The central idea of all five reports is that ambitious goals that the USA educational system sets for itself require correspondent ambitious efforts but for the moment, the situation is far from acceptable. In particular, the tests system is not well-adjusted to the standards, and often even to the curriculum. The reform movement can be successful only if policymakers and educators take into consideration the larger societal context and the environment in which change is to be implemented. At the same time, changing curriculum in frames of the reform has a too heterogeneous character and solutions are often patchwork – for example, no attention is paid to preparing teachers for work in new conditions. The best solutions are customized ones, fitting best with the culture of each specific school and community.
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In the US labor market, an employment structure is characteristic of a post-industrial society. This fact should be taken into account in the process of planning and implementing high school reform. The main issue in this regard is not so much the content of a high school education, but the necessity to bring to the attention of policymakers and educators the array, or matrix of facts and prospects concerning present and future requirements of labor market. In turn, these requirements can be understood in dialogue with employers, with the aim to reveal their opinion about necessary knowledge, skills, and competencies of employees.
The report One-Third of a Nation: Rising Dropout Rates and Declining Opportunities claims that one-third of American nation do not complete high school. The fact is this situation has become worse in most states recently. At the same time, there are factors that closely (directly or indirectly) influence negatively the rates of students’ dropping out of school. Accordingly, there is evident need to align higher expectations for student performance, to greater efforts in helping getting students to get through to graduation, opening individualized options for more educational opportunities or decent jobs. For students who still experienced dropping out, a system of the ‘second chance” should be created.
The conclusions and recommendations of all the reports seem to be very relevant in the situation, which shaped today in American high education system. Unequal access to education is due to social problems, racial contradictions and other factors, a drop in student performance. Other factors include poor compliance of school programs with labor market requirements in the post-industrial digital economy, too many levels of state initiatives in shaping school programs and the resulting heterogeneity in the national quality of student preparation. All this represent the components of the modern landscape of high education in the USA. Most of the reports agree on the conclusion that it is necessary to take into account factors affecting student performance, while at the same time not offering any ‘template’ solutions, but to carry out the necessary customization, considering the situation in each particular school and community. All the reports stress the necessity to align high education standards and teaching practices with the requirements of labor market. The analyses presented in all the reports resonate to a great extent.
The round of reforming and modernizing the US education system from the beginning of the 1980s to the present is a pressing problem of the US federal government. It reflects the fact of the fundamental inability of the existing education system to prepare the necessary number of high-quality specialists. All attempts encounter a number of insurmountable obstacles of an ideological, constitutional, and educational nature. In particular, this is due to the fact that the responsibility for managing education was initially assigned to the states government and personally to the states governors. Hence, there is traditional discrepancy in the level of training of high schools graduates.
Meanwhile, the provision on lifelong education throughout life has become dominant today. In the digital economy of today, almost every workplace requires a higher level of education than a regular high school can provide. Those who rely only on their matriculation certificate are doomed to a drop in earnings. However, striving for life-long learning is not implanted in students of high schools in the USA, and it is the biggest problem. All the reports are relevant and provide well-structured analysis of the situation. However, unfortunately, they do not provide any ‘roadmaps’ with the breakdown of steps to be taken. Thus, the reports can be considered as an attempt to bring attention of regulators and educators to the existing problems in the USA high education system, in particular the problem that the goal of No Child Left Behind Act was not achieved ‑ by 2014, 100% of schoolchildren should have met educational standards. In general, the idea of the government was not bad in theory: pulling up weak students and “school competition” could well have a positive effect on education in the country, but in practice many shortcomings of the program were revealed. The educational process has become, in many ways, aimed at the successful writing of tests, and not the development of the child as a truly competitive specialist in postindustrial economy.
The need to strengthen the relationship between high educational training and vocational training is obvious. This requires large-scale sociology research, in accordance of directions highlighted in the reports under consideration, with subsequent drawing of specific recommendations and scenarios, aligned with highly turbulent environment of labor market and economy. The mission of the Department of Education should be effective internal and external stakeholder management – this will allow balancing in the best way the interests of students, teachers, employers, and society as a whole.
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Barton, Paul E. “High School Reform and Work: Facing Labor Market Realities.” ETS Policy Information Center Report, 2006. Web.
—. “Facing the Hard Facts in Education Reform.” ETS Policy Information Center Report, 2001. Web.
—. “One-Third of a Nation: Rising Dropout Rates and Declining Opportunities.” ETS Policy Information Center Report, 2005. Web.
—. “The Closing of the Education Frontier?” ETS Policy Information Center Report, 2002. Web.
Sum, Andrew M., et al. “The Twin Challenges of Mediocrity and Inequality: Literacy in the U.S. from and International Perspective.” ETS Policy Information Center Report, 2002. Web.