What Does the Shift to a More State Dominant Education System Look Like?

With the Every Student Succeeds Act in place for more than a year, what does the evolution to a more state dominant education system look like under the guidance of a new secretary of education? The Line turned to three education leaders for their thoughts about the influence of this shift on innovation, accountability and proven state models like the one in New Mexico.


Voices

“Now is the time for strong leadership and a singular focus on what matters most — our students.”
Hanna Skandera Secretary of Education, New Mexico

Change is difficult, but it presents opportunity. We must seize this opportunity to build on the higher standards, better assessments and continue investing in supports for our students and teachers. Leaders have to focus on what’s best for kids, not what’s easiest. And we have to champion the teachers and school leaders who work tirelessly day after day to deliver on the promise of a great education for every child. Key to New Mexico’s success has been innovative principal and teacher mentorship programs, which have resulted in growth as much as three times the state average, more students learning and more teachers earning the highest marks on their evaluations.

I have no doubt that every teacher, leader or parent wants the very best for their students and schools. We can be encouraged by the progress, locally and nationally. Still, we have a long way to go toward our goal of providing a top-notch education for every student.

As the education landscape continues to evolve across the country, states should continue what works, keep the bar high and make every school a better school for our kids. Every child can learn, so no matter the party or the personalities in power let’s pull together and deliver on that promise.

ASSESSMENT

In our working group, we’ve encouraged chiefs to think about how to use evidence-based assessments as they implement new accountability systems. Leaders are looking for rigorous assessments that are potentially more aligned to evaluating college and career readiness, not just graduation rates. Nevada, for example, has the ability to align its K-12, higher-ed and workforce data sets to learn about career pathways and to start to understand what needs to change.

TEACHER LEADERSHIP AND ADVOCACY

An unprecedented level of flexibility in using Title I as well as Title II funds is enabling leaders to reimagine how to develop and support teachers across career pathways and enable them to become advocates for their schools and systems. A really good example of this is a program like Louisiana Believes, where there are about 4,000 teachers engaged in a statewide effort to improve outcomes through mentoring opportunities and professional development that support them in meeting new standards and improving outcomes.

SCHOOL TURNAROUND

In this new era of more state influence, there will be new strategies that emerge around how to intervene and turn schools around, as well as different approaches for making good schools great.

I expect we’ll find ways to support more engaged educators who are empowered to redesign schools with a focus on student-centered approaches to learning. Already we’re seeing innovations, such as Summit Basecamp, unlock a great deal of teacher demand for change, and I think that’s just the beginning.

NEW FUNDING STREAMS FOR DIRECT STUDENT SERVICES

Under ESSA, there’s substantial flexibility in how states and districts can use federal title funding to improve supports for teachers and outcomes for kids. Districts can set aside three percent of Title I money — that’s potentially $438 million a year nationally — for direct student services (DSS). The funds can be used to create a constellation of new opportunities for students that they can access directly. For example, if there are AP courses not offered in a given district, a student could potentially take them elsewhere and Title I could help fund that. Or the monies could be used for high-impact tutoring or personalized learning. Most importantly, DSS is structured as a partnership between states and districts to help ensure quality.

GOVERNANCE

At this point, there are a handful of achievement school districts that were designed to turn around the lowest performing schools. Several Chiefs for Change members are focused on lessons learned from those districts — both what worked and what could make them more impactful. In particular, they want to engage local communities more meaningfully in the work of improving our most struggling schools.

Magee suggests all of this innovation is dependent on leadership.

“It can happen and happen more rapidly if there are bold, strategic leaders in place. If you look back over the last 10 years, where systems have dramatically changed in ways that were good for kids and improved outcomes, there were strong leaders driving that change.”
Mike Magee, CEO, Chiefs of Change

“I worry that our democracy is fraying because we’ve poorly educated so many folks. And you see that on both the left and the right.”

“No one—not the left or the right— has a monopoly on good ideas,” he says. “Let’s focus on those nation building big goals and learn rapidly from those making the most progress towards achieving them.”Arne Duncan, Managing Partner, Emerson Collective

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“I worry that our democracy is fraying because we’ve poorly educated so many folks. And you see that on both the left and the right, the anger and fear that people feel that they can’t make it in this globally competitive economy

Education is the common denominator in today's given equation, but the inspiration and hope lie in knowing education is the most powerful catalyst for change.

champion the teachers and school leaders who work tirelessly day after day

Left, right or center: teacher voice needs to be at the heart of the dialogue

Louisiana Believes, where there are about 4,000 teachers engaged in a statewide effort to improve outcomes through mentoring opportunities and professional development

Yes! Fostering job-embedded PD aligned to student learning needs is the lever for student success.

support more engaged educators who are empowered to redesign schools with a focus on student-centered approaches to learning.

…starting by empowering educators to organize teacher-centered, growth-oriented approaches for their own professional learning.

“No one—not the left or the right— has a monopoly on good ideas,” he says. “Let’s focus on those nation building big goals and learn rapidly from those making the most progress towards achieving them.”

Let's seize the opportunity to be a model of civil brainstorming, critical thinking and timely analysis and evaluation with a sense of shared urgency.

States are teed up to take the helm on efforts that were largely incentive-driven during the Race to the Top and waiver eras. I wonder how state leaders will go about creating a sense of clarity around their new priorities. How will we see that communicated to school districts and other stakeholders? And how should school-level leaders be developing and sharing their own visions for the future of education?