February 1996

This Issue
Vol. 07, Issue 05
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This decade's numerous proposals for school improvement, while in many instances meritorious, are likely to fall short of their goal. None of the recent approaches have adequately addressed a basic prerequisite for sustained, long-term improvement: the need to strengthen the infrastructure of most state systems of elementary and secondary education. Though all segments of the structure deserve renewed attention, it is the rural small-school component that will prove the Achilles' heel of the school-excellence movement unless this sector receives immediate attention.
Almost all of the recent efforts to reform education to meet economic needs have been focused on the schools. But most of the people who will be in the workforce at the turn of the century are there now. Millions of these workers lack the education they need to justify the relatively high wages they earn in the international labor market. If their skills do not improve substantially, their wages, and America's standard of living, will fall. Neither the states nor the federal government has a coherent set of policies to deal with this critical problem.