School-to-Work = The Reason Our Schools Are Failing

Recently I spoke to a group of limited-government activists in Salt Lake City, Utah. While there, I provided a literature table that offered many of the newsletters and tapes that the American Policy Center and The DeWeese Report have for distribution.

I was frankly surprised and dismayed at the fact that material and tapes pertaining to education restructuring, especially School-To-Work, were not being picked up by the crowd. When I pointed to a brand new tape on School-To-Work we have just produced featuring Pennsylvania State Representative Sam Rohrer, I was asked, “what is School-To-Work?” My alarm to this lack of knowledge was compounded by the fact that these were activists who should be out in the trenches fighting the School-To-Work monster.

Clearly, I haven’t been doing my job in getting the word out. So, with this issue of The DeWeese Report I am featuring a report on School-To-Work by education activist Karen Holgate. She is an expert on the subject and has dedicated her life to ridding our public schools of the Hillary Clinton-Marc Tucker juggernaut that is destroying American education. (Hint to the Republican Congressional leadership that wants to send $40 Billion more on education – it’s not the money – it’s the Federal programs that keep children from learning).

Read Karen’s report, learn, make copies and send them to your friends. School-To-Work is the monster that is destroying your children’s future.

Tom DeWeese

School-to-Work: A Formula For Failure

by Karen Holgate

The phrase “School-to-Work” (STW), sounds wonderful. It’s a brilliant title that was designed to gain support from those not familiar with its concepts. The problem is not the title; the problem is the program.

STW is not just a plan for education, it is a blueprint for total “systemic” social change that involves education, employment, social services, business, community groups, and occasionally, parents. It even dictates a new form of “governance.” Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), outlined the plan in a 1992 letter to Hillary Clinton. In Mr. Tucker’s letter, he says, “…a national…human resources development plan…interwoven with a new approach to governing …a new seamless web…that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone – young and old, poor and rich, worker and full-time student.”

The same system for everyone. No opt-out – no choice. Is this really a plan for America?

When fully implemented, STW will result in: 1) loss of personal control over daily life, 2) loss of local control over education, 3) loss of quality, academic rich curricula, and 4) loss of freedom as a free market driven economy in a constitutional republic.

The basic premise of STW is that parents and local schools are unable to properly “train” students for the “workforce.” Under STW, only the government, working with big business can produce the desired “entry-level” worker with the proper “work attitude.”

STW, along with Goals 2000, stresses subjective social outcomes, competencies (or standards), based on attitudes, values, beliefs and behaviors – NOT objective, concrete, measurable, academic rich standards. States engaged in STW (including California) use the following euphemistic terms to describe these “desired” social outcomes: think reflectively, self-directed learning, collaborative workers, community contributors, understand and/or embrace diversity, become a life-long learner, be a global citizen, practice environmental preservation, etc.

How are these outcomes measured? Who determines whether a student has performed appropriately? How do these competencies improve sound academic accomplishments toward a meaningful and challenging career? They do not.

The School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994 mandated that STW training begin “no later than the 7th grade.” However, state STW laws around the country require that STW be “integrated” in all curriculum for all students in all grades. Eventually, STW will affect all children. This includes private schools, parochial schools and homeschoolers. Under the STW plan, unless children attain their “Certificates of Mastery” or “Skills Certificates,” they will not be able to get a quality job or continue on to higher education; and only those who have achieved the “desired outcomes” will receive their “certificates.”

The intent of STW is not to educate; it is to “train” children for “entry-level” jobs in the workforce.

Consider these quotes from proponents of STW:

“..educated employees have higher turnover rates, lower job satisfaction, and poorer promotion records than less educated employees.” David Hornbeck, a STW proponent.

“Most employees under this model need not be educated. It is far more important that they be reliable, steady, and willing to follow directions.” Lauren Resnick, Member of the Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) and board member of NCEE.

“..we must stop being curriculum based…” William Spady, father of Outcome Based Education (OBE)

STW is based on the following concepts:

Career Pathways:

STW requires all students, “college bound or not,” to choose a career pathway by the time they enter tenth grade. (West Virginia requires students to make this decision by the end of eighth grade.) These pathways, or clusters, determine the type and amount of training students receive. At the end of their first “pathway” year, students will receive their “Certificate of Initial Mastery.”

Certificate of Initial Mastery: (CIM)

CIMs do not measure a student’s academic knowledge or ability. This is readily seen in the following examples. South Dakota’s draft CIM reads:

“South Dakota – School-to-Work: Certificate of Skills Mastery

This is to certify that ___________ has mastered the skills in the SOCIAL SERVICES cluster of the PERSONAL/CUSTOMER SERVICES job family specifically that of GROCERY BAGGER.”

Do parents send their children to school to become grocery baggers? Under STW they will.

