Tough Choices or Tough Times: The Report of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce

ISBN: 0787995983
ISBN 13: 9780787995980
By: Jossey-Bass National Center on Education and the Eco

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331 2 Educational Non Fiction Organizational Development Politics Policy Required Reading Social Social Science Teaching And Learning To Read

About this book

"Tough Choices or Tough Times" calls for first redesign of the American education system in a century. This report of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce shows how the dynamics of the global economy will lead to a steady decline in the American standard of living if this country does not undertake the first thorough overhaul of its education system in a century. It shows how our country can graduate 95% of our students (not two-thirds, as it does now) after 12 years and the majority after only 10 years of grade school. It reveals how billions of dollars can be saved by changing the way students progress through the grades and how the money saved could be used to build high quality early childhood education systems, attract the best and brightest teachers, and provide the resources for even the most disadvantaged students to reach world class standards. This hard-hitting analysis describes the kind of economy needed to sustain our current standard of living and kinds of skills and knowledge that American workers need to make that economy work. It also details the dramatic changes in governance, finance, organization, and management of the American education and training systems that are needed."Tough Choices or Tough Times" was written for anyone concerned with the future of this country and the state of our schools and our job training systems. It provides a well-researched analysis of the issues and a compelling set of proposals for changing our system of education.A "CHOICE" Outstanding Academic Title, 2007National Center in Education and the Economy (NCEE) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing young people with the world-class skills that will allow them to succeed in a global economy. The 26-member commission includes former Cabinet secretaries of labor and education, Senators, Members of Congress, school superintendents, CEOs of major firms, union leaders, and governors.

Reader's Thoughts


Excellent points made regarding education policy reform from an economic standpoint. Dramatically raising teacher salaries to draw in better applicants makes much more sense to me than what they describe as a "back-loaded system" in which pensions and benefits are provided based on seniority. Of course there ought to be a federal testing system that makes all schools accountable for their effectiveness. The writers also recommend funding each school (which in this book is now a privatized system) on a per student basis, much like a voucher system so that poor schools are no longer limited by inadequate funding from property taxes. I agree that the education system requires significant reform. However, this book lacks compromise with the current system. As is, it is highly unlikely that the federal government will ever make these changes due to the radical caliber of change they are demanding. Their arguments make sense, but such a policy should be first implemented on a state level. Although the book is presented in a manner in which the future is envisioned after implementing these changes, it is not exactly the most convincing policy recommendation.


An excellent companion to The World is Flat. It outlines, in specific steps, how change in the American education system can be enacted.

Jay Connor

I wanted to be more impressed. But this report falls into the trap of so many well meaning Government Commissions ... they see solutions from a politician's remove -- let us dictate by imposed policy rather than motivate by the clarity of a rigorous objective. In their 10 step recommendation regarding the educational system there is no assurance that the children are better off ... rather the focus is on different programs and things the adults need to do. Where is the central clarity of the measurable outcome?The Commissioners' assessment of the implications of truly global markets and our degraded educational outcomes on the US standards of living, while somewhat superseded by Friedman ("The World is Flat") and others who gave us a better narrative, is no less valid and concerning. The failure is in the prescription for change. An analogous failure can be seen in the Global Warming / Al Gore politician's view of achieving change -- a hugh and unwieldy cap-and-trade imposition specifically focused on carbon -- which forces all the loggerheads regarding subsidies, off-sets and minimal movement to alternate fuel sources. Thus the central reference about whether it is meaningful to the average citizen is the price of a barrel of oil versus the environmental outcome to be achieved. And another 25 years have gone by.Having said this, there is little in their recommendations that I would disagree with on their face. Rather, I see a risk of the continuation of the disconnect of the policy act and a means of assuring ourselves that we are going to achieve the desired state. Most profound element of "fuzzy thinking" in these political fixes are the the core assumptions made. If we don't hold the focus on the outcome desired, we are led into many cul-de-sacs of well meaning recommendations. For instance, the recommendation for higher teacher pay. Probably a correct assertion, but at the present state of knowledge of what improves the classroom outcome for ALL children; it is surely not the causal fix the Commissioners assume. Our educational research has lagged so far behind achieving solutions that we really don't know what "truly effective" teaching (read: all our kids succeed) looks like. Therefore simply paying teachers more to attract higher quality can be a profound waste. Our Investment Banks pay top dollar -- and are we better off for it? The recommendation has as much chance of impact as paying priests more so that more of us might go to heaven. Here's another example: The Commission's call for universal early childhood education. This could be a powerful tool if we have clarity as what is the desired change state to be achieved; how it will be measured and how we will hold ourselves accountable for its achievement. I, unfortunately, have worked in many communities with near universal pre-school and yet still only a third of those children are ready to succeed in kindergarten and less then 2/3s of these children are able to read at a basic level by the time they reach the Third Grade. As with the other recommendations, where we have already spent Billions of Dollars on activities, the core consideration must be: Universal Early Childhood Education is only valuable to the degree that it demonstrates improved outcomes for our children. And the Commission falls short of that degree of rigor for any of their recommendations. Don't our children deserve more?


It is not that I dismiss every idea presented in this book, but, quite honestly, there were many parts that I found it entirely contrived and rather silly. I realize that this was not written for an academic audience, but there's a line between "accessible" and "insulting the reader" that this crossed.And anything that seems like it shares a view with Thomas Friedman goes in my burn pile. (Speaking of crossing lines and insulting readers... )Dan just heard the title and asked, "So is it about a future when we have to start eating orphans?" Yes, Dan. Yes it is.

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