It’s Time to Raise the Level of Education Debate in the US

microphone against the background of convention center

Matt Williams
It’s time to discuss how to best educate our students for life beyond high school as they enter an ever-changing, increasingly innovative, interconnected workforce where many of their future jobs have yet to be created.
It’s time to think forward. It’s time to close achievement gaps and help all students succeed. It’s time for America’s students to once again compete on an international stage.
We’ve been through a significant number of debates for both the Republicans and the Democrats. Has the debate on education been substantive? Nope. Have the candidates offered a vision for education? Did the moderators press them for one? Nope. Has anyone articulated that education is foundational to systemically solving key issues such as national security, economic development and viability, immigration, or poverty? Nope. Have we heard how in a global, interconnected world we need to transform our system to not only remain competitive but lead? Nope.
Isn’t it time the candidates, in both major parties, to address this key issue? We believe so. The issues of the moment are obviously pressing and consuming.  Without a robust vision for education in our nation, the bedrock for our children’s and grandchildren’s well-being, our collective future is, at best, unclear and at worst, perilous. Education is foundation for national transformation.

And it’s time we ask those running for President to rise to the challenge.

This is why KnowledgeWorks created the Education Playbook for the Next President of the United States. This set of policy proposals was developed with a lens towards transforming our education system and not just tweaking the status quo. With that lens, we believe by using strategic foresight and partnering with educators in both traditional and innovative environments, we have developed five key policy proposals which drive innovation and results:
First, we encourage support and flexibility for States that want to voluntarily develop and improve systems of competency-based education. These systems, will allow students to learn and master the skills and knowledge they need to be successful through a personalized learning approach that is geared toward the needs of each and every individual learner.
Second, we recommend support for States to develop digital registries of personalized learning opportunities that utilize innovative partnerships with business and postsecondary institutions. This effort would spur educational innovation by accessing the learning and instructional power in schools, higher education, and out-of-school organizations to develop and validate successful learning opportunities and pathways to