Over the last decade, concern over our global economic status and the role of public education in preparing workers has led to a push for standards reform. Two converging reform strategies have emerged: 1) to create a voluntary system of academic standards (e.g., in math, science, English, civics) for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade, and 2) to create a voluntary system of industry skill standards that specify prerequisite skills for individuals planning to enter certain industries and occupations (e.g., electronics, health care, printing, human services).
Standards-driven reform is not without controversy. The notion of national academic standards, synonymous in many minds with federal …show more content…
The challenge facing policymakers is to determine how and to what degree academic and industry skill standards systems should be integrated. To make sound decisions, policymakers need to understand the complexities involved in standards-based reform and cross-sector collaboration.
This Policy Brief reviews the issues surrounding standards reform, with a particular eye on the use of industry standards. It discusses the history and evolution of the role of schools in worker preparation, describes types of standards currently under development, proposes ways to create a more coherent standards infrastructure, and elaborates on the tensions that must be navigated at various stages of development and implementation.
The Past: A Dual Track System
Throughout the years, school reforms have more or less paralleled fluctuations in labor market demands. During the industrial revolution at the turn of the century, for example, educational goals reflected the skills needed by the manufacturing industry: e.g., a seventh or eighth grade level of literacy