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CHAPTER 3 29 Producing High- Duality Graduates THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER DESCRIBES THE basic competencies that the panel believes to be essential for high school graduates to compete successfully in the changing job market. In the panel's opinion, education that falls significantly short of these competencies does not provide an ade- quate foundation for successful and satisfying careers. These competencies are not new ideas. They are familiar, even old fashioned; indeed, many educators may feel that they form the core of high school curricula already. In many schools, that is true. However, from the employers' perspective, the fact is that too many graduates leave high school without an adequate command of these competencies— an assertion that has been amply documented by the numerous reports on American education issued in the past two years.1 If these core competencies already are the central objectives of many high school curricula, then something is slipping through the education- al process. The panel has not identified the precise causes of such shortcomings, but does emphasize that they do not lie simply with educators. The problems, and the responsibility for their solution, must be shared by parents, students, school boards, legislators, governmental administrators, employers, and the community. Unfortunately, shared responsibility and authority in the typical school district make it difficult to achieve and to maintain constructive change. Too often, no one has the final responsibility. Constructive change, on the scale dictated by the vast size of the nation's educational system, will not come easily, but the necessary improvements can be made eventually if all of those concerned with education, including parents, governments, and employers, make a concerted, dedicated, and coherent effort.

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30 HIGH SCHOOLS AND THE CHANGING WORKPLACE The panel did not delineate the specific actions to be taken by different groups to improve education. But it did agree on the basic goals and attitudes that must inform those actions if high school graduates enter- ing the work force are to be well prepared. Employers Employers, large and small, can play several roles. First, and perhaps most important, they can make a continuing effort to convince teachers and school administrators that the standards and expectations of private and public employers are reasonable, necessary, attainable, and, in fact, essential to the health of the national economy and the financial security and living standards of every citizen. Further, employers should assist schools in the critically important task of advising young people about the possibilities available to them in their future careers. Career guidance programs can be more successful if employers and counselors will work together to deliver sound informa- tion to students. In short, employers should convey to high school facul- ties and to students more complete information about job opportunities that are and will be available in their communities and about the expectations of employers. Employers also should assist students in navigating the passage be- tween school and work. A study by the Colorado Department of Educa- tion found, for example, that a number of employers rejected 60 percent of young job applicants because of the latter's unfamiliarity with the mechanics of job-seeking. They filled out applications incorrectly, acted awkwardly or inappropriately at interviews, and misinterpreted or mis- understood employer needs. That finding confirms the experience of the employer members of the panel. In an important sense, work is a foreign culture to many young people. Concrete advice from those responsible for hiring should help students to become familiar with hiring procedures before they spoil their chances of getting a job. It is the responsibility of employers to help reduce the mystery of job-seeking. Summer and after-school jobs offer an excellent opportunity for em- ployers to impart their standards and expectations to students. While technological changes have eliminated some of these jobs, in numerous communities there are renewed efforts by schools and employers to provide part-time work experiences for more students. Such programs can be both socially and economically beneficial. Other productive roles for employers include:

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PRODUCING HIGH-QUALITY GRADUATES 31 • Working closely with local and state school boards to increase com- munity support and involvement • Providing effective business management techniques to assist the school system and to support locally established programs and acti- vities • Working with teachers and administrators to develop new programs and learning materials that demonstrate the application of class- room subjects to a working environment • Donating equipment, instructional materials, and the time of knowledgeable personnel. Finally, employers can help school systems to meet higher standards (including employer expectations) through financial assistance and po- litical support for adequate budgets. Local people can determine best what form local partnerships should take; again, the panel has not sought to suggest specific methods for implementing its findings. It believes that the most fruitful approaches emerge when various ele- ments of the community talk to one another.* Citizens who serve on school boards are the protectors of the public's School Boards interest in the preparation of young people for citizenship, work, and further study. Boards, and the senior administrators they employ, should determine the environments in which children learn best, and *The panel is aware of many vigorous school-business programs under way. For example, the California Roundtable, an organization of the chief executive officers of 88 major corporations in the state, has made education a priority issue and has been extremely vigorous both in its analysis of existing problems and in its programs for improving community involvement in the school system.2 A similar activity by the Washington State Roundtable is also taking place. The educational community has moved to strengthen its communications with busi- ness. For example, the National Association of Secondary School Principals has outlined the basic elements of school-business partnerships.3 Comparable examinations have been made by the Education Commission of the States, the National Commission for Employment Policy, the U.S. Chamber of Com- merce, and by many local groups, such as the Greater Wilmington Development Council in Delaware. The list is long and growing. The panel supports vigorously the expansion of these efforts.

