This is the Testing We Need to be Paying Attention To

Because the clock is ticking, and I’m not sure if we have years or only months.

(Originally posted yesterday on the TechLearning Blog)

It’s Sunday, and I’m on my way out the door for my state’s ed tech conference, NCETC.I cannot think of any year, in the past six or seven, that I have feltthis optimistic about our future as educators. Spending much of my timeat conferences, I am hearing less and less about test prep, and moreabout 21st century skills and new literacies. The latest indicator ofchanging times comes from Susan McLester and Todd McIntire’s article inthe November issue of Technology and Learning magazine. The title, The Workforce Readiness Crisis struck me by its use of the word crisis.

I’ve written some lately about why we might need to start using scare tactics to facilitate change (see Scare Em). Talking about a crisis certainly does that. The authors described a recent report, released by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, and the Society for Human Resource Management. The Workforce Readiness Report Card(pdf) claims that this nation’s new workforce entrants are…

woefully ill-prepared for the demands of today’s — and tomorrow’s — workplace.

The survey of employers was designed to verify assumptions about theupcoming workforce. However, “..even those commissioning the reportwere (not) prepared for the dramatic results.”

The following graphs (generated from data available in the report)indicate the percentage of respondents who found employees right out ofschool to be deficient in applied skills (blue), adequate (red), andexcellent (yellow). The skills are sorted in order of their importanceas indicated by employers of workers by education level.

A mere glance clearly indicates that workers coming out of a 4-yearcollege faired far better than the other two categories, while highschool graduates entering the workforce seem totally unprepared for the21st century workplace. This data deserves much consideration, but atthis point I’ll only mention some of the obvious:

  • At all three levels, the applied skill that employers seemthe most satisfied with are graduates’ application of informationtechnology.
  • They also seem relatively satisfied with worker’s understanding of diversity issues.
  • One skill that seems deficient at all levels is written expression.

So why am I optimistic? Because this is scary stuff. What employersthink about the products of education’s work is far more important thanwhat our celebrated test scores show — especially in a time where theglobal competitive labor market practically defines today’s worldeconomy.

The message is clear. If we want to go back to the basics, thenbasic is what we’ll get, and that is clearly not enough for the 21stcentury experience. If we do want citizens who are prepared tocontribute and prosper in an information-driven, technology-rich world,then it is time for education to re-invent itself.

The clock is ticking, and I’m not sure if we have years or only months.

Conn McQuinn commented on yesterday’s posting of this piece. He suggested research that shows that “positive vision that clearly describes the potential benefits of changing, rather than the negative consequences of NOT changing..” is more effective. I agree, and had read the article (Change or Die) in FastCompany that reported this research. I suspect, though, that a combination what we need. Shock factor is necessary, because of the extreme entrenchment of today’s edu-culture. Then share the compelling positive vision — the New Story.

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.