would be offered the opportunity ''to participate in a performance-based education and training program that will … (i) enable [them] to earn portable credentials; (ii) prepare [them] for first jobs in high-skill, high-wage careers; and (iii) increase their opportunities for further education, including education in a 4-year college or university" (20 U.S.C.A. §6102 (1)).
The act's intended consequences for the future of American students go beyond preparing them for entry-level positions or facilitating postsecondary education. Congress clearly intended long-term results to facilitate opportunity for students throughout their working lives:
The purposes of this Chapter are to facilitate the creation of a universal, high quality school-to-work transition system that enables youths in the United States to identify and navigate paths to productive and progressively more rewarding roles in the workplace. … (20 U.S.C.A. §6102 (2))
For purposes of this paper, the most significant aspect of the breadth of the act's scope is that it envisions having an impact on students who have thus far not been reached by existing job training or education reform legislation; it would do this by providing the means for including in its proposed vision people who had historically been excluded from educational and economic opportunities. This would be done by reaching out to school dropouts and low-achieving and disabled youths (those who have traditionally been prime candidates for dropping out). The act also seeks to include those whose lack of access to equal employment opportunity is due to discrimination in employment: "The purposes of this chapter are … to increase opportunities for minorities, women, and individuals with disabilities, by enabling individuals to prepare for careers that are not traditional for their race, gender, or disability (20 U.S.C.A. §6102 (13)).
Given the broad scope of the act's goals and its mandate to those seeking to participate in the program it establishes, the success of the act will be judged in large part by the degree to which the work force of the twenty-first century more closely resembles the nation's population. Because the focus of the act is on changing the content of American education and facilitating the transition from schoolyard to workplace, assessment of student performance will assume even greater importance. Although academic success has always had an impact on later opportunities in life, the greater link between schools and the working world that the act seeks to accomplish raises the stakes for all involved. Given the potential impact of programs spawned by the act, it is particularly important that very careful consideration be given to the way that programs are implemented.
Implicit in the discussion of raised educational standards and increased employment opportunities are questions about the methods by which students will be evaluated and the effects that this evaluation process will have on determining which students receive the opportunities envisioned in the act. Also implicit is the issue of who will be responsible for shaping the curriculum that students receive. The legislation is significant in that it redefines to some extent the role of schools and the educational structure that supports them in determining what it