10— What Policy Makers and Experts See (and Do Not See) in School-to-Work Transitions

Larry Cuban

Introduction

Few social scientists would challenge the statement that how public policy problems are framed has a great deal to do with setting the agenda for subsequent debate and which solutions policy makers ultimately adopt. Nor would many social scientists challenge the claim that who defines a situation as a problem has much to do with how the problem is framed. Deaths from auto accidents in this century, for example, have been largely defined by auto manufacturers, national safety coalitions, and public officials as being due to careless and drunken drivers. The problem has been framed in terms of blaming individual drivers, and policy solutions have been laws punishing offenders and public campaigns to educate car owners to drive safely. Not until the 1970s did critics of the definition of the problem of fatal auto accidents pose alternatives for policy makers to consider: unsafe car design and unsafe road engineering. In short, the power, status, expertise, and interests of problem framers have shaped policy makers' deliberations and actions. A problem, then, is socially constructed; it is not an objective rendering of a situation (Gusfield, 1981; Hilgartner and Bosk, 1988).

Nothing new here, yet I raise this issue of how problems are defined and who does the framing because, again, another new federal program—school-to-work transition—has been displayed as a reform (or solution) to a problem defined by policy makers and experts. While the immediate context for the papers in this volume is the matter of how best to assess school-to-work transition, the bulk of the papers' descriptions, analyses of evidence, and arguments are anchored in expert-conceived definitions of problems. Current solutions to these problems, such as the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS), Goals 2000 and the School-to-Work Opportunities Act, the establishment of a



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--> 10— What Policy Makers and Experts See (and Do Not See) in School-to-Work Transitions Larry Cuban Introduction Few social scientists would challenge the statement that how public policy problems are framed has a great deal to do with setting the agenda for subsequent debate and which solutions policy makers ultimately adopt. Nor would many social scientists challenge the claim that who defines a situation as a problem has much to do with how the problem is framed. Deaths from auto accidents in this century, for example, have been largely defined by auto manufacturers, national safety coalitions, and public officials as being due to careless and drunken drivers. The problem has been framed in terms of blaming individual drivers, and policy solutions have been laws punishing offenders and public campaigns to educate car owners to drive safely. Not until the 1970s did critics of the definition of the problem of fatal auto accidents pose alternatives for policy makers to consider: unsafe car design and unsafe road engineering. In short, the power, status, expertise, and interests of problem framers have shaped policy makers' deliberations and actions. A problem, then, is socially constructed; it is not an objective rendering of a situation (Gusfield, 1981; Hilgartner and Bosk, 1988). Nothing new here, yet I raise this issue of how problems are defined and who does the framing because, again, another new federal program—school-to-work transition—has been displayed as a reform (or solution) to a problem defined by policy makers and experts. While the immediate context for the papers in this volume is the matter of how best to assess school-to-work transition, the bulk of the papers' descriptions, analyses of evidence, and arguments are anchored in expert-conceived definitions of problems. Current solutions to these problems, such as the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS), Goals 2000 and the School-to-Work Opportunities Act, the establishment of a

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--> National Skills Standard Board, and calls for a new test-driven credential (a certificate of initial mastery) are limited by how narrowly the problems are framed (see Chapter 6, this volume). Rather than comment on the various positions taken by the writers in this volume, I will take a step back to analyze how problems are framed in these papers and who does the defining. In this analysis what will become obvious is that there are some key perspectives, or ''ways of seeing," that have become dominant in framing these youth and labor market problems and that other perspectives, just as important, are absent from this examination of school-to-work issues, sponsored by the Board on Testing and Assessment (BOTA). Finally, I will raise two questions that have been unasked in the other papers and conference discussions: Why is the prevailing architecture of the problem framed as a "youth" problem, and why are solutions to larger economic problems often put forth as school reforms? Ways Of Seeing The School-To-Work Transition And Its Assessment Each of the papers in this volume has a "way of seeing" embedded within it. What I mean by a way of seeing is an implicit or explicit explanation of phenomena. For social scientists their ways of seeing are often anchored in disciplinary-based theories drawn from one or more academic disciplines or a combination of concepts stitched together into evidence-based arguments that explain puzzling situations. For policy makers and practitioners, ways of seeing are often implicit explanations drawn from life experiences, values, and prior academic training to make sense of the confusing array of daily signals and events they face, including linkages between school and work. Within each way of seeing, then, are often tacit formulations of the linkages between workplace and school, the problems that exist, and how they should be solved. In the papers here the ways of seeing are largely macro, top down in policy direction, and heavily influenced by the disciplinary views of economists, psychologists, and lawyers. In short, a dominant way of seeing is that of federal and state policy makers and their expert advisers. None of this, of course, should be surprising at a BOTA-sponsored meeting. Nonetheless, it may help subsequent debate about school-to-work reforms and their assessment to dredge to the surface these unarticulated assumptions about problems and solutions (with their implications for assessment) that so easily go unexamined in the policy-making world. Prevailing Ways Of Seeing Policy Makers' Perspective on School-to-Work The world of federal and state policy makers is a political one driven by voters, lobbyists, legislation, polls, and budgets. One thrives in this world by

