Hanseul Kang State Superintendent
District of Columbia

Hanseul Kang has led the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), the District of Columbia’s state education agency, since 2015. Under her leadership, the district has continued to make strides in student achievement and OSSE has worked to sustain, accelerate and deepen this progress. Superintendent Kang started her career as a high school social studies teacher. She later worked as a managing director of programs in Teach For America’s District of Columbia regional office and as chief of staff for the Tennessee Department of Education.

“When we change academic expectations based on background — even out of the best of intentions or without realizing what we are doing — it’s often our most vulnerable student populations that end up with the short end of the stick.”
Hanseul Kang

Noel Ginsburg Founder & CEO
Intertech Plastics

Ginsburg is founder and CEO of Intertech Plastics as well as founding executive chair of the board and CEO for CareerWise Colorado, a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to building the middle class by closing the skills gap through experiential learning.

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We must hold every student to the same high bar and prepare them not only for this first next step after high school but also for the many other next steps their academic and professional careers will take.

Holding standards high is an equitable philosophy for educators that can help students later in life. However, who sets this bar and how high? Will it hold some back while being impossible for others. Worthy goal, but not an easy task.

I also strongly believe that to do otherwise, to set different expectations for students based on what we think their pathway might be, can have significant negative impacts.

Teachers telling students that they won't succeed in a certain path instead of preparing them for the path that they want to go down is a huge problem, especially for students of color, low-income students, and students with learning disabilities.

ltimately, it is not our job as educators to decide which students will choose college and which students will not. Instead, it is our responsibility to set high expectations for every student and believe they can reach them regardless of their background. We must fully prepare them to make their own choices — for their next steps right after high school and the many additional steps they may take over the course of their careers.

I really like how Kang framed that while it may not be needed for everyone to go to college to pursue their passion and career path, that it is the role of educators to prepare students regardless of their backgrounds to be equipped so that they can make the decision themselves. In essence, I think it is important that educators give students as many tools as possible so they have more options for their future.

But my excitement faded quickly in that meeting when my advisor told me that he didn’t think I should try for an honors path. He explained that at Georgetown you not only had to complete and defend a thesis project, but also maintain a required GPA, and transfer students typically struggled to maintain it. I thought that he must know best and reluctantly followed his advice.

Teachers and advisors who discourage any student does a huge disservice to them. It should be thoroughly communicated that educational leaders should never discourage a student regardless of their personal opinions.

But unlike in the United States, the remaining 70 percent go through an apprenticeship. The process begins with career exploration in middle school, so by the time students reach 10th grade and have to make the decision between an academic or a career path, they have an idea of what they want to do.

This is a good idea because even when people go to college, they often do not know what they want to do. Some drop out or just get a generic degree because they never figure out what they want to do. All students including the students that don't change majors could benefit from this because this will allow them to know what they are getting involved in.

we’re targeting financial sustainability within the same time frame, sustained by the fees businesses pay to participate in the system, and eliminating our need for long-term philanthropic or government support.

This is such an incredible aspect of the initiative in the sense it will have tremendous potential for bipartisan appeal. There is no doubt that fiscal responsibility is a major topic of education policy conversations. I am very hopeful that this will continue to gain traction, and importantly, support from both of the leading political parties, allowing for the expansion of this initiative.

mize or improve a young person’s career opportunities and chances for success in life? If the answer is “yes,” then should the goal be to prepare every student in our K-12 system as though their destination is a college or university? What are the implications — positive and negative — when a system focuses intently on preparing every child for higher education?

Perhaps the challenge is creating a K-12 education program that gives student the proper foundation to be productive and effective citizen in society, without the necessity to go to college.

to set different expectations for students based on what we think their pathway might be can have significant negative impacts.”

Great point, we should not be influencing the path students take but rather give them the skills to achieve the path they choose.

it is critical to prepare every student for academic challenges and expose every student to opportunity.

I agree with this. It is highly critical to provide equal opportunity to overcome the gaps in our society. A lot of people fall short of their needs because of lack of opportunity.

A college education was an imperative chapter in Kang’s own inspirational story. Still, for Kang, what’s most important is not necessarily whether a student goes to college right away — or at all — but whether adults in the system are tracking students for college or career.

Knowing that there is an adult or role model in the system that is looking out for each individual student makes a world of difference. When a student knows that there is an adult paying attention to them and having high expectations of them, this significantly increase that student's desire to achieve.

In the U.S., for years we’d been telling children that a college degree would assure their success.

I think that this has been the most difficult thing for me to digest. For the longest time I felt like I would graduate from college and be "ok". But I do think that students have been misled to think this. Even after graduate school jobs are never a guarantee, rather we just have a better chance. I think this is why many people are discouraged to invest so much time in education. Meanwhile missing how much more education can provide than just a job.