It’s been 30 years, and WE’RE STILL WAITING!!
In 1983, President Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education published a report entitled “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform.”
Among other things, the report contributed to the ever-growing (and still present) sense that American schools are failing, and it touched off a wave of local, state, and federal reform efforts.
This motivated me to leave the “corporate world” in 1990 and focus on “Critical Skills.” It led to the research and published reports mentioned elsewhere in this blog and articulated as the “Critical Skills;” It led to the creation of work-based learning programs and management systems (Coop2000®), project-based learning programs (Field Studies), and service learning programs (Community Service 2000). These programs were featured in the US Department of Labor’s publication, “Teaching the SCANS Competencies.”
In 1992, President Bush’s Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills published a report entitled “Learning a Living: A Blueprint for High Performance” as well as the publication “Teaching the SCANS Competencies.” The effort articulated three fundamental skills as well as five competencies.
These reports ultimately led to the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994.
School-to-Work was an excellent program designed to provide “seed money” funding for schools to set up programs that would enable them to teach “skills” – mainly through (but not limited to) work-based learning activities.
Sadly, however, thanks to the efforts of highly conservative organizations such as the Eagle Forum, the program was ultimately defunded and many of the excellent programs established through the Act withered and died.
The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 focused on holding schools responsible for meeting standards based on the premise that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education. The progress/performance of schools was measured through standardized testing. The NCLB Act made no provisions to require schools to teach or measure “skills.”
Since 2001 there have been several studies and reports articulating the need for skills and competencies to meet the needs of an ever-changing workforce. Such studies were conducted both in the United States and overseas, and include:
- APA Organizational Center for Excellence – Critical skills needs and resources for the changing workforce: Keeping skills competitive
- Solutions – Workplace Skills You Need Most
- 21st Century Competencies and their Impact – An Interdisciplinary Literature Review by David Finegold and Alexis Spencer Notabartolo
- Society for Human Resource Management – Critical Skills for the Changing Workforce (Full Report)
- Society for Human Resource Management – Critical Skills for the Changing Workforce (Condensed Summary)
- National Employer Skills Survey for England 2009 Key findings 2000
Reading these reports, you will obviously conclude that nothing much has changed regarding the fundamental “Critical Skills” needed to compete in the world economy of today. Certainly the “Technical Skills” or “Core Competencies” have changed with the times, but the requirements of Communications skills, Problem Solving skills (Analytical/Information), Teamwork, and the like have remained the same.
So – WAKE UP AMERICA! It’s time to stop studying and start developing skills!