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--> shaping the demands of competing groups into an agenda that secures notice, credit, and, of course, reelection. The policy tools available to elected officials are largely mandates and inducements—the carrot-and-stick cliché captures the limited tools that policy makers have in their repertoire. On occasion, capacity-building tools (e.g., job-training programs) are used (Elmore and McLaughlin, 1988; McDonnell, 1994). When the issue of work and schooling arises in the policy-making world, the prevailing theory in use is borrowed from economists. Human capital theory holds that investments in education and training will pay off in enhanced economic productivity and individual gains in lifetime wages and salaries. Within such a theory, building skills in current and future workers will yield higher productivity, decrease competition among unskilled workers for low-skill jobs by increasing the pool of higher-skilled employees, and eventually begin smoothing out wage differentials. Anchored in this theory is the mainstay belief that supply and demand in the labor market will take care of imbalances; that is, where shortfalls in the supply of skilled workers exist, wage increases will increase the pool of applicants with the appropriate match of skills. Educational policy makers, of course, have found this theory nicely tailored to their altruistic beliefs in the potency of continued schooling and their vested interest in expanding institutional education. Vocational education, curricula that offered cognitive and social skill development, and programs that retained students until graduation were easily rationalized as both good for society and good for individual students (see Chapter 2, this volume; Kett, 1995).1 Given the world of policy makers and the dominant theory in use, two ways of framing problems are clearly evident in the papers and conference discussions. First, workplace changes produce an initial skill deficit in youth seeking entry-level jobs, thereby causing high unemployment and a series of low-wage/low-skill jobs. This skills mismatch, as Holzer (Chapter 2, this volume) frames it, eventually corrects itself as the gaps between the skills that youth bring to employers and the available job pool inch closer together. Thus, the problem is framed as one of supply and demand that is customarily solved as market adjustments, over time, are made. Holzer argues, however, that in the short run this skills mismatch can be alleviated, in part, by upgrading educational opportunities for students to acquire skills and for providing employers with accurate and up-to-date information on applicants for entry-level jobs. 1   During the 1960s and since then, challenges to human capital theory have been made through the segmented market theory, which argued that all jobs can be divided into primary and secondary markets, with the primary market offering on-the-job opportunities for training and advancement and the secondary market being characterized by high turnover and few chances to improve skills and largely dominated by women and teenagers. While some economists advocate this theory, no mention of it occurred at the 2-day BOTA conference, and it was not mentioned by any of the authors. I spoke with two economists during the conference, and both mentioned that human capital theory is mainstream while the theory of segmented markets is "fringe."

