The 1983 Nation at Risk report shook the education superstructure. It resonated throughout the nation and forced folk to take an introspective look … and Al Shanker, the leader of the American Federation of Teachers was an outspoken supporter.
The “Tough Choices, Tough Times,” report by the Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce gets off to a good start. What will the future of the American workforce look like? The United States, a nation providing the “creative work,” while the rest of the world providing the “routine work” done by men or machines? Those of us of a certain age have yellowed copies of Alvin Tofler’s work on our bookshelves: leafing through it we see that futurists had their hits and their misses … and I look forward to the panels on CSPAN.
The recommendation section of the Report is disappointing, especially those dealing with schools. It is not surprising that the national teacher’s union, the AFT skewers the Report while the NYSun gives it torah-like attributes.
From this blogger: 1. Is school structures the answer? Those of us who toil in the trenches know that structure: K-5, K-8, 6-8, 6-12, 9-12 and on and on don’t change what happens within the classroom. 2. Recruiting the “best and the brightest” is fine, keeping them is the issue. Teach for America and the Chancellor’s Fellows Program select teachers through a rigorous process – just the type of teacher we want – and they leave at a higher rate than the teachers in general. And, salary is not the primary reason. Lack of administrative support, student discipline, pressure, the bottom line: it’s a really, really, hard job!!! 3. Reducing health and pension benefits and using the savings to increase salaries!! I’m trying to think of a polite term: how about, this is a really dumb idea!! Would you “trade” a 10-15% increase in salary for sharp reductions in health benefits and no pension … have they asked prospective teachers? It would achieve the opposite purpose!! Teacher mobility drops after five years and continues to drop as teachers commitment to the job, both emotionally and economically increase – their pension grows in value. The Report recommendations would result in “encouraging” teachers to move on to a “real job.” This recommendation is antithetical to the goal of the Report.
The cultural realities of the first decade of the 21st century is a much more mobile workforce. Job satisfaction is the key to retention and that means a highly collaborative worksite. The recent 90-90-90 Study points to a collaborative climate as a key to high pupil achievement in high poverty schools. Many of the other “steps” are restatements of what we all know and support: high quality universal childhood education, equitable funding to provide additional funding to schools with disadvantaged students, a GI Bill for our times and government funded job training programs.
I find the Report tinged with arrogance. The Report admits it is “easier to implement changes with strong union support,” why would a union support this Report, especially when it’s members will be offended by it?
We await “the” Report that sets forth a national strategy this is collaborative rather than edicts from the mount.