Arts United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Labo.

Education's impact on economic competitiveness : hearing before the Subcommittee on Education, Arts, and Humanities of the Committee on Labor and Human Resources, United States Senate, One Hundred Fourth Congress, first session ... February 2, 1995 online

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they can no longer compete in this global economy based on advantages of location,
investment or natural resources. The emerging age of information and rapid trans-
portation has changed the nature of work and the workplace for good. These
changes demand a new kind of worker, a knowledgeable worker, with a new set of
skills.

The skill deficits of our Nation's workers are all too apparent to the business com-
munity. The Competitiveness Policy Council, to which I referred earlier, found:
"Twenty percent of our adults are functionally illiterate, compared with only one
percent in Japan. Four in ten business executives say they cannot modernize their
equipment because their workers do not have the appropriate skills. Only one in five
firms believes that high school graduates can write adequately, while more than
two-thirds consider their reading and arithmetic skills substandard."

At Circuit City we screen 15 to 20 candidates for every job vacancy. Typically, ap-
plicants for entry level jobs have only minimal capability in reading, writing, com-
municating and computing. They often lack basic generic work force skills, such as
critical thinking, efficient resource allocation and interpersonal relations.

Like many employers. Circuit City has, in fact, eliminated or sharply reduced
most of its low skilled jobs. Our warehouses, for example, utilizing State of the art



15

technology have two or three times their former throughput with half as many
workers as compared to a few years ago. Our advertising department produces three
times as many print ads with the same work force by utilizing computer composi-
tion. Our stores no longer have cashiers. Sales counselors complete the transaction
by taking cash, checks, credit cards or credit applications. Most of the remaining
nonsales personnel are focused on returns, exchanges and customer satisfaction, all
of which require good communications, critical thinking and interpersonal skills.

This type of reengineering is occurring throughout American business. The low
skill jobs are gone or are far fewer in number. The jobs that remain require far
higher levels or ability to read, to write, to communicate, to master new knowledge,
to learn new skills, to research information, to ask questions, and to solve problems.

Yet our schools, for the most part, continue to operate based on old assumptions
and outmoded policies. Workers on a 1920's production line or a family farmer did
not need many skills beyond basic 6th or 8th grade math and English. Con-
sequently, for the noncollege bound we have a dumbed down curriculum, lower ex-
pectations and a culture of accepting little effort or results to move students through
the process.

For the academically talented or economically advantaged our high schools pro-
vide an enriched academic program geared to college admissions requirements. And
for the first 70 years of this century this dual system worked. Our production sys-
tem, based on a relatively small number of well-educated managers, engineers and
scientists who directed a large number of relatively unskilled workers, was the eco-
nomic wonder of the world.

As at Circuit City, American business is finding that these older paradigms are
no longer efiicient. To be competitive, we need more and more workers who can
think, learn and solve problems on their own, and fewer and fewer whose principal
skill is to show up on time and do what they are told — over and over again.

For almost a aecade the leaders of America's leading high tech businesses such
as IBM, Xerox, TRW and others have led the fight for standards-based education
reform. This message is now well accepted in the wider business community.

Unlike our international competitors, America has not had high expectations
about what our noncollege bound students should know and be able to do. Not hav-
ing clear expectations has had many disturbing consequences, not the least of which
is the inability to hold students, teachers and school systems accountable. No won-
der the Competitiveness Policy Council found the average high school student in
1987 did only 3.5 hours of homework each week, squeezed into a busy schedule of
25 hours of television and 10 hours of employment!

Accountability for students today simply means staying in school long enough to
accumulate the credits required to graauate, regardless of what they know or are
able to do.

Accountability for schools or school systems generally means comparing the re-
sults with peers based on a norm-referenced test that has no necessary relationship
to the curriculum. To know that Virginia students rank higher or lower than Ver-
mont does not tell us whether either state's students are prepared to compete in
the global economy.