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--> Within this supply-and-demand formulation of the problem, Zemsky (Chapter 3, this volume) elaborates the demand side of the equation with his story of an employer saying that what he wanted was a 26 year old with three previous jobs. Employers seek, according to Zemsky's survey data and focus group discussions, what schools cannot produce in an 18 year old who lacks the work experience and maturity that an older seasoned worker can offer. Zemsky argues that, with the problem framed in this manner, employer-crafted solutions include ignoring high school credentials and virtually writing off the 16to 26-year-old cohort by using trial-and-error hiring; that is, taking a few applicants, getting rid of them if they don't work out, and trying again until the 26 year old with three previous jobs comes along. A second way of framing the problem of a skills mismatch is to blame the schools. Poor academic preparation and passing students from grade to grade even if they lack basic literacy, computing, and social skills is what schools have done for years, causing the gap between less skilled youth seeking jobs that demand more than what high school graduates have to offer. In a presentation at the BOTA conference, Darvin Winick, a consultant to corporations and public officials, gave example after example of schools failing to prepare their charges for the workplace. The solution to a problem framed in this manner is to fix the schools. Assessment strategies, popular among state and federal educational policy makers, also draw heavily from the skills mismatch argument embedded in the human capital theory and from the unrelenting press of political accountability. Paper-and-pencil and newly designed performance-based tests have been used (and are being piloted—e.g., the New Standards Project) to achieve multiple (and often conflicting) goals: to diagnose the skills gap among high school youth; to predict how high school students will do in the workplace; to drive instructional practices toward state and national curricular goals; and evaluate individual student, school, district, and state academic performance (Linn, 1994; Chapter 6, this volume). Such a mixed, if not confused, strategy, forged from both political and technical goals, emerged because policy makers historically respond to critics' calls for political accountability over schooling by demanding that experts create tests that will satisfy these conflicting values. Psychometricians, seeking to respond to public officials' urgent demands for accountability without sacrificing their standards of reliability and validity, developed tests that tried to bridge these differences. A case in point is the California Learning Assessment System (CLAS), a test developed in the early 1990s that swiftly became a national model for appraising student reasoning but that subsequently disappeared. CLAS's history reveals rival political and technical claims for what the test should do. Governor Pete Wilson wanted a test that would provide individual student scores for parents. Such evidence would offer a basis for moving

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--> forward with merit pay plans to reward teachers whose students performed well on CLAS and financially punish those teachers whose students scored low. The state legislature wanted CLAS to produce accurate information on school site performance that would permit high performers to get increased autonomy to forge ahead in further improving their schools. The state superintendent wanted CLAS to measure the new curricular standards in order to influence teachers' routine classroom practices. And the state's education department, charged with developing and administering the test, wanted a reliable and valid instrument that went beyond multiple-choice items and assessed students' knowledge and skills on performance-based tasks (McDonnell, 1994; Kirst et al., 1995). Such an unwieldy coalition stitched together by conflicting hopes for a better test might have endured except for the aftermath of the first administration of the test. What was revealed were sampling errors in published test scores, the organized opposition of parent and religious groups who were sharply critical of particular book passages (from Alice Walker's novel The Color Purple) used in CLAS, and "Sacramento bureaucrats" who were trying to run (and ruin) the schools. The ensuing uproar led Governor Wilson to veto further funding of CLAS. Thus, political and technical tensions disrupted an unlikely coalition (Kirst et al., 1995). California may be a signal to state and federal policy makers that the inherent conflicts arising from rival political and technical aims for new tests cannot be easily finessed, or it may just be a quirky exception that policy makers can safely ignore. Whatever the case, the data presented in the conference papers and discussions, particularly the two ethnographic studies of different firms (Chapters 4 and 5, this volume), raise stark empirical questions about how the "way of seeing" has framed problems, directed attention toward certain solutions, and advocated particular assessments: Are the cognitive, social, and personal skills employers seek in their employees the ones that workers need in their jobs? Is the skills gap in the workplace as bad as employers say it is? Both Holzer and Zemsky, relying on cross-sectional survey data enhanced by focus group interviews, answer yes to both questions. But the papers by Bonalyn Nelsen on auto repair shops and Glynda Hull on circuit board factories (Chapters 4 and 5, this volume) suggest contrary answers to these questions. Generalizing from firms in two separate industries to the vast and diverse U.S. economy is far too much of a leap. What the two ethnographic studies offer, however, are stunning rebuttals to those that confidently answer no to the above questions. At the very least, then, the empirical questions remain open to further investigation by researchers. It is to these academic experts that I now turn since the second prevailing way of seeing in the papers and conference discussions was that of the specialist.

