10 Things States Should Do Now

The 2012 election season is in full swing.  I listened to a great gubernatorial campaign speech this week suggesting that jobs and education were the priorities—and I couldn’t agree more.  I spent a day with Policy Innovators in Education (PIE-Net), a great network of state policy groups.  The speech and the meeting made me think about the Getting Smart policy agenda.  Following a quick sketch of 10 things state leaders should do over the next four years.

1. Award High School Diplomas for the 21st Century
  • Real college and career ready expectations (i.e., Common Core)
  • Every graduates experiences success in college, career, and community service
2. Close the Preparation Gap (i.e., percentage of students earning real diplomas)
  • Competency-based learning
  • School funding that reflects need not wealth
  • Funding that encourages performance and completion
3. Empower Customized Learning
  • Empower students and parents with decisions
  • Support adoption of blending learning
  • Expand full and part time learning options
4. Make Teaching a Great Profession
  • Recruit and retain effective educators
  • Extend the impact and pay of effective teachers
  • Support educator learning online
5. Go Digital!
  • Ensure that every student has Internet access
  • Administer assessments online and encourage common data backpack
  • Encourage digital content and online support for students
6. Support A Strong Early Start
  • Support Universal preschool
  • Fund Full day kindergarten
7. Invest in Higher Learning (not just Higher Ed)
  • Create higher ed incentives for learning and completion
  • Encourage a relevant and focused research agenda
  • Support inexpensive certification and adult ed programs
8. Add More Good Options, Close Bad Options
  • Make goals clear and results transparent
  • Contract with multiple statewide providers offering full and part time options
  • Add more good options where needed, non-renew ineffective options
9. Create a Portable Need-Based Funding System
  • Portable weighted student funding (yes, this one is hard)
10. Empower schools and communities
  • Push budgets to schools and students
  • Shift more oversight to nonprofit boards

During the next two gubernatorial terms, schools will shift from print to digital, from age cohorts to competency-based learning, from individual practice to teams.   The speed and quality of the shift depends, to a great extent, on state leadership—governors, chiefs, legislators, and state board members.
Next month states will receive feedback and additional guidance from  Digital Learn Now.  Every state has work to do. But the opportunities to help more young people prepare for life in the information economy are exciting.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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1 Comment

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