In recent issues we have discussed the new Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce report, Tough Choices or Tough Times, which outlines the challenges America faces as we seek to compete in the new global economy and sets forth a number of recommendations to address the challenges. The recommendations the Commission proposed are both bold and comprehensive. The report does not advocate for another new program or initiative but broad-based systemic change at all levels of government to address the problems and create a world-class system of education appropriate to compete in the 21st century. A brief summary of some of the recommendations include:
Assume that we will do the job right the first time. Develop a competency-based education system where, by the age of 16, children can transition to advanced career training and/or college programs. The current high school diploma will be replaced by the use of competency-based state board qualifying examinations.
Make much more efficient use of resources. Transforming our system of education to a competency-based system is estimated to save about $67 billion nationally. These savings can be redeployed to recruit and train top students to the teaching profession; build a high-quality early childhood education system; and give disadvantaged students the necessary resources to succeed against internationally benchmarked education standards.
Recruit from the top third of the high school graduates going to college for the next generation of teachers. Realign teacher compensation to state-based systems that reflect the compensation of professionals with similar skill sets. Also, provide teachers with new opportunities to organize and operate schools.
Develop standards, assessments and curriculum that reflect today’s needs and tomorrow’s requirements. Develop new systems of student assessment that measure 21st century competencies like creativity and innovation, facility in the use of ideas and abstractions, the self-discipline and organization needed to manage one’s work and drive it through to a successful conclusion and the ability to function well as a member of a team.
Create high performance schools and districts everywhere. Create new systems of governance, financing, organization and management for our schools.
Provide high-quality universal early childhood education. Commit the funds necessary to provide high-quality early childhood education to its 3 and 4-year-olds.
Give strong support to the students who need it the most. Abandon local funding of schools in favor of state funding to provide additional resources for schools serving high concentrations of disadvantaged students.
Enable every member of the adult workforce to get the new literacy skills. Provide every adult and young adult with the opportunity to receive the education needed to meet the standards of the new competency-based state board qualifying exams.
A thorough reading of the report suggests that the recommendations will take bold leadership and radical change to implement. This will not only impact our public policies, but our cultural and social priorities as a country. Now is a good time to begin the discussion. IBI