Education A National Roundup

Commission to Rethink Skills Required to Compete in the Global Economy

By Lynn Olson — June 20, 2006 1 min read

An influential national commission is being revived to address how changes in the global economy should shape American education and training.

The National Center on Education and the Economy, a nonprofit group based in Washington, announced last week that it has re-established the Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, a bipartisan group that in 1990 produced the report “America’s Choice: High Skills or Low Wages.”

That report concluded that the United States could continue to enjoy a high standard of living only if it abandoned low-skill, low-wage jobs to developing countries. Among other things, it recommended a “national standard of educational excellence” that all students would be expected to meet by age 16, or soon thereafter, based on passing a series of performance assessments.

The newly formed blue-ribbon commission will consider how American education will have to change given that nations such as China and India are now producing large numbers of educated people willing to work for relatively low salaries.

“What Americans still don’t realize is that our economic preeminence rests squarely on our education pre-eminence,” said Marc S. Tucker, the president of the NCEE, “and we aren’t pre-eminent any more.”

The 27-member panel includes former governors, senators, Cabinet secretaries, business and labor leaders, civil rights leaders, and education and job-training experts.

The commission’s work, which is being funded by the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Menlo Park, Calif.-based William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, will conclude with a final report in the next six months.

A version of this article appeared in the June 21, 2006 edition of Education Week