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--> Experts' Perspective on Assessment of School-to-Work Transition The authors and conferees who made up this group of specialists were mainly psychologists (industrial, cognitive, and educational) and lawyers. Their way of seeing derives primarily from research-based, disciplinary-driven views of assessment. These experts seek to construct tests that certify and authenticate student performance in skills and knowledge acquisition that are free of bias and can withstand legal challenge. As technical experts, they find themselves in the bind of offering advice to policy makers, even crafting proposals, while simultaneously being skeptical of policy makers' goals, arguments, and specific plans for assessment (see Chapter 7, this volume). Within this world of expertise, theories in use about assessment come directly from academic disciplines and legal precedents that seek to specify exactly what is being measured and for what purposes and how best to achieve those aims while adhering to exacting technical standards. Lawyers, for example, leaned heavily on previous court decisions banning certain employment tests as discriminatory screening devices resulting in untoward consequences for minorities (see Chapter 8, this volume). For different branches of psychology, theories about generalizability, item responses, measurability, and socially situated cognition compete for attention in determining the direction, scope, and particulars of both traditional and innovative tests (see Chapter 7, this volume). Yet even with contending disciplinary-based theories, there are prevailing ways of framing problems (and their solutions) in constructing assessments for the school-to-work transition. Many educational and industrial psychologists, for example, will view the problem of assessing school-to-work programs as the absence of rigor and specificity in defining exactly what workplace and school skills are needed. Pearlman (Chapter 6, this volume) points out that even the concept of "skill" lacks precision; it is not an exact measurable unit but embraces numerous cross-cutting categories (workplace basic skills, cross-functional skills, and occupation-specific skills) that make assessment a far more knotty task than policy makers had imagined. He offers the metaphor that plunging ahead with skill-based assessments in SCANS, Goals 2000, and school-to-work programs is like laying out a complex road system before a survey of the land has been done. Another common way of framing the problem of assessment is whether new tests (e.g., performance-based assessments such as portfolios) meet technical standards of reliability and validity (Linn, 1994). One of the difficulties that California State Department of Education administrators experienced before the demise of CLAS, for example, was wrestling publicly with a critical report from a group of measurement experts on its sampling and statistical procedures (Kirst et al., 1995). Finally, legal experts often define problems of assessment in terms of what legal hurdles a new test would have to leap, particularly if high stakes for students are attached to their scores. In the 1970s, for example, the introduction of competency tests that students had to pass to receive a high school diploma were

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--> challenged in various states because large numbers of racial and ethnic minorities failed the new tests. Debra P. v. Turlington established the principle that, if students had not received the appropriate knowledge and skills in their classrooms prior to taking the test and failed it, the diploma could not be withheld (Pullin, 1994). Both Parker (Chapter 8, this volume) and Schmitt (Chapter 9, this volume) frame the problem of assessment-based credentials in the potential challenges to new tests embedded in school-to-work programs. Solutions to expert-defined problems are consistent with the ways that the problem is framed. Solutions range from devoting more time and money to further research and development in specifying and testing skills to cautious support for particular policy strategies that are consistent with the theories and research findings of these discipline-based specialists (Chapters 6, 8, and 9, this volume). As I read these expert-defined problems and solutions in the papers and listened to the conference discussions, thorny empirical questions arose in my mind: What exactly is a skill? To what degree are skills transferable within and across occupations? To what extent is training in "cross-functional" skills (communication, teamwork, finding information, problem solving) generalizable? Do high-stakes assessments that certify students for employment disadvantage low-income minorities further? These questions suggest that policy makers' and experts' ways of seeing overlap but are also distinct enough to generate conflicts over what policy directions should be pursued by those in authority to make decisions on school-to-work programs and assessments. Yet the conflicts I saw between technical and policy perspectives should not obscure the larger fact that these were the dominant ways of seeing represented in the papers, presentations, and conference discussions. As compelling (and traditional) as they are, such perspectives are not the only ways of viewing the school-to-work transition. What ways of seeing were absent? I offer two missing perspectives; they are far less developed than the ones discussed above. I offer these in shorthand form to suggest that other ways of seeing may begin to fill in empty spaces left by the prevailing perspectives at the conference. These unarticulated perspectives could inform policy making about the school-to-work transition and its assessment by raising different questions than those offered by the authors and conferees. Other Ways Of Seeing Historical Precedents for School-to-Work Transition While there are many versions of the past and no one true rendition of what happened, few informed historians of education would dispute that the transition

