Goal: To regain world leadership in education excellence, and prioritize workforce development for a 21st century workforce.
Rationale: Our 21st Century workforce needs new skills. As we shift towards a “thinking-based” economy that favors non-routine, analytical, and interactive tasks, we need our kids to be more creative and innovative thinkers learning how to think not, just what to think. While the US has the top rated higher education system in the world, it ranks 12th amongst developed countries, in term of the percentage of citizens with a college degree. This is a key area in which the US has actually lost ground in recent years. Another disturbing trend is that children in grades k-12 are losing ground to children in other countries in the areas of: reading, math, and science. In order to be able to compete in the 21st century, we must strive for excellence at all levels. Recently, policy makers say they recognize that high cost and inadequate k-12 education have caused the US to produce fewer graduates with degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), than other developed countries. But employers also need workers capable of creative problem solving. Recent studies show that Arts skills breed creativity, yet local Arts Education budgets have been shrinking. What is needed is a shift from STEM to STEAM (adding Arts). Arts education directly promotes creativity, the key to innovation.
Teachers: Good teachers are the most important factor in student outcomes. Adopt the Center for American Progress (“CAP”) plan for a Teacher and Leader Innovation fund that would provide grants to states and school districts to support innovative strategies that attract and support effective teachers and Principles. Expand the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program which allows teachers to write down student loan debt for teaching in challenging schools in low-income areas. Work with teachers to reform the tenure, dismissal processes, and tie them to performance rather than experience.
STEM+ARTS=STEAM: Institute a top-to-bottom program to feed the pipeline of the jobs of the future, including added incentives to train and attract K-12 science, math and arts teachers, more K-12 science and engineering competitions with real rewards for success such as free tuition at public universities, public-private partnerships to create financial incentives for universities that increase undergraduate science and engineering degrees, and funding more graduate study through NSF. Dramatically increase both public and private funding for Arts education to promote next generation creative thinking. . Improve knowledge transmission through faster adoption of digital textbooks, more widespread use of creative commons licenses for instructional materials developed with taxpayer dollars, and policy changes that speed education innovation.
Workforce Development: Adopt a Brookings Institution proposal, and create a competitive grant program funded by the federal government for states to use grants to create training partnerships between employers in key industries, education providers, workforce agencies, and state level intermediaries. Expand the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) to help create and retain U.S manufacturing jobs. The MEP has a high rate of return for public investment, with a job created or retained for every $1,570 invested. Adopt Third Way proposals to update the Workforce Investment Act that would shift the focus of training programs and state and local Workforce Investment Boards towards high growth industries. Add entrepreneurial skills to school curricula.