Harvard Educational Review
  1. National Issues on Education

    Goals 2000 and School-to-Work

    Edited by John F. Jennings.

    Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa International; and Washington, DC:

    Despite the many innovative ideas and reform policies targeting public education in the United States that have been suggested, debated, and even implemented over the past twenty years, dissatisfaction with the performance of the public schools still remains high. Therefore, it is not surprising that when two legislative initiatives, the Goals 2000 Act and the School-to-Work Opportunities Act, were passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in the spring of 1994, they came immediately under public scrutiny. How different are the recent laws from pre-existing educational reform initiatives? What implications do they have for the U.S. educational system? Who was involved in drafting these two pieces of legislation? What are the major concerns regarding their implementation? Answers to these types of questions can be found in National Issues in Education: Goals 2000 and School-to-Work.

    This book, edited by John F. Jennings, is the third volume of the National Issues in Education (NIE) series launched jointly by Phi Delta Kappa and the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington, DC. Jennings, a former general counsel for education for the Committee on Education and Labor in the U.S. House of Representatives, not only conceived the idea for this joint publishing venture, but also served as editor of the first two volumes in the NIE series, The Past Is Prologue (1993) and Community Service and Student Loans (1994). The purpose of the current volume, as well as the NIE series, is to present diverse perspectives on how current major national education issues play out in the legislative process in the U.S. Congress. This volume is a collection of essays written by people heavily involved in developing the Goals 2000 Act and the School-to-Work Opportunities Act.

    The Goals 2000 Act and the School-to-Work Opportunities Act are legislative cornerstones of the Clinton administration's education reform strategy. As Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley points out, "like President Lincoln's Morrill Act of 1862 and President Johnson's Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, President Bill Clinton's Goals 2000 Act will stand as an education beacon" (p. 3). Both pieces of legislation attempt to change whole systems and to "put the achievement of academic and occupational competence at the very center of schooling" (p. 187). The Goals 2000 Act seeks to implement national education goals in legislation and institutionalize national initiatives to improve education through the creation of high academic standards. Similarly, the School-to-Work Opportunities Act strives to connect schooling and employment more effectively by focusing on occupational standards as criteria for student success. Both pieces of legislation represent systemic and outcome-driven approaches as new strategies for educational improvement, which calls for a new type of federal role in education to implement the two reform initiatives.

    The book traces the progress of these two important laws as they proceeded through Congress. The editor brings together the views of key players in the Clinton administration, such as the Secretary of Education, the Secretary of Labor, senators, members of Congress, governors, and educational specialists. The diverse positions and perspectives reflected in the essays illuminate the policymaking process and the workings of interest groups in the development of important new national policies.

    Unlike the previous two volumes in the NIE series, National Issues in Education: Goals 2000 and School-to-Work discusses two new pieces of legislation in a single volume. The collected essays are organized into three parts. Parts One and Two focus on issues related to the Goals 2000 Act and the School-to-Work Opportunities Act, respectively. Each law is introduced with an overview explaining the legislative process and the significance of the new legislation. Essays are then included that present both supporting and opposing views on that particular law. Next follows an essay discussing the law from the perspective of an education specialist. Finally, in Part Three, the editor gives an overall view of the two new laws and the issues raised in the preceding essays based on his own perspective.

    The three essays in Part One take a positive view concerning the Goals 2000 Act. Congressman Dale E. Kildee provides detailed information about the legislative process involved in the development of the law and explains the concerns surrounding its major concepts. Gordon M. Ambach, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, advocates a new local-state-federal partnership in implementing the Goals 2000 Act. Jennifer O'Day of Stanford University examines the design of this legislation from the viewpoint of systemic reform strategies, and discusses how the new law might assist existing state-sponsored reforms by giving examples from various states. The remaining two essays in Part One provide opposing views on the Goals 2000 Act. Both Congressman John A. Boehner and South Carolina Governor Carroll A. Campbell Jr. do not think that increasing the federal government's role in education will improve student achievement. They see the new law as betraying the original principle of the National Education Goals Panel established under President George Bush. Although the disagreements raised in these essays concerning the Goals 2000 Act appear to reflect the fundamental differences in philosophies between Republicans and Democrats, they do provide a balanced view regarding some major concerns about this new piece of legislation.

    The explaining-discussing-debating style also appears in Part Two of the book. Senator Paul Simon discusses the formulation of the School-to-Work Opportunities Act and its legislative implementation by providing information drawn from various studies and hearings. In addition, Simon provides further details regarding concerns over three key issues: consolidation/coordination of job training programs, paid work experience, and governance of implementation. Senator Nancy Kassebaum offers an opposing view of the legislation, arguing that the new law might provide the same or similar services to those groups of people who already benefit from various existing individual programs and that the new law moves away from comprehensive job training reform. Finally, Hilary Pennington, co-founder of Jobs for the Future and an expert on education and training issues, explains what is particularly innovative about the new law and discusses her organization's involvement in its development. She also discusses several challenges the new law faces in its implementation.

    Despite the contrasting perspectives on the two new pieces of legislation, the contributors in this volume all share a common desire for making substantial systemic changes to improve student achievement. After all, as editor Jennings points out in his commentary in Part Three of the book, the reform launched by these two new laws, which "focuses on the educational and occupational ends and not the means, is very different from others being undertaken in many different locations; and it is especially significant in that it is supported at the national level like no other reform" (p. 188).

    Overall, this book is informative and easy to read. It is a good reference book for people interested in issues related to education reform, the legislation and implementation of policy, and job training. The book also provides a rich background for those interested in reading a critique of the Goals 2000 Act and the School-to-Work Opportunities Act.

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