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--> from school to work has been defined as a problem by national policy makers repeatedly since the closing decades of the nineteenth century. I offer a brief summary of those encounters (Tyack, 1974; Cremin, 1961; Lazerson and Grubb, 1974). In the 1880s critics began attacking public schools for failing to teach students the necessary skills to work in a factory-dominated industrial economy. Businessmen, searching for skilled, efficient, and loyal workers, turned to the schools and asked why they were preparing students for college and not the workplace. These criticisms emerged at the same time that national policy makers and corporate leaders began defining an economic crisis for this new industrial order. Already competing economically in world markets with their rival, Great Britain, manufacturers and industrial leaders spoke and wrote fearfully about the rapid growth of Germany as an economic power fully capable of besting the United States in foreign trade. American opinion setters in the 1890s attributed Germany's economic success to its vocational education programs, in which employers and schools cooperated in training youth for industrial jobs (Grubb and Lazerson, 1975). Spurred by these reports of German vocational education, American educators and public officials campaigned initially for separate vocational schools before World War I and then, ultimately, for a vocational track within the comprehensive high school. Coalitions of manufacturers, businesspeople, federal officials (including presidents of the United States), progressive reformers, and heads of labor unions convinced the U.S. Congress to pass the Smith-Hughes Act in 1917, which provided federal funds for programs to train youth for industrial occupations, agriculture, and "domestic sciences" (e.g., home economics, cooking, sewing). Vocational education became a permanent, federally subsidized part of the high school curriculum for the next three-quarters of a century. A virtual industry of vocational teachers, firms in which graduates were placed, and lobbying groups emerged in the decades that followed (Lazerson and Grubb, 1974; Kantor, 1986; Cuban, 1982; Tyack, 1974; Spring, 1986). The talk of economic crisis in the 1880s was not an isolated instance. Repeatedly the nation turned public attention to the juncture between school and work. In the 1950s, for example, national reports about the sad state of affairs in American high schools and accelerating public concern over burgeoning crime rates among youth led public officials and renowned experts (such as former Harvard University President James B. Conant) to warn about dropouts and unemployed minority youth who could become "social dynamite" in American cities. The Vocational Education Act of 1963 (with later amendments in 1968) specifically provided for grants to high schools and employers to train "disadvantaged" youth to reduce the effects of technological unemployment and to integrate these groups into a changing labor market. New programs drafted teachers into a war against youth unemployment. Vocational teachers were the frontline soldiers who had to equip students with the marketable skills that

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--> would get employers to hire them (Grubb and Lazerson, 1975; Cuban, 1982; Kett, 1995). By the 1970s, increasing automation in manufacturing and rising rates of unemployment had stirred national policy makers to again turn to the schools with visions of "career education"; that is, all students—not just those enrolled in vocational education—should be exposed to the world of work. Federally funded programs created career centers, business-school coalitions, and partnerships between community colleges and high schools. Both elementary and secondary teachers (not only high school vocational teachers but academic ones also) were drafted in this latest reform to help young people get ready for the labor market (Grubb and Lazerson, 1975; Kett, 1995). With publication of the report A Nation at Risk in 1983, another wave of reform swept across public schools, this time, directly linking faltering public schools with a faltering economy (Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983). Falling scores on standardized achievement tests were explicitly linked to declining economic productivity and a shrinking share of world trade. The globalization of the American economy meant heavy job losses in manufacturing, shifts to a service economy with lower-paid, less skilled jobs while high-skill, high-wage technological occupations simultaneously posted strong gains. With such economic and social churning, again, national political leaders turned to the nation's public schools to help youth gain a foothold in a rapidly changing workplace. This time there was little talk about preparing students with job-specific skills. Instead, the recipe for school reform in the late 1980s and 1990s called for schools to raise their academic standards through higher graduation requirements. Teachers were to train students to think critically, cultivate social skills in teamwork, encourage flexibility in learning new tasks, and guide them in finding information and using it appropriately. A strengthened high school course of study of 4 years of English; 3 years of math, science, social studies each; and even a foreign language—the agenda of many policy makers—had, in effect, vocationalized the academic curriculum. Every teacher was now a vocational teacher. Within less than a century, after repeated waves of reform generated by national economic and social crises, policy makers and educators had converted American secondary schools into generic vocational schools (Kett, 1995; Pullin, 1994; Johnston, 1993). This abbreviated account of previous times when policy makers, anxious over national changes in the economy, defined these workplace changes as youth and school problems can certainly be challenged for the interpretation that I offer of the vocationalizing of American secondary education. This rendering of previous intersections between policy makers and practitioners with school-to-work transition raises in my mind two very different questions: Why do federal and state policy makers (and related reformers) repeatedly turn to schools to help solve national economic problems?

