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SCHOOLS NOT PREPARING STUDENTS FOR THE GLOBAL ECONOMY?: Americans Think Students Need Broader Range of Skills than Schools are Teaching

"The loud and clear message from this poll is that Americans recognize the need for our schools to help our students regain their competitive advantage in a quickly changing world," said Geoffrey Garin

Schools are not adequately preparing students for the globally competitive workforce environment of the twenty-first century, according to a new poll from the Partnership for Twenty-first Century Skills that was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Peter D. Hart Research Associates.

The poll also finds that half of those surveyed say that the country is moving in the wrong direction in ensuring that students have the skills necessary to compete in a global economy. In addition, 42 percent think that other developed countries are doing a better job than the United States in preparing their children for the jobs of the twenty-first century, compared to only 13 percent who think that the United States is doing a better job than other countries.

“The loud and clear message from this poll is that Americans recognize the need for our schools to help our students regain their competitive advantage in a quickly changing world,” said Geoffrey Garin, president of Peter D. Hart Research Associates. “Right now, far more Americans perceive us as falling behind other countries in this regard than see us as taking the lead.”

The poll finds overwhelming support that the twenty-first-century economy requires new thinking in how students are educated, with 80 percent saying that the things students need to learn in school today are different than they were twenty years ago. Unfortunately, voters also realize that American schools are not keeping pace, with only 38 percent saying that schools have done a good job of keeping up with changing educational needs. Among the good things that schools are doing, participants mentioned teaching computer literacy and technology skills but added that schools were neither preparing students to be “workforce ready” nor providing them with the breadth of skills needed to succeed in today’s world.

Specifically, the poll asked voters to rate a series of fourteen skills on how important the skills were and how well schools were teaching these skills. It finds a substantial gap between how important voters perceive each skill and how well they believe schools are actually teaching that skill. For example, 85 percent think that “reading comprehension” is an important skill, but only 22 percent of those surveyed think that schools teach it well. Similar gaps were found in “written communications” (78 percent think it is important; 17 percent think it is taught well), “critical thinking and problem solving” (80 percent say it is important; 18 percent say it is taught well), and “creativity and innovation” (73 percent say it is important; 19 percent say it is taught well).

In total, 66 percent of those surveyed say that America’s students need more than just the basics and need to be taught a broader range of skills.

“We all recognize that U.S. education can and should be doing more to prepare our young people to succeed in the twenty-first century,” Ken Kay, president of the Partnership for Twenty-first Century Skills. “Skills such as problem solving, innovation and creativity have become critical in today’s global economy. Integrating twenty-first century skills into the teaching of core academic subjects is a win-win proposition for everyone involved. It’s now clear that U.S. voters understand this. And it’s up to every one of us to ensure our children receive them.”

Complete results from poll are available at

Drop (Out) and Give Me Twenty: Fewer than 80 Percent of Recent Army Recruits Have a High School Diploma


According to an October 12 Chicago Tribune article, the percentage of U.S. Army recruits with a high school diploma has plummeted in the past four years, from 94 percent in 2003 to below 80 percent in 2007. During this same period, more enlistees with criminal records were also accepted, due in large part to the increase in “character” waivers granted to recruits. More than 11 percent of enlistees required these waivers as a result of problems with the law, a percentage twice that of 2003.

In the article, Major General Thomas Bostick, commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, said that 87 percent of those granted waivers had misdemeanors for offenses such as joyriding and violating curfew. Moreover, the article reports that the number of enlistees with past felony charges and arrests has more than tripled since 2003, from 459 to 1,650.

“This is a recipe for disaster,” Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said of the lowering of Army standards. A former assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration, Korb added, “In the long term this can be a serious problem for the military.”

Beth Asch, a senior economist and expert on military recruitment and retention at the Rand Corporation, expressed greater concern at the drop in the number of recruits with diplomas than the increase in those granted waivers. “One reason you don’t bring in non-grads is they tend not to complete things,” Asch said. “People who are better educated tend to be learners and the military needs lifelong learners.”

“U.S. Army lowers its recruiting standards” is available at,0,614332.story?coll.


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