This is being equated by some to A Nation at Risk. This report may or may not have seismic potential though. We'll see. It costs $19.95 and may be purchased at this link. Check out here Jay Mathews' analysis of this report in the 12-26-06 issue of the WASHINGTON POST. Also check out this report by Lynn Olsn titled, "U.S. Urged to Reinvent Its Schools," appearing in the 12-20-06 issue of Ed Week.
I agree that the most problematic recommendation is creating to tracks or classes of high s students at age 16. Low achievers (based on standardized test scores) would head to community college or trade schools while their higher achieving counterparts will go on a path toward selective colleges after finishing high school.
Of course, we can already predict the types of students that would head in each direction as this will be correlated with race, class, and presumably gender. Re-stratifying our country according to these lines is no solution.
December 15, 2006
Expert Panel Proposes Far-Reaching Redesign of the American Education System
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
Warning that Americans face a grave risk of losing their prosperity and high quality of life to better educated workers overseas, a panel of education, labor and other public policy experts yesterday proposed a far-reaching redesign of the United States education system that would include having schools operated by independent contractors and giving states, rather than local districts, control over school financing.
The panel, the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, included two former federal education secretaries, Rod Paige, a Republican, and Richard W. Riley, a Democrat; two former labor secretaries, William E. Brock, a Republican, and Ray Marshall, a Democrat; and an array of other luminaries, including former Gov. John Engler of Michigan, and the New York City schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein.
The commission’s report, released at a news conference in Washington, rethinks American schooling from top to bottom, going beyond the achievement goals of the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind, and farther than many initiatives being pursued by the Bush administration or by experimental state and local school authorities. Among other things, the report proposes starting school for most children at age 3, and requiring all students to pass board exams to graduate from high school, which for many would end after 10th grade. Students could then go to a community or technical college, or spend two years preparing for selective colleges and universities.
“We have run out the string on a whole series of initiatives that were viewed as hopeful,” said Lewis H. Spence, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services and a member of the panel. “This puts a whole new set of ideas on the table.”
Mr. Spence, a former deputy schools chancellor in New York City, and other commission members acknowledged that enacting the proposals would be difficult, requiring legislation in all states and the cooperation of the federal government. Some, like one for merit pay for teachers, would require renegotiating teacher contracts nationwide and persuading local school boards to relinquish authority and take a new role enforcing performance contracts with schools.
“You can’t implement something like this overnight,” said Mr. Klein, who had been scheduled to appear at yesterday’s news conference with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, but whose flights were grounded by thick fog in Washington. Mr. Klein strongly applauded the commission’s proposals, and pointed to many efforts in New York — including sharp increases in teacher pay, a new master-teacher career step; increased roles for private groups in running public schools and performance agreements signed by 331 principals in exchange for greater freedom from superintendents — as examples of how some of the commission’s goals could begin to be accomplished. “We need to think big,” he said.
The commission’s work was quickly hailed by some as a potentially groundbreaking document. “This report has the potential to change the debate on education at the national level,” said Jack Jennings, the president of the Center on Education Policy, who is a Democrat and prominent expert on the federal education law.
The national teachers’ unions were apprehensive. Antonia Cortese, executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the proposals included “some seriously flawed ideas with faddish allure that won’t produce better academic results.” Reg Weaver, the president of the National Education Association, urged “caution in calling for drastic changes.”
The commission was organized by the National Center on Education and the Economy, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group based in Washington, and partly financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. The center organized a similar commission that issued a similar report 16 years ago. Marc S. Tucker, the group’s president, said globalization had created new urgency. “There is this growing mismatch between the demands of the economy and what our schools are supplying,” Mr. Tucker said.
In its report, the commission warned of dire consequences should the country not adopt a strikingly bold approach. “If we continue on our current course, and the number of nations outpacing us in the education race continues to grow at its current rate,” it said, “the American standard of living will steadily fall relative to those nations, rich and poor, that are doing a better job.”
“If the gap gets to a certain but unknowable point,” the report said, “the world’s investors will conclude that they can get a greater return on their funds elsewhere, and it will be almost impossible to reverse course.”
Paul Romer, an economist at Stanford University, said that some of the fears about competition with India and China might be overblown but that the education system still needed improvement. He said the current effort was driven by improvements in technology, much as advances in the early 20th century led to universal high school.
“High productivity investments in education are one of the most universally supported and effective policies that governments have ever undertaken,” Mr. Romer said. “The left and the right are both on board for high payoffs in education.”
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company