Students in Los Angeles To Graduate With Skills Warranty

By Lonnie Harp — November 13, 1991 3 min read

Graduates of the Los Angeles Unified School District will leave high school equipped with a “skills warranty” as well as a diploma, beginning in 1994, district officials announced last week.

The district’s diploma guarantee will be based on job skills identified by the U.S. Labor Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, or SCANs, which last summer released a set of job competencies that it urged school districts to adopt. (‘See Education Week, July 31, 1991 .)

Beyond ensuing students’ knowledge of such subject areas as mathematics, science, reading, and writing, the Los Angeles program will promise employers that its graduates possess teamwork, decisionmaking, and problem-solving skills. The district will pledge to retrain, at no cost to the employer, any graduate whose skills are found to be deficient. “One of the major goals of the Los Angeles school district is to ensure that our students have the necessary preparation to enter productive employment,” William R. Anton, the district’s superintendent, said in a statement last week. ‘by identifying the necessary skills all people should possess, scans has hit it right on the mark,” he continued. “We’re going to use the report, and it’s going to make a difference in what we teach and how we teach.”

The school district will work with a school-business-partnership group known as Workforce L.A. to develop the warranty program.

A number of districts around the country have begun offering employers “warranties” on their graduates in recent years. The Los Angeles effort is notable for the size of the district, which enrolls more than 600,000 students, and its adoption of the skills identified in the SCANS report.

Boost for Commission

That report drew only modest attention when it was unveiled in July. In the months since, SCANs officials have been working behind the scenes to gain wider support for their effort.

Commission leaders said the move by the Los Angeles district was an important stop in that direction.

“It is especially significant that Los Angeles has made the commitment to take this kind of bold action,’' Arnold H. Packer, the executive director of SCANs, said in a statement prepared for last week’s announcement. “Los Angeles, after all, is the nation’s second-largest school system. Moreover, it serves a diverse, urban population.”

He described the Los Angeles initiative as “an example for the rest of the nation.”

Officials working on the SCANs project said that they were continuing to seek more pacts with school districts and businesses.

The commission recently adopted the education-reform strategies of the Business Roundtable, a move that was widely seen as a gesture toward winning help from business groups in urging schools to examine the SCANs competencies.

Meanwhile, the 31-member commission is continuing its work on a technical report on job skills, which is due for release next month. The panel is also expected to make recommendations on changes in student assessments before its final report is published in March.

Superintendent Anton said that the Los Angeles district would involve business groups, educators, parents, and teachers in a dialogue on the SCANs skills and how best to incorporate them into the diploma program. He promised that the effort would not be a superficial exercise.

“Figuring out what changes need to be made will take considerable time and effort,” he said.

New Competencies

The SCANs report identified three foundations that the commission believes are vital for modern workers: basic skills, such as reading, writing, and arithmetic; thinking skills, such as creativity, decisionmaking, and problem solving; and personal qualities, such as responsibility, motivation, and self-esteem.

The panel urged schools to build on those skills by broadening teaching so that students would learn new competencies. Beyond the skills traditionally taught in schools, the commission said, students must learn to manage resources such as time and materials, use technology and evaluate information, work well with others, and evaluate and correct their own performance and that of others.

A version of this article appeared in the November 13, 1991 edition of Education Week as Students in Los Angeles To Graduate With Skills Warranty