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--> With these vocationally driven reforms most often coming from the top of the American policy system, to what degree did practitioners, located at the bottom of the system, change what they customarily do in their classrooms? While I will return to the first question in the final section of this paper, it is the second question that suggests another way of seeing that was absent from the conference: the perspective of the practitioner.2 After all, the target of all the policy talk, legislation, new programs, and tests is to get teachers to help students become more knowledgeable, more skilled, and more marketable than they currently are. As targets for improvement, reformers simultaneously define teachers as the problem blocking student acquisition of appropriate workplace skills and the solution, that is, the agents who will remedy the situation by ending the mismatch between high school graduates and entry-level jobs. This conundrum frustrates policy makers, especially if they lack familiarity with how practitioners view their world. Practitioner's Perspective To the teacher, it is not the school, district, or state that is their universe; it is the classroom of 25 or more students. That universe is essentially unpredictable since individual students respond differently to teacher requests and demands. Uncertainty, ambiguity, and improvisation go with the territory of the self-contained classroom. It is a world of action and instant decision making where pragmatic theories in action are tested and tempered daily (Smith and Geoffrey, 1968; Doyle, 1986; Clark and Petersen, 1986). What drives teachers to work hard in these classrooms are not electoral and budget cycles, reelection, fame, or money. What drives teachers are the psychic rewards of seeing individual students learn to master content and skills and mature socially. A teacher's daily concerns are not standardized test scores but deciding what content to cover and how to teach it, managing scarce time, maintaining classroom order, protecting their time from administrative intrusions, developing personal relationships with their students, and figuring out what their students have learned. These particularistic concerns are light years away from teachers' doing as policy makers bid (Lortie, 1975; Jackson, 1968; Elmore and McLaughlin, 1988). In such a practitioner-enclosed world, self-reliance and autonomy are virtues. What matters most is that teachers can tailor mandates and new programs to 2   During the conference, two of 23 presenters were from schools. Sandra Black, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction in Chattanooga, Tennessee (a former principal and teacher), and Vivian Woods, a principal in Chattanooga (and former teacher), were discussants and made brief presentations about assessment in school-to-work programs. While both said they were advocates of teachers and pointed out the complexities of introducing new programs, not one question was directly asked of either of them after their presentations.

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--> fit their students and the daily routines shaped by the topography of the classroom in age-graded schools. To survive, teachers tinker, incrementally adapting that which fits the tasks of maintaining classroom order and helping individual students master content and skills. For new performance-based assessments that expect teachers to teach differently, the degree to which the new tools will be incorporated into classroom routines depends entirely on the help teachers get from experts, the fit between the assessments and the time available to teach as they customarily do and their judgment that the new instruments will benefit their students. More often than not, teachers will ignore, reject, or even sabotage externally designed reforms they are expected to implement yet for which they receive little help in understanding the changes (Doyle and Ponder, 1978; Cuban, 1993; Fullan, 1991; Darling-Hammond, 1994; Tyack and Cuban, 1995). The practitioner's way of seeing, then, is largely micro rather than macro; it is the view from the bottom looking up, rather than top down; it is heavily influenced by beliefs, pragmatic theories in action, and values grounded in the classroom and individual student relationships rather than the disciplinary views of economists, psychologists, and lawyers. In short, it is a way of seeing that is foreign to federal and state policy makers and their expert advisers. Both a brief look backward at past instances of school-to-work "crises" and the perspective of the practitioner were missing from the papers and conference discussions. So what? Was anything lost by the absence of these perspectives? So What? The dominant ways of seeing that so characterized the papers and conference discussions left the distinct impression on me that these implicit perspectives were not the only ways of framing school-to-work problems and solutions but were probably the best ones. As a historian and practitioner, I know better, but I felt the press of expert advice to be the best way of viewing school-to-work transition and assessment. Unintentionally, even with the variation among policy makers and experts, the mindset of authors and conference participants gets frozen into the dominant policy maker and expert ways of seeing. Unavoidably, these views, varied as they are among specialists, get narrowed into becoming accepted as accurate perceptions of the issues. Thus, the missing perspectives become important in stretching the mindset and generating different ways of framing problems of the transition from school to work. Imagining other definitions of the problem enlarges the inventory of solutions available to both policy makers and their advisers. This is particularly so for the practitioner perspective since it is crucial for reformers to understand this way of seeing and to recognize that teachers have been (and are) the implementers of new programs, new assessments, and new ventures in school to work. After all, the world of policy makers and their advisers is a world of policy talk and legislation, of words and newly funded