We should be encouraging State and localities to develop measures of accountabil-
ity based on objective criteria, not comparative expectations. Once they have objec-
tive standards they can begin to create some meaningful incentives, for students,
teachers and school systems who perform at or above expectations, and negative
consequences for those who do not. Without such incentives and consequences we
cannot expect to catch up, much less exceed the performance of our global competi-
tors.

This is the primary reason that business leaders feel it is absolutely imperative
this country develop a voluntary system of academic achievement standards. That
is one reason why so many of us in the business community supported the Goals
2000 Educate America Act in the last session of Congress.

I recognize that in its passage through Congress a number of. changes were made
to the Ck)als 2000 bill that detracted from its original purpose. These problems can
be remedied. NAB believes it is essential to retain a national, as distinct from Fed-
eral, entity and process to set educational standards that the states can use as a
benchmark, on a voluntary basis, to reconstruct their school systems. Governors
want this. Most business leaders want this. The country needs this.

In my capacity as chair of the National Alliance of Business's Council on Excel-
lence in Eoucation I have been leading a task force on education standards. The
task force, comprised of over 34 companies, is designed to inform standards setters
about what business expects from its workers. Last week we released our initial rec-
ommendations to the National Education Goals Panel. Copies are available for you
and your staff.



16

I would like to share with you our recommendations. The Task Force has devel-
oped nine principles to guide the development of standards:

1. All students should be ^ven the opportunity to master challenging academic
subject-matter calibrated agamst world-class education standards.

2. There must be one set of standards for all students.

3. Standards must have a common core of skills related to workplace needs.

4. Standards must reflect "real world" requirements.

5. Standards must be voluntary

6. Standards must be dynamic

7. Standards must include criteria against which performance is measured.

8. Business leaders must have a seat at the table to assist in standards setting.

9. Standards and performance measures must be understood and supported by
parents and the general public.

This report demonstrates clearly that business is not only supporting the stand-
ards development process, but also is committed to seeing standards implemented.
There is no reason to believe that American students cannot master the same dif-
ficult material in core academic subjects that is routinely expected of students in
our competitor countries. On the contrary, Americans have always risen to the chal-
lenge once they understand it clearly.

The question before us needs to be: Where on the face of the globe, are educators
and students together doing the best job of preparing a fixture work force for the
21st century? American firms must meet world class competition to survive and
prosper. The business community believes that no less should be expected of Amer-
ican teachers, parents and students.

Senator Jeffords. Thank you very much.

I cannot thank you enough for your testimony. I am frustrated
because it is so difficult to make tne American public aware of the
dire educational situation for their kids and our country, and you
have expressed those needs very well, as well as the rewards for
high standards.

I would also agree with you that our kids are capable of achiev-
ing those standards. Yesterday I was at Jefferson High School with
the Secretary of Education, where we had six young men who had
competed internationally in a mathematics exam, and thev came
out first, with perfect scores for each of them. And yet when we
compare our students across the board, we are 14th or last.

So, we recognize that we can do it, but we certainly are not doing
it. It has been many years since we first faced the "A Nation at
Risk" report, which told us that our students were in dire trouble.
Since then, at least 30 studies have converged the same message.
We have heard testimony like yours that has informed us of that.
We are showing ads that inform us of that. But still, as you pointed
out, Mr. Wurtzel, we tend to compare ourselves among ourselves,
rather than at national levels of excellence, which we need to do.

Where do we stand now? I know that both of you have been
working on establishing these standards, and I know there has
been considerable controversy about the standards panel and so on.
What is your recommendation as to how we can achieve world-wide
standards? Are there standards available now in math and science,
for instance, that you feel in your own minds are appropriate for
our schools, and where do we stand at getting them adopted, and
how should we get them in place?