Oregon is five years ahead of most states in implementing STW. It awarded its first CIM in 1992. Children achieving their CIMs were required to perform a task in front of a panel of three judges while discussing the “process.” According to Oregon State Representative, Ron Sunseri, one youngster received his CIM for demonstrating how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Jay Tennison’s CIM declares to all future employers that he received his CIM because he is: an “involved citizen, quality producer, self-directed learner, constructive thinker, effective communicator, collaborative contributor,” he can, “quantify, apply math/science, understand diversity, deliberate on public issues, interpret human experience,” and “understand positive health habits.”

Jay’s CIM doesn’t tell employers that he “knows” math and science, merely that he can apply them. In STW, students need know only enough academics to be able to apply them to the entry-level tasks within their “career pathways.”

Performance-based assessments:

STW promotes “performance-based assessments” based on what a student “knows and can do.” While the rhetoric sounds good, the reality is far different. In 1997, American College Testing (ACT) developed Work Keys, a performance based test for high school students. In Kansas, Work Keys is now a graduation requirement. Jenny Potochnik, 16 years old, described taking Work Keys. She said the test included showing a video on the proper way to transfer a telephone call. “Our multiple choice question was: After pressing flash and the extension number, what button do you press?” Another performance required the students to watch a video about mopping a floor. Jenny says, “Then we were given a scenario in which the person mopping did something wrong. No, I’m not kidding!”[fn:1] Remember: Work Keys was required for Jenny’s graduation!

Integrated curriculum:

STW mandates integrating all curriculum with the STW plan. On June 9, 1997 in a speech before Congress, Senator Robert Byrd, pinpointed the problem with integration in what he referred to as “whacko algebra.” In talking about an algebra textbook called “Secondary Math: An Integrated Approach: Focus on Algebra”, Senator Byrd said: “Let me quote from the opening page.

In the twenty-first century, computers will do a lot of the work that people used to do. Even in today’s workplace, there is little need for someone to add up daily invoices or compute sales tax. Engineers and scientists already use computer programs to do calculations and solve equations.

What kind of message is sent by that brilliant opening salvo? It hardly impresses upon the student the importance of mastering the basics of mathematics or encourages them to dig in and prepare for the difficult work it takes to be a first-rate student in math.

..Page five of this same wondrous tome begins with a heading written in Spanish, English and Portuguese…This odd amalgam of math, geography and language masquerading as an algebra textbook goes on to intersperse each chapter with helpful comments and photos of children named Taktuk, Esteban and Minh. Although I don’t know what happened to Dick and Jane, I do understand now why there are four multicultural reviewers for this book. However, I still don’t quite grasp the necessity for political correctness in an algebra textbook. Nor do I understand the inclusion of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in three languages…

By the time we get around to defining an algebraic expression we are on page 107…From there we hurry on to lectures on endangered species, a discussion of air pollution, facts about the Dogon people of West Africa, chili recipes and a discussion of varieties of hot peppers…I was thoroughly dazed and unsure whether I was looking at a science book, a language book, a sociology book or a geography book.

This textbook tries to be all things to all students in all subjects and the result is a mush of multiculturalism, environmental and political correctness,…it is unfocused nonsense…

Mathematics is about rules, memorized procedures and methodical thinking. We do memorize the multiplication tables, don’t we?..”

This is NOT an isolated example of STW’s mandated “integrated” curriculum.


School-to-Work is sold to business leaders as the solution to today’s poorly educated worker pool. However, how will STW improve the education level of today’s entry-level worker? How will tomorrow’s worker be able to progress BEYOND entry-level if he isn’t educated? Business is being sold an empty promise. And children are being sacrificed as guinea pigs in a program with no empirical evidence to support its premise.

Data Collection:

Under STW, massive information gathering is required. The Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, a self-described “moderate to liberal” organization, describes the types of intrusive information gathering that is already occurring. In a paper called, K-12 Student Records: Privacy-at-risk, they say, “Publication 93-03 of the national Education Goals Panel [fn: 2] …recommends as ‘essential’ that school districts and/or states collect expanded information on individual students, including: …physical, emotional and other development at ages 5 and 6, date of last routine health and dental care… type and hours per week of community service…whether registered to vote…highest level of education for ‘primary care-givers’, total family income, public assistance status and years of benefits, number of moves in the last 5 years…attitudinal test, personality test…” They go on to enumerate other intrusions, such as: 1) electronic portfolios on each student, 2) SS# for kindergartens used to track students after they have left the school system, 3) sending high school work transcripts and “teacher confidential ratings of student work related behavior to employers via WorkLink.” (Your child’s teacher will be able to enter electronically his/her personal evaluations of your child’s behaviors. What if your child’s teacher doesn’t like your child? What might that teacher say that will follow your child throughout life?)

The STUDENT DATA HANDBOOK [fn:3] is 300+ pages thick and details all the information wanted by the federal government. There is another edition that asks for detailed information about teachers.

Much of this information is gathered daily in classrooms across America. Questions that include information about a child’s sexual behavior, eating habits, religious and political beliefs, drug and/or alcohol consumption; whether the child steals, feels that his/her parents love them, etc.

