“Most of these teachers have never been in the industry … we provide the relevancy,” she said.

Education’s goal is “to create a literate population who can think critically,” not to train a workforce,  said Linn, of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.