Well, a couple of days. On Tuesday we praised Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for acknowledging that the public school curriculum has narrowed and for pledging to do something about it during ESEA reauthorization next year.
Then an alert reader pointed us to Duncan’s November 9 speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Education and Workforce Summit. We’re cheered that Duncan counts “weak curriculum” as one area in urgent need of reform. But Duncan is totally off-base when he suggests that the spin pushed by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills should inform discussions of workforce readiness. (And, as a side note, P21’s report was published in 2006 – not 2008, as Duncan says in the speech.)
What’s P21’s research showing that 21st century skills are important and that high school and college graduates don’t have them? They claim to have surveyed “over 400 employers across the United States” (page 9) who said so. But open the report and go to page 60 to read about the survey methodology. There’s little here. P21 does not explain how the survey was administered or what questions were asked or even what they mean by an “employer.” They do array information about the types of industries they heard from and how many respondents were from each industry, but they make no effort to show how their sample compares to the overall makeup of U.S. employers. And needless to say they make no attempt to weigh for any kind of over- or under-sampling. P21 doesn’t even explain why it was satisfied with a sample size of 431 “employers” when there are about 6 million such entities in the U.S. Even P21’s own authors advise that “[c]aution should be used in generalizing results to the entire U.S. population of employers.” (page 60) How, exactly, is this valid data?
Is it a cheap shot to ask?