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Radical thinking on education from the USA

14 Mar

Certainly education issues have dominated my blog lately. The Doctor Donnelly series attracted a comment yesterday from an old colleague, Ken Watson, possibly, from Dr D’s perspective, a bit like a comment from Beelzebub… 😉

Perhaps I should revert to less controversial topics, like religion: why, for example, the current Pope is rushing backwards to the Council of Trent. Or politics: why Tony Abbott is such a poor advertisement for Christian charity.

But education it is again today. Education Week (USA) emailed thus this morning:

In today’s increasingly competitive world, even high-skilled workers in the United States are competing against equally skilled, equally well-educated workers from other countries. And many of those workers from other countries are willing to earn lower salaries than what is typically paid for similar jobs in the United States.

A growing chorus of economists, politicians, and educators now argue that for the U.S. to maintain its standard of living, it will have to keep a razor-sharp technological edge and produce workers who have both much higher levels of academic knowledge than they do now and a deep vein of creativity that enables them to keep generating innovative products and services.

To reach this goal, some are calling for a top-to-bottom overhaul of the U.S. education and training system. The “Tough Choices or Tough Times” report by the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, for one, has proposed that teachers be employed by states rather than districts; education be financed by states rather than local communities; teenagers be allowed to take exams at age 16 that let them enroll immediately in community or technical colleges; and high-quality early education be made available to all 4-year-olds and to all 3-year-olds from low-income families.

Is such an overhaul necessary? Are we really losing our competitive edge? And how should schools be changing to face the economic challenges of the future?

I was invited to a live forum on this, though I will pass.

However, the material the email points to is quite fascinating. See U.S. Urged to Reinvent Its Schools.

A report calling for a top-to-bottom overhaul of the U.S. education and training system to help Americans compete in a global economy drew lavish praise and sharp criticism last week, foreshadowing what a heavy political lift its recommendations would likely be to carry out.

Titled “Tough Choices or Tough Times,” the report was unveiled at an all-day meeting here Dec. 14 by a prominent panel whose members include former U.S. secretaries of education and labor, retired governors and mayors, state and local superintendents, and business executives.

Its vision for what’s ailing American education and how to fix it takes on virtually every sacred cow and special-interest group in the system.

Among its proposals: Teachers employed by states rather than districts. State, not local, financing of education. Schools no longer run by districts but by independent contractors. Teenagers who take exams at age 16 that let them enroll immediately in community or technical colleges. High-quality early education available to all 4-year-olds and to all 3-year-olds from low-income families.

For more, see Tough Choices or Tough Times.

Agenda for an Overhaul

“Tough Choices or Tough Times” proposes sweeping changes in the U.S. education system.

— End high school sooner for most students: Expect most 10th graders to pass new state exams that would let them leave high school and enter community colleges directly without remediation. High-scoring students could stay in high school for advanced coursework to prepare for admission to selective colleges.
— Invest in early-childhood education: Make high-quality early-childhood education available to all 4-year-olds and all low-income 3-year-olds.
— Recruit better students to be teachers: Raise pay for novice teachers and those at the top of redesigned career ladders. Have teachers work directly for states. Link compensation in part to student performance and offer incentives for teachers who work in shortage fields and hard-to-staff urban and rural areas.
— Put schools under performance contracts: Shift the role of school districts from one of running public schools to that of contracting with outside operators to do so. Let students choose among schools, which would be affiliated with state-approved networks that provide professional development and other forms of help.
— Rebuild standards, assessments, and curriculum: Improve the quality and reduce the number of assessments. Preface syllabus-based high school exams with national literacy and math tests in the lower grades. Promote creativity and innovation in addition to mastery of key ideas, core facts, and procedures.
— Make school funding more equitable: Fund schools directly by the state under a formula that gives more money for students with greater needs. Add $19 billion to the system and provide extra help—such as an extended school day, tutoring, and mentoring—so disadvantaged youngsters can meet higher standards.
— Support lifelong learning: Guarantee all workers age 16 or older access to a free education up to the new high school exam standard. Also, start federally financed education accounts for every child, depositing $500 at birth and $100 each year until age 16. Individuals, parents, states, and employers could contribute.
— Create regional economic-development authorities: Have the federal government support states and localities in setting up authorities that combine economic development, adult education, and job training.



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Posted by on March 14, 2007 in Education, Tony Abbott

 

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