Mr. Wurtzel. I would be glad to start. The good news is that
I think the States are moving, or a number of States. Virginia is
in the process; the Virginia State Board of Education, on which I
serve, is in the process of reviewing a set of much tougher aca-
demic standards. But Virginia, like I think every other State, has
a problem. We are drawing on the work of the mathematics teach-
ers who have developed what are generally considered excellent



17

standards. Some work has been done in history, as you know, but
it is more controversial, and work in science and other core dis-
ciplines — arts and music is another area where work has been com-
pleted. And these are important, but first of all, these studies were
funded by the Federal Government. I do not believe the State of
Virginia would have found the $1 million or $1.5 million to convene
a 3-year study by the mathematics teachers of this country to de-
velop high national standards in mathematics.

So the Federal Grovernment played a very important role in con-
vening these groups.

There is, however, in my judgment an important missing ingredi-
ent, and that is that no one to my knowledge has made a system-
atic study of what are the standards of other countries. In other
words, I think the mathematics teachers have gotten together, for
example, and decided what it is that American kids should know,
and that is absolutely important; it is essential, and they are far
higher than we now require. But they have not been able, because
it takes a lot of time and money and funding, to systematically un-
derstand what they are teaching in England and in France and in
Germany and in Japan and in Korea and make systematic com-
parisons — and if it is hard in mathematics, it is certainly far hard-
er in language arts and history and social studies and other less
definitive subjects than math.

Mr. Gorman. If I might add, the short answer is that we are not
making nearly enough process. There are few States that have ade-
quate standards at all. We are attempting, of course, with Goals
2000 on the books to cause States to focus on standards. We are
giving them incentives, if they comply with the requirements in
Goals 2000, to develop adequate standards. We are working on it,
but I think there is a more important first step, that while we are
working on it we ought to be measuring ourselves in terms of im-
provement. Are the scores improving on existing tests? Do the kids
know more today than they knew yesterday? Can more read than
could read yesterday? When can they read?

Some school systems are establishing in the first grade a simple
goal, a simple standard, that all kids will read by the end of the
first grade. So we do not need to spend years and years studying
the problem and establishing definitive standards. We need to
begin right now to develop certain minimum standards that create
improvement year to year, while we are getting to the ultimate
goal of having definitive standards.

Senator Jeffords. Culture is obviously an important aspect of
the problem. As pointed out, children watch 5 hours of television
on average at home

Mr. WURTZEL. That was 25 hours.

Senator Jeffords. But 5 hours a day.

Mr. WURTZEL. I am sorry. I beg your pardon.

Senator Jeffords. That is a lot.

Mr. Gorman. Excuse me. Do you know what that adds up to? It
is 11,000 on average by the time kids graduate from high school
that they have watched television, and that is roughly the number
of hours they have spent in the classroom as well.



18

Senator Jeffords. Mr. Gorman, earlier today we were talking
about other cultures. How does our lifestyle compare with those
countries which are our biggest competitors?

Mr. GrORMAN. Let me g^ve you a few examples along those lines —
and I am not suggesting that we must change to be precisely like
another culture, because we are different. But let us take Japan,
who is a major competitor in many respects. They go to school 240
days a year, their kids do, versus our 180. They spend far more
time studying core key subjects than we do. When you add up
those hours and days, it turns out that they have gone to school,
if you will, 4 years longer by the time they graduate from high
school than our kids.

We are in a time warp. We had an agrarian society. Why do you
suppose school lets out at 3 o'clock, and why do we take off the
summers? So that kids can help on the farm. That made sense 100
years ago, but it makes no sense today.

In Korea, the parents are required to study the same subjects as
the kids. Aiid if the kids fail, the parents are called in and asked
to take the test. So that there is pressure, and they are educating
the parents as well as the kids. And the list goes on.

Three percent of our high school graduates could get into any of
the average universities in Europe, given their skill levels by the
time they graduate from high school. We, the fact is, are failing
miserably on a relative basis.

