MPA: MFI Commentary: School to Work 10-8-99
- For Immediate Release: Friday, October 8, 1999
Contact: Aaron Hall - 612-789-8811 ext. 226 (office) 612-909-2671 (pager)
COMMENTARY - 891 words in text body
School-to-Work: The Heart of Educational Reform
By Michele Bachmann
The changing leaves of autumn mean back to school for hundreds of thousands
of Minnesota children. But this year it also means Minnesota's teachers and
students must adjust to year two of the state mandated educational reform
movement known as the Profile of Learning.
Despite nearly unanimous negative reviews from teachers, parents and
students, coupled with an aborted attempt by the legislature to abolish the
flawed system, public school districts remain mostly committed to
implementation of the experimental Graduation Rule.
While the Profile of Learning may prove to be an unworkable burden let alone
an academic failure for those most closely affected, citizens will certainly
be perplexed when they discover the controversial Profile is not the
centerpiece of Minnesota's educational reform movement.
According to Making Connections, Minnesota School-to-Work Resource Guide,
(published by a joint partnership between the Department of Children,
Families and Learning, the Minnesota Dept. of Economic Security, and the
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, among others), the heart of the
state's educational reform movement is the Minnesota School-to-Work
Initiative, (STW), a firmly entrenched, egregiously expensive feature of the
current K-12 education system.
Minnesota taxpayers might be surprised to learn they are bearing the brunt
of bankrolling the STW "Roll-out Strategy" this year, an ongoing statewide
marketing/public relations campaign designed to sell STW to parents,
students and employers. Watch for STW infomercials, STW parent nights at
your local public school, direct mailings, radio and TV ads and more-all
paid by tax dollars.
Developed at the federal level by joint efforts between the US Departments
of Education and Labor, School-to-Work is more than the latest effort to
shore up sagging test scores or decreasing the number of school-age
School-to-Work alters the basic mission and purpose of K-12 academic
education away from traditional broad-based academic studies geared toward
maximizing intellectual achievement of the individual. Instead,
School-to-Work utilizes the school day to promote children's acquisition of
workplace skills, viewing children as trainees for increased economic
In both Making Connections and the Minnesota School-to-Work Initiative,
school children are referred to as human resources. Employers are given the
"Look outside your company and change your view of your responsibilities for
human resource development. Your old responsibilities were to select the
best available applicants and to retain those you hired. Your new
responsibilities must be to improve the way you organize work and to develop
the human resources in your community, your firm, and your nation."
If it isn't enough the state has the audacity to tell private employers to
abandon "selecting and retaining the best available applicants" it becomes
comical when bloated state bureaucracies tell private industry to "improve
the way [they] organize work", yet pass the responsibility for "developing
human resources" to business.
Incredibly, School-to-Work not only changes the mission of public schools
from learning knowledge to acquiring workforce skills but it also radically
alters the design and planning of the school day.
In Minnesota public schools a child will, during the course of the school
day, be involved in school-based learning that the Dept. of CFL describes as
"restructuring of the educational experience so that students learn how
academic subjects relate to the world of work and develop skills and
competencies needed in the workplace."
Another portion of the child's education will be spent in work-based
learning, with the learner participating in work off school grounds which
"takes place in an actual work site". This "involves learning experiences
and activities that includes actual paid or unpaid work experience,
structured job training, workplace mentoring, instruction in workplace
competencies, and instruction in all aspects of the industry."
Remember, School-to-Work is for all school children, Kindergarten-12.
A third component of School-to-Work is made up of connecting activities
which "integrate the worlds of school and work and act as a liaison between
the school, employer, learner, teacher, and parent."
The fourth element is service learning which "engages learners in real world
community service experiences..." It "provides the environment in which
learners can gain organizational, team, and problem-posing and solving
skills, and other attitudes and capabilities necessary to future work and
These four core elements are common to every STW system in Minnesota.
Parents are left to wonder, a) why will their child be trained to benefit
"the needs of the economic marketplace"? b) Where in this system will
little Amanda's need for a well-rounded education be addressed? And, c) why
is the parent paying increased school taxes for less education? If a
child's day is split between job training at an employer's work site and
various community service projects, it is safe to ask: whatever happened to
Parents ask whether School-to-Work is voluntary. According to state
contracts with the federal government Minnesota agreed to "ensure that each
and every learner statewide fully participates in Minnesota's STW System." A
far-reaching statement in the same contract specifies that "each and every
[emphasis in the original] learner and citizen of the state is included in
system building and implementation efforts." The state also expects
private industry's acquiescence, as "we seek the full, 100% participation of
employers statewide...additional steps have been taken to strengthen the
participation of employers."
Despite 10 years of design and implementation, Minnesota STW is only now
ready for it's debut through a well-financed "roll-out strategy"/public
relations campaign paid for by the taxpayer and meant for each and every
Michele Bachmann is an education advisor for the Minnesota Family Institute.
The Minnesota Family Institute is Minnesota's largest nonprofit,
non-partisan pro-family organization.
A photo of Michele Bachmann in 250 dpi (838 x 1240 pixels) grayscale TIF
format (size: 1916KB) is available for download on the web:
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Minnesota Family Institute
2855 Anthony Lane South, Suite 150
Minneapolis, MN 55418-3265