Friday, December 15, 2006

Renewed Call for Education Reform

Click the link above for the article. Here are the highlighted proposals from the report by the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce:

*Offer universal pre-kindergarten programs and opportunities for continuing education for adults without high school diplomas.

*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. The report estimates this would eventually add up to $67 billion in savings that could be reallocated elsewhere. (though in the transition period, "significant but feasible costs would be necessary").

Adults, too, would get access to the education needed to pass the new state board exams, and the commission suggests creating "personal competitiveness accounts" - created at birth and added to over time - that would help pay for continuing education throughout an individual's work life.

*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.

*Create curriculums that emphasize creativity and abstract concepts over rote learning or mastery of facts.

*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.

Much like with health care, it has come time to realize band-aid reforms to education aren't enough to fix the overriding problems. The report makes clear these are broad proposals meant mostly to stimulate debate, but I like most of them. Many in the business community actually want universal pre-k because studies have shown it increases the competitiveness of the workforce, and we need better cirricumlums that would increase more effectively the average education level on not just math and science, but also literature and history. An exam allowing me to go to college at 16 certainly would have saved me, and many others, those last two wasted years in high school. And ending the local school finance system is a must for ending the rampant inequality of schools in poor districts (as we see here in Texas).

Anyway, I strongly recommend reading the article and getting this dialogue started again.

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