One survey, funded by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and given to Riverside students, ages 8-14, asked some of the following questions: 1) I can tell my parents the way I feel, 2) I’m afraid my life will be unhappy, 3) I give up things before completing them, 4) Sometimes I break things on purpose. (Students were asked to rate their answers on a scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.”)

Employers, police officers, representatives of government agencies, private education researchers and others are given access to this personal, private information. These groups were accorded this privilege by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974.


STW denigrates teachers to the role of “facilitators” not “educators.” In President Clinton’s last two “State of the Union” messages, he talked about “re-certification of teachers” based on “national standards” and the need to “remove those who don’t measure up.” Will this new “re-certification” eventually replace current certification; and will it be required for teachers in order to retain their jobs?

West Virginia and Illinois already mandate that school principals successfully attend a “principals academy.” Failure to attend, or failure to complete the training will result in making them “ineligible to be employed as…a principal”[fn:4] . Forget their years of education and experience – unless they attend these mandated academies, they will lose their jobs. The National Association of Secondary School Principles makes it clear they support principals attending these academies and being trained as “change agents.” (Change agents are people who have been trained to infiltrate an area with the purpose of changing people’s minds. In this case, parents, students and teachers who may oppose the idea of STW. A 1996 US Dept. of Education report, stated that among the “barriers to change” are the “beliefs and values on the part of everyone involved.”..teacher and administrator beliefs and values…present a second major barrier…” [fn:5])

Local Control:

Proponents of Goals 2000 and STW claim the plan encourages greater parental participation and local school board control. The reality is quite different. In an August, 1995 letter, the federal Department of Labor denied California’s STW Grant Proposal. Listed as the number one reason for denial was this statement: “System implementation is based on a reactive design that depends on LOCAL EFFORTS to structure statewide system.” The federal government rejected California’s initial plan because it gave too much local control! Apparently, that grave error was corrected; by the end of 1996, California’s revised Grant Application was approved.

Legislation just passed by Congress will further erode local control. Hr 1385 and HR 1853 create “Consortiums” for the purpose of applying for, and collecting, federal funds. These “consortiums” will be able to implement STW programs with or without local school board approvals.


Who will bear the brunt of STW’s extraordinarily high cost? Since federal “seed” money sunsets after five years, it stands to reason that in order to continue meeting the required levels of service, state and local taxpayers will have to meet the costs for this “massive change.”[fn:6] Will “massive” tax increases result?

In 1996, Congress appropriated $200 million for STW and $491 million for Goals 2000. That same year, Congress appropriated $3.9 billion for Head Start – just one program under Title 1 of the Improving America’s Schools Act. When States across this nation rushed to embrace STW, they sold their souls for a pittance. Unfortunately, far too few actually read the laws or understood the significance of the strings attached to those federal dollars.

Schools of the future:

STW architects envision tomorrow’s schools as “hubs of the community:” sites where all the needs of the family will be met. These “village schools” will create a “virtual schoolhouse” and will provide: 1) student assessment programs, 2) teacher apprenticeship programs, 3) health services for students and their families, 4) child-care, 5) occupation programs, 6) social and family support services, and 7) wellness centers. Speaking on behalf of California’s first “village school” located in the City of Pomona, Jerry Livesey, assistant superintendent for pupil resources,[fn:7] said, .”..[it will] create a seamless flow of services from preschool to university.” All at taxpayer expense of course.

STW is a “massive” experiment. When asked for documentation of successful STW programs, proponents point to Europe. To a large extent, STW is modeled after Germany’s apprenticeship program; yet Germany has one of the highest unemployment rates of any industrialized nation. According to the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Germany’s “true unemployment rate is around 14%.” [fn:8] This is the plan America wants to emulate?

STW is not just about education – it is a comprehensive plan that will change the basic precepts of America’s form of government. And it violates the personal freedoms upon which this country was founded. By mandating a single system for all people – young and old, rich and poor, worker and full-time student – STW becomes an unbearable weight upon the constitutional rights of individuals. One of the stated reasons for enacting the newly passed Workforce Investment Act[fn:9] of 1998 was to provide training (career paths) for people to meet the economic needs of business and communities. This is the truth about STW. It is all about training workers to meet the needs of the state – abdicating personal liberty for the “common good.”

One is left to wonder – Is this America?

The complete STW: A Formula for Failure report is at:


1. Richmond Times-Dispatch, Robert Holland, April 2, 1997.

2. Authorized under Goals 2000: Educate America Act, 1994.

3. Published by the National Center for Education Statistics.

4. WV, SB 300.

5. Study of Curriculum Reform, Studies of Education Reform, US Dept. of Ed., 1996.

6. Direct quote from California’s STW FRAMEWORK draft.

7. Daily Bulletin, Tony Esposito, July 26, 1996.

8. Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby, 1995.

9. To see PNN’s complete analysis of The Workforce Investment Act go to:

Karen Holgate is President of the Parents National Network

Tom DeWeese
[email protected]

Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.