Larry Cuban urges greater consideration of the historical and political contexts of the policy debate. Lauren Resnick advocates the possibility of strengthening human intellectual capacity by employing an effort-based school-to-work system. Alan Lesgold offers the perspective of a cognitive psychologist and provides a provocative set of suggestions stemming from research on the types of knowledge necessary and useful in various work contexts.

Among Cuban's key suggestions is that the role of teachers be kept in sharp focus: to argue that schools must change, he notes, means that teachers must "alter [their] behavior in ways to make learning better for students." But, he warns, if one accepts the basic premise that schools are responsible for young people's transitions to work, it follows that those who have caused the existing problem (teachers) are also the ones expected to bring about the solution.

Resnick suggests an alternative effort-based approach to our nation's present system of education and its accompanying modes of entry into the work force, which, according to her, is designed around the belief that talent and ability are largely inherited and fixed. Resnick posits that it is our current approach to educational practice and not our teachers that is the cause of existing problems. Implementation of the effort-based system Resnick describes would provide some remedy for what she views as a two-tiered education system driven by our perceptions of students' talent and ability.

Lesgold, too, draws attention to the conflicting and potentially incompatible demands placed on schools and teachers. He notes, for example, that while teamwork and quick thinking are often cited as critical parts of modern work, these are not necessarily the kinds of skills and abilities that schools are expected to emphasize: indeed, whether teamwork and quick thinking can be made compatible with other goals of education—individual and independent thinking, careful (often necessarily slow) experimentation with new ideas—raises a serious issue for policy makers aiming for better links between the worlds of formal schooling and postsecondary learning and work environments.

The papers in this volume make a significant contribution to our understanding of the complex and interlocking issues of changing work, learning, and assessment. They provide the conceptual frameworks and empirical bases necessary for inquiry into the pressing issues surrounding transitions into and between learning and work environments. The Board on Testing and Assessment plans to continue to serve as a focal point for these issues.

References

U.S. Department of Commerce 1994 Statistical Abstract of the United States: The National Data Book. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce.

Levy, F., and R.J. Murnane 1992 U.S. earnings levels and earnings inequality: A review of recent trends and proposed explanations. Journal of Economic Literature 30:1333-1381.



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