Writers Say Education Ideas Are Failing the Test

Articles in Summer Edition of Issues Journal Fault Policymakers' Focus

June 30, 2008

Policymakers are overemphasizing the well-known educational path through a four-year academic degree and neglecting areas that could pay off for both individuals and the economy, according to articles in the summer 2008 edition of Issues in Science and Technology.

“Laudable efforts to promote opportunity have too often become too narrowly focused on raising educational attainment and academic test scores,” writes Robert Lerman of the Urban Institute in his article, Building a Wider Skills Net for Workers. Although years of schooling and test scores are certainly relevant to success in the job market, Lerman says, so are a range of other skills, including noncognitive skills and occupational qualifications.

In Schools of Dreams: More Education Is Not an Economic Elixir, Peter Cappelli of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School writes that no compelling evidence exists for the thesis that giving people more formal academic education will result in a restructuring of jobs and increased productivity and growth in the economy at large.

The best way to tackle concerns about skills, Cappelli says, is to expand more work-based education through programs at the workplace or those that attempt to combine work and classroom experiences. “The nation will derive much more economic benefits from apprenticeships, school-to-work programs, and the close associations that many community colleges have developed between employers and classroom topics,” he writes.

Two other articles also examine this path not studied.

  • In Community Colleges under Stress, Matthew Zeidenberg of Columbia University writes that publicly funded two-year colleges are facing daunting challenges in dealing with surging enrollments of disadvantaged and unprepared students.
  • In The Crisis in Adult Education, Brian Bosworth of the Seattle consulting form FutureWorks outlines a variety of strategies for helping undereducated adults.

The summer Issues in Science and Technology also included the following articles:

  • Fixing the Parole System. Mark Kleiman and Angela Hawken of the University of California at Los Angeles argue that a system relying on swiftness and certainty of punishment rather than on severity would result in less crime and fewer people in prison.
  • Research Funding via Direct Democracy: Is It Good for Science? Donna Gerardi Riordan of the California Council on Science and Technology writes that California’s much-heralded Proposition 71 to support stem cell research has encountered enough challenges in its implementation that it should make us think twice about the relative merits of direct and representative democracy for making research funding decisions.
  • It’s about More than Money. Irwin Feller of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Susan Cozzens of the Georgia Institute of Technology say that a science of science and innovation policy must extend beyond studies of federal R&D spending to encompass the full extent of science’s pervasive role in society.

Finally, in the summer Issues, two U.S. Senators spell out their programs for dealing with energy issues.

  • In Strategies for Today’s Energy Challenge, Democrat Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico argues that developing new energy sources provides an economic and technological opportunity for the United States.
  • In A New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy Independence, Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee writes that the United States must marshal its resources and talent to tackle the challenge of coping with climate change.

Media Contact: Kevin Finneran, (202) 965-5648, kfinnera@nas.edu
and the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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Issues in Science and Technology Summer 2008 cover
Issues in Science and Technology's summer issue assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the current formal education system.

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