the Economics of Education and Reform—building stronger and more responsive partnerships (Hanushek, 1994). The chapter examines the role of partnerships in the context of what is known about relationships among the community, families, and schools in determining the educational outcomes and economic prospects of children. We first discuss evidence of the failure of the current system and its largely informal partnerships to successfully meet the educational needs of young people. The social policy issues are then framed in the context of a general model of the causes and consequences of various child outcomes. The third section describes trends in schools, families, and communities that are relevant to child outcomes and discusses policy options for mitigating those circumstances that adversely affect the chances that children will experience success in school and beyond. The final section reflects on a variety of strategies for building on the strengths of various partnerships in the education process.
By some measures, the American education system is holding its own. For example, dropout rates have stabilized and measured skills of graduates have remained fairly constant. By other measures, though, the system is failing not only the children it serves but also society at large. Most notably, the employment productivity (measured by real wages) of the majority of youth coming out of schools today is falling. Youth also are experiencing higher rates of single parenthood, divorce, poverty and welfare dependence, and crimes against them.
In the aggregate, school performance has continued to improve with respect to some objectives—enrolling more children, keeping youths in school through the full 12 years of program study, and preparing young people for postsecondary education and training options. School participation rates have continued to rise, dropout rates have fallen, Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) scores have remained stable (controlling for demographic shifts in the test-taking population), and increasing numbers of young people are enrolling in postsecondary education or training.
Our country's school system also has succeeded in extending the formal education process to younger ages for increasing numbers of children. Whereas in 1970 only 38 percent of 3 to 5 year olds were enrolled in preschool programs, by 1990 the figure had increased to nearly 60 percent (Table 8.1). In part, this trend is accounted for by the rapid rise in labor force participation of women with young children (Hayes et al., 1990; Zill and Nord, 1994). It also reflects expansions in Head Start and pre-K programs intended as "jump-start" initiatives for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The proportion of 14 to 17 year olds enrolled in school has remained fairly stable over this period, in the range of 90 to 94 percent (Table 8.1). However, increasing proportions of young people are completing high school by the time