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32 HIGH SCHOOLS AND THE CHANGING WORKPLACE work to create and maintain them in their schools. The school boards' responsibilities are to determine the policy, governance, personnel, fi- nancial resources, and facilities needed to implement a successful educa- tional program. Of primary importance is the need to set achievement standards for students. Administrators and teachers must be held accountable for providing programs that can bring students to such standards. In some systems, staying within the budget and satisfying governmen- tal requirements become the prime measures of administrators' per- formances, with effective curricula and their implementation third. These, the panel suggests, are misplaced emphases. Finally, board members should insist that programs of study include exposure to the world of work. The boards should enforce high standards of accountability when schools offer programs intended to prepare stu- dents for specific jobs or kinds of jobs. Such programs should be reviewed collaboratively by school leaders and representatives of the industries that are expected to hire graduates. Programs ought to come into being only when documented needs exist, and their leaders should justify their continuation regularly by showing that graduates gain jobs in their fields of preparation. In all instances, board members ought to insist that occupational programs meet standards similar to those for college preparatory programs or the core competencies. Schools The panel believes that the basic responsibility of schools is to equip students with the core competencies requisite to lifelong learning. A second important responsibility of the schools is to make young people aware of the possibilities and challenges of their future careers. Career guidance should go beyond merely providing information on specific jobs or industries quite late in a student's school career. Guidance should include academic, social, and personal concerns as well as the cultivation of attitudes and habits conducive to success in the world of work. Stu- dents need to understand the work ethic—that work is a central reality of life—one that, in addition to providing income, can pay well in satisfac- tion and self-esteem. Schools also ought to teach students that mature citizenship entails responsible choices and that not all choices are easy or fun. Choices imply commitments and "trade-offs." Students who have learned to choose with an awareness of the implications involved are on their way to mastering the essential skills required for success in most work.

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PRODUCING HIGH-QUALITY GRADUATES Parents, who shape young people's motivations and values, must reas- sert their convictions that education and productive work are central components of a satisfying life. They must insist upon, and support fully, efforts to achieve high-quality education for their children. They need to help their children to develop ambitious and realistic career aspirations and work with them in exploring opportunities for achieving those ambitions. In the course of its study, the panel has been reminded more than once that successful school systems invariably are parts of successful com- munities; that is, communities in which parents contribute positive expectations, values, personal standards, and a sense of discipline both to their children and to the local school system. Parents Students must prepare for a lifetime of learning by mastering the core competencies to the best of their ability. Young people are ultimately responsible for realizing their aspirations. By that token, they must investigate career possibilities actively, make full use of their school years, and strive to develop habits of self-reliance, self-respect, and self-discipline that are basic to success in work as well as in all aspects of their future lives. Students Government at all levels must support adequately the efforts suggested herein. Although public funds for education have not been abundant in recent years, the panel believes that the American people will pay for high-quality education when and if they are convinced that their chil- dren are receiving it. The federal government can contribute by supporting teacher train- ing, curricula development, and experimental teaching programs. State and local governments can be powerful forces in facilitating cooperative efforts within communities. Elected officials at all levels can spark citizen involvement in better education, assess local needs and the finan- cial resources needed, and provide the political support that is necessary to raise the quality of high school graduates. Government No element of our society can attain by itself the goal of better prepara- tion of high school graduates for work. This country is a patchwork of urban, suburban, and rural communities, each with its own particular Community Cooperation

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34 HIGH SCHOOLS AND THE CHANGING WORKPLACE resources and economic realities. Therefore, the fostering of educational excellence that will provide the foundation for successful, satisfying careers must come from optimum community cooperation. The panel urges that educators, school boards, employers, parents, students, com- munity groups, and governmental officials work together to strengthen the bridges between school and the workplace. These partnerships, together with clear goals, are essential. Summing Up Finally, the panel comes back to its goals and its conclusion. Its purpose was to provide employers' views of the education needed by high school graduates seeking rewarding and upwardly mobile careers. It concluded that core competencies are the indispensable elements of such education—a set of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and habits that will prepare high school graduates to continue learning throughout their lifetimes, to adapt to inexorable changes in the workplace, and, if de- sired, to further their formal education. References See, for example, the National Science Board Commission on Precollege Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology, Educating Americans for the 21st Century, Washington, D.C.: National Science Foundation, September 1983; Hon. James B. Hunt, Jr. et al., Action for Excellence, Denver: Task Force on Education for Economic Growth, Education Commission of the States, June 1983; and the National Academy of Sciences/National Academy of Engineering National Convocation on Precollege Education in Mathematics and Science, Science and Mathematics in the Schools: Report of a Convocation, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1982. The California Roundtable. Improving Student Performance in California. 1984. Santee C. Ruffin, Jr. School-Business Partnerships: Why Not? Reston, Virginia: National Association of Secondary School Principals, 1983.