For more than 30 years, our nation has focused on improving education and workplace preparation. Initially, these efforts were to ensure equal learning opportunities for students, professionalize teaching, increase standards, and produce a “world class” educational system. These efforts grew from concerted attention to an overall educational decline, which began with the 1983 release of A Nation at Risk.
Previously, international achievement data from the Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), as well as our own data, showed America leading the way internationally in both academic achievement and college graduates into the 1980’s.
When reading these reports today, one is able to see that at this point in time the seeds of private school vouchers, tuition tax credits, school choice/free market solutions vis-à-vis Charter Management Organizations, and the obsession with student achievement equated with exit exams/high stakes testing were all firmly planted.
It is interesting to note that the country was able to maintain a #1 world-education ranking despite being in a cold war arms race, dealing with worldwide recessions, developing a sky-rocket national debt, and dealing with global shifts in labor markets and industrial production. Further, the USA became the first country to achieve success in passing national legislation that would fund a system of free, appropriate, and inclusive public education for all students with disabilities!
The 21st Century evolved the focus of current literature, research, and governmental policy concerning education reform effectiveness to hone in on developing practical approaches for what schools can and should be. The directive is that our country needs models capable of rapid scalability that deliver concrete outcomes readily, which are to be fitted for global assessment comparisons of academic achievement. The primary focus continues to be preparing students (under the age of 25) for pathways through higher education.
However, little information exists that qualifies how special education school-to-work outcomes as well as adult program and policies are functioning. Furthermore, without this information, our country cannot properly determine if such programs are even worth continuing and replicating.
Despite noteworthy resources such as the National Adult Literacy and Learning Disabilities Center, Office of Disability Employment Policy, and the National Center on Disability earning attention, our national conversation continues to be absent regarding encouraging and improving continuing education opportunities for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD, and other learning disabilities.