No Child Left Behind mandates have school systems scrambling to improve teaching, update curriculum, raise teacher quality and analyze data between different populations just to name a few of the many actions each school is facing. Yet, given the recently released Nation's Report Card, securing significant change is going to require some non-traditional solutions.
Maybe it is time for public education to take a lesson from corporate America who is just now also realizing the impact of soft skills on the bottom line. During the last two centuries, businesses focused on controlling their employees. The work environment was one of control where individual actions required a chain of approval that went vertically up, then vertically down. This type of management style produced excessive waste and failed to capitalize quickly when opportunities were presented.
According to annual Michigan State University's national college employment survey, today's knowledge worker must have the following skill sets:
Communication including verbal and written
Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS)
Leadership both individual and group
Personal attributes including work ethics, flexibility, initiative and motivation
Yet, looking at most curriculums the focus is on cognitive content specific to the academic disciplines. The presumption is that this knowledge and the supporting skill sets as mentioned above will easily transfer to the workplace. Unfortunately, American business owners know that this is a fallacy because of information that is retrieved from such surveys conducted by Michigan State and other organizations.
For example, American students spend 12 plus years learning how to read and write. Yet if communication is more non-verbal than verbal depending upon how much of Dr. Albert Mehrabrian's research you believe, then most young people except for those in speech and debate have already been set up to fail because they don't understand that effective communication extends far beyond reading and writing.
Time management is another great example. Many adults have issues with time management or rather with better self management since you can't manage a constant that being time. However, the osmosis learning strategy once again rears its inefficient and ineffective head during the kindergarten through high school learning experience. Can you remember as a young student when you actually had a class on effective time management? In today's classroom with the ever-expanding curriculum, would it not make more sense to actually instruct young people on such a valuable skill instead of leaving it to the osmosis learning strategy?
Developing and nurturing those critical soft skills are what employers know will translate into success for their employees and cold hard cash for them. If public education wants to be truly effective, then the leadership needs to get ahead of the ball and look at the desired end results. Practicing another 33 years of reform where nationally 17 year olds have not gained any reading improvement will absolutely remove us from being the number one world economic force.