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?
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.
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