The Economic Imperative Behind School Reform: A Review of the Literature

C. Stasz

The idea of a skills gap--a mismatch between skills learned in school and those required in jobs created by today's economy--has received a lot of popular attention. Stasz, NCRVE's RAND site director, synthesizes and critiques the evidence of a skills gap. She concludes that there is little direct evidence to support the need to improve students' skills and notes that, in fact, most employers may continue to support the low-skill equilibrium. What evidence there is about a skills gap points more to skills wanted by employers, as opposed to skills needed. Stasz faults school-to-work reforms for failing to address curriculum reform except at the most general level and notes that research as well fails to make concrete suggestions for changing schools, tending to point out directions for more research and for policy changes. The economic imperative has historically been a powerful force for school reform; however, if it is to substantively change America's schools today, there is a long way to go.

MDS-1028 / November 1996

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