Senator Jeffords. I would just comment before I turn to Senator
Kennedy that the District of Columbia has decided to meet their
budget by cutting back on the school days and by cutting the num-
ber of teachers. I do not think I need to ask for any comments on
that, and I will leave it at that.

Senator Kennedy.

Senator Kennedy. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I want to join, I think, all of us on this side of the aisle in com-
mending Senator Jeffords for having these hearings and for his
constancy in terms of the priorities and placing value on education.
This has been an ongoing and continuing commitment on his part,
and we are certainly looking forward to working with him, and
with the entire committee and the Congress on these issues, to try
to strengthen some of the areas that we have acted on in the past
and give new energy to support for education in the future.

I want to commend both of you for being here and for the time
that you have spent. The Business Roundtable has been enor-
mously valuable to this committee and to the Senate in the last
Congress. You mentioned Goals 2000, and we know you have some
concerns, and we want to work with you on those matters in this
Congress — on Goals 2000, the extension of the Head Start program,
to involve parenting skills in early education interventions.

Mr. Wurtzel, on School-to- Work and America's Choice, we had
the first hearings here and the report on America's Choice, and it
really set the path for the School-to- Work program. I am sure it is
not often that you get called upon to serve on committees or com-
missions and make recommendations and then have them actually
implemented. This was enormously important and really made a
very significant difference, and I hope we do not emasculate it in



19

this Congress, but will try to reach out to that 65 to 70 percent of
kids who do not go on to higher education — and the list goes on.

We welcome the work that is being done in the Business Round-
table with States to get them moving. There is much that can be
done, I think, with the initiative that were provided last year, but
as you rightfully point out, those energies and that effort at the
local level is just so important.

I was listening to Senator Jeffords remarking that money does
not answer all of the problems. All of us would agree with that,
and we can find areas — I know I can in my own State — where they
are spending too much and not getting what they should be get-
ting. But it is also a reflection of what a country's priorities are.
If you are investing in children, investing in them early, investing
in the schools and investing in terms of their higher education,
that is really a reflection of what a nation is really about. So we
want to recognize the importance and the priority that that has.

Also, in terms of your companies and what they have done in
contributing to education has been very impressive. So I think it
is important that what you say here is based upon a very substan-
tial degree of credibility. The Alliance for Business is working in
my own State, in a number of our communities, adopting schools.
It is very impressive, and I know you are familiar with it. They
have expanded that program, and it has made a really important
difference. If you have not visited some of those, it is making a dif-
ference in our State.

I hope as we move on through this whole effort in terms of trying
to deal with some of the real challenges that we face as a nation
in terms of the budget deficit, that we are not going to have a kind
of wholesale slashing of education programs, and we hope that you
will work with us. Obviously, in terms of selectivity — although we
have tried to strengthen the programs which are out there, and I
think Senator Jeffords has demonstrated by his opening comments
that we want to try to strengthen and improve others so we can
make them more meaningful, and I hope you will work with us
prior to the time that they are cut to a point where they will not
meet the needs of our kids.

Let me just come back to somewhat of a philosophical question,
but I think we are talking about some of that as we get into the
debate, and that is how you see the Federal role. Clearly, in the
postwar period, what was developed in terms of higher education
was the combination of individual participation, the Federal Gov-
ernment in terms of Pell grants and Stafford loans, work-study pro-
gi'ams; then, increasingly in the 1980's, began to involve the pri-
vate sector and alliances that are being worked out, as I know in
my State, in terms of small businesses and universities, permitting
many of the younger, able, gifled and talented people who would
otherwise be teaching but because of demogi'aphics are unable to
do so, to be able to both teach and go into the private sector.

But in the area particularly of K through 12 is the area of great-
est crisis. What is your guidance, having thought about this and
having had an impact on education policy, what are your bench-
marks in terms of the Federal role? What are you going to be tell-
ing us. Republican and Democrat alike, about what is appropriate
and what is not appropriate? Clearly, it is the standards, but im-



20

plemented voluntarily; I think we all would agpree with that. But
what should we be expecting?

