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Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement
and countless local programs and alliances have tried to bring about change and improvement. Intense pressures have built up nationally for renewed attention to education, as indicated by the call for national education goals (National Education Goals Panel, 1991), the congressionally mandated rapid growth of the Education and Human Resources Directorate at the National Science Foundation, and the President's AMERICA 2000 proposal for improving education (Alexander, 1991).
An earlier generation looked to the schools to assimilate the tides of immigrants who swelled the population, to teach newcomers American ways and the privileges and rights of citizenship and democracy. More recently, the movement to fully extend equal opportunity to African Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities has been closely linked to education reform.
There is no question about the significance of the challenges now facing U.S. education. Part of the imperative for today's reforms comes from increasing academic and intellectual demands of the workplace. Part of it comes from low educational attainments of a significant proportion of youth in the United States, particularly those in low-income families and those of color. And part of it comes form shifts in the age distribution of the country's population.
Workforce 2000 (Johnston and Packer, 1987) focused public attention on the many changes that have occurred in the nature of work over the past several decades. Although there is scholarly debate about the finer details of Johnston and Packer's portrait of a yawning gap between the skills of workers and the technological requirements of an increasing number of jobs, the general trend toward more technical jobs seems inescapable. From 1900 to 1990, the "laborers" category of workers shrank from 30 to 6 percent of the total work force, while "professionals" expanded from 10 to 26 percent. In the past decade, jobs requiring high-level skills or training grew at three times the rate of those requiring low-level skills or training, and projections for the next decade indicate that more than one-half of all jobs will require education beyond high school. These developments have led many people to the conclusion that in the future, more and more jobs will involve judgment, problem solving, and self-regulation (Banks, 1982).
In the business sector, the need for a stronger education system has become an article of faith as corporate leaders contemplate the challenges facing them. Competitors are no longer in the next county or state—they are increasingly apt to be in another country. Employers in the United States will not confine their searches for skilled workers within national boundaries, and as a consequence this country's workers will have to compete with skilled workers throughout the world.
According to Harold Hodgkinson (1991): About one-third of preschool children are in some danger of school failure because of poverty, neglect, sickness, handicapping conditions, and lack of adult protection and nur-