NEWSMAKERS: William Brock
July 6, 2008 | Former Labor Secretary William Brock leads the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, created to report on the state of U.S. education.
How can we fix American education?
First, we have to agree that we have a problem. In the last 25 years, spending has risen 240% while performance has barely changed. Only 68% of students graduate from high school, and many states require only eighth-grade skills in reading and math to get a diploma. We need to start with better early-childhood education. We need the very best among us to become teachers, and we need to ensure that standardized tests of rote knowledge don’t drive education away from the very things that have made America special: critical thinking, creativity, innovation, and teamwork.
You’ve said publicly that we are failing our teachers. How?
We recruit new teachers largely from the bottom 30% of entering college students, train them, and then assign them to the toughest jobs in the most challenging schools with very low pay. When the results fall short, we tell them, “You just have to work harder.” Most feel that they have no voice in their schools. This is no way to treat professionals.
Why isn’t education a bigger political issue?
Primarily because there is no quick fix. It’s complex. Perhaps most of all, no one really wants to admit that we are leaving millions of children behind. Education is the key to better jobs, higher incomes, and greater growth in what has become an extremely competitive global economy. Nothing is more important than education.
A TEN STEP plan for REINVENTING US EDUCATION
S T E P 1 :
Assume that we will do the job right
the first time
S T E P 2 :
Make much more efficient use of the
S T E P 3 :
Recruit from the top third of the high
school graduates going on to college for
the next generation of school teachers
S T E P 4 :
Develop standards, assessments, and
curriculum that reflect today’s needs and
S T E P 5 :
Create high performance schools and
districts everywhere — how the system
should be governed, financed, organized,
Provide high-quality, universal early
S T E P 7 :
Give strong support to the students who
need it the most
S T E P 8 :
Enable every member of the adult
workforce to get the new literacy skills
S T E P 9 :
Create personal competitiveness accounts
— a GI Bill for our times
S T E P 10 :
Create regional competitiveness authorities
to make America competitive