We have heard two former heads of the Department of Education
talk about killing off that Department, and we have Terence Bell,
who comes to a different conclusion. We are going to be tied up a
lot in these times, not unlike other times, in symbols, but you two
have strong credibility and reality on this, and I would like to ask
you what we should be looking for in terms of our role in the area
of education, and the earliest interventions with children and as
they move on through the education cycle?

Mr. Gorman. If I may begin, first, we strongly — the Business
Roundtable and I personally — supported Groals 2000. We worked
very closely with Secretary Reilly and the President himself to gar-
ner support for that very important legislation.

There are some things there that, as with all bills, are not per-
fect and may create some problems here and there; we can clean
those up over time.

Beyond that very important point, I would say that philosophi-
cally, conceptually, there is a role for the Federal Government to
§lay in education, just as there is a role at the State level for the
tate to play in local education. And it is a delicate, complex set
of questions and issues that surround that. You have constitutional
issues at play here; would it be unconstitutional, for example, at
the Federal level to set minimum standards for the States? States
could have their own standards that were well above those mini-
mum standards, but would it be appropriate to have minimum
standards? Perhaps. I leave that to the constitutional lawyers to
speak to. But I think at least, at least, we ought to be in a position
of encouraging States to establish adequate standards and then
meet them.

I think we also at the Federal level have a role to play in creat-
ing the kind of social environment in which our kids can learn.
Safety is a critical issue. If kids do not feel safe in school, how the
heck can we expect them to learn? If they are worried about going
to and from home

Senator Kennedy. And they are hungry, abused.

Mr. Gorman [continuing]. And they are hungry, abused. So
there, we need to provide the right kinds of incentives, I think, as
well, either for the State to take care of some of those issues or di-
rect Federal help.

So I think that there are several roles. I stop short of sayirig that
the Federal Grovernment should step in and take over a State's
educational system if it is failing, but in theory one might imagine
that capability, ultimately.

I do not agree, in short, with those who say get the Federal Gov-
ernment out of education totally.

Senator Kennedy. Mr. Wurtzel.

Mr. Wurtzel. I think Mr. Grorman and I share similar views.
Education is primarily a State function. I think the national role
is leadership, and the focusing of the spotlight of public attention
on those areas where as a Nation, by and large, the States are fail-
ing to meet what are perceived as important national standards.
Early childhood education and Head Start and that sort of thing
is an area that all States neglected for many years, or virtually all



21

States, and the Federal Government has a role to call attention to
that and encourage States to meet what is a national need.

The national Government I think sometimes has the ability to
look beyond the day-to-day budget crisis that a State department
of education or a State legislature has and to come up with re-
sources to begin to focus attention — not mandating, but encourag-
ing.

The setting of high academic standards is another area where, as
I said earlier, I think the Federal Government has a role both in
convening the best and the brightest minds in this country to set
benchmark standards, and in doing the research to benchmark
those standards to what in fact is occurring in foreign countries.

So I think the Federal Government has a leadership and encour-
agement role and to focusing spotlights on areas of problems that
States have ignored. I mean, disabled kids were also ignored by
States for many years, but the Federal Government has stepped in
and provided ftinds. Now, as a member of the State Board of Edu-
cation of Virginia, I would be happy to tell you that the Federal
Government's heavy hand has gotten far beyond what I think is
appropriate, so the Government has to in my judgment put the
spotlight on problems and provide some funding and encourage-
ment. But when we go to far in prescribing how everything is done
and mandating a lot of things at the State level, that it seems to


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Online LibraryArts United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on LaboEducation's impact on economic competitiveness : hearing before the Subcommittee on Education, Arts, and Humanities of the Committee on Labor and Human Resources, United States Senate, One Hundred Fourth Congress, first session ... February 2, 1995 → online text (page 3 of 15)