Tough Choices for Tough Times: Report of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce
December 13, 2006
National Center on Education and the Economy
In the specialized universe of blue-ribbon panel reports on reforming U.S. education, this new planet gets an honors grade. Released today by a commission chaired by Charles B. Knapp and containing such eminences as Dick Riley, John Engler, Joel Klein, Rod Paige, Tom Payzant, and Bill Brock, it's mostly the work of Marc Tucker's National Center on Education and the Economy and, loosely, the successor to that center's influential 1990 report on skills needed by the American workforce. Sixteen years later, the topic is worth revisiting. The world economy has changed dramatically and so have the challenges that the nation and its workforce face. This report does an exemplary job of displaying and explaining both the challenges and the changes that need to be made--ten big recommendations--and painting a vivid portrait of what America would look like if we actually do those things. It's no simple laundry list; the recommendations are tightly linked and closely integrated. They include developing standards, assessments, and curricula that reflect today's needs and tomorrow's requirements, and they span and amalgamate several different reform strategies, drawing the essence from each. They're big and bold. No single faction in American education will like all of them--a universal level of unhappiness is one definition of consensus--and that's why implementation is going to prove a huge challenge. But this report could turn out to be a fit successor to A Nation at Risk. You should read it. Before doing so, you might want to read what Mr. Flat-world himself, the New York Times's Thomas Friedman, has to say about it.