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--> programs. It is not the world of the implementer, the teacher who converts talk into practice. Historically, it has been practitioners who spelled the difference between anticipated and unanticipated consequences of well-intentioned, carefully designed programs. The debris of school reform after reform stands as mute evidence of the huge discrepancy between policy talk and what happens in classrooms (Elmore and McLaughlin, 1988; Tyack and Cuban, 1995). Hence, for policy makers and their expert advisers to ignore or pay only passing, even token, attention to how practitioners see the world from their perch is to put a down payment on failure. There is another reason why including other perspectives becomes important. The framing of problems is not an objective process where factual accuracy and truth overcome bias; it is a socially constructed act that is closely related to who does the defining of the problem and therefore sets the agenda for which solutions get chosen. Those, for example, whom federal and state policy makers accept as experts on school-to-work transition (generally economists when it comes to national policies, psychologists when it comes to assessment, and lawyers when it comes to legal challenges to new assessments) determine which ways of seeing get access over others and ultimately shape the problem-solving agenda. This is as much a matter of power and status as it is an objective process of sorting through available data and defining the problem. Including other perspectives, then, becomes essential to the process of policy making for schools in a democracy. Finally, there are the puzzling questions of why policy makers and their advisers have so often framed the problem of a changing labor market as a skills gap of youth and have consequently turned to schools when economic crises beckon. Because policy makers and experts drawn from the academic disciplines have framed problems as a relationship between the economy and youth, schools have become the locus for reformers and teachers, the target for major change. Need it be said that it is easier to fix the schools than the economy? It is also easier to point the finger at unprepared youth as the problem to be solved than it is to blame corporate executives for shortsighted decisions or changes in an economy driven by market forces that are dimly understood. A number of historians and nonmainstream economists have pointed out that the fixation on reform has been damaging to schools, which are impotent to alleviate economic conditions, and that far more effort ought to be expended on nonschool sectors to help youth and older workers adjust to economic changes (Grubb and Lazerson, 1975; Balanz, 1991; Johnston, 1993; Kerr, 1994; Kett, 1995). This meta-analysis of the taken-for-granted perspectives that dominated the papers and subsequent conference discussions on school-to-work transition suggests that much more can be considered and even done about youth, schools, and the economy if a broader net were thrown out to capture different ways of seeing beyond the dominant policy-making and expert ones. Because problems and solutions are socially constructed and because such social constructions have

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--> social and political consequences, especially for schools and high-stakes assessment, it is no trivial matter to examine who defines problems and how they see the world. References Balanz, R. 1991 Local knowledge, academic skills, and individual productivity: An alternative view. Educational Policy 5(4):343-370. Clark, C., and P. Petersen 1986 Teachers' thought processes. Pp. 255-296 in Third Handbook of Research on Teaching, M. Wittrock, ed. New York: Macmillan. Commission on Excellence in Education 1983 A National at Risk. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Cremin, L. 1961 The Transformation of the School. New York: Vintage. Cuban, L. 1982 Enduring resiliency: Enacting and implementing federal vocational legislation. Pp. 45-48 in Work, Youth, and Schooling, H. Kantor and D. Tyack, eds. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 1993 How Teachers Taught, 2d ed. New York: Teachers College Press. Darling-Hammond, L. 1994 National standards and assessments: Will they improve education? American Journal of Education 102(3):478-510. Doyle, W. 1986 Classroom organization and management. Pp. 392-431 in Third Handbook of Research on Teaching, M. Wittrock, ed. New York: Macmillan. Doyle, W., and G. Ponder 1978 The practicality ethic in teacher decision-making. Interchange 8(3):1-12. Elmore, R., and M. McLaughlin 1988 Steady Work. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. Fullan, M. 1991 The New Meaning of Educational Change. New York: Teachers College Press. Grubb, N., and M. Lazerson 1975 Rally 'round the workplace: Continuities and fallacies in career education. Harvard Educational Review 45(4):451-474. Gusfield, J. 1981 The Culture of Public Problems: Drinking-Driving and the Symbolic Order. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Hilgartner, S., and C. Bosk 1988 The rise and fall of social problems: A public arenas model. American Journal of Sociology 94(1):53-78. Jackson, P. 1968 Life in Classrooms. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Johnston, B. 1993 The transformation of work and educational reform policy. American Educational Research Journal 30(1):39-65. Kantor, H. 1986 Work, education, and vocational reform: The ideological origins of vocational education, 1890-1920 . American Journal of Education 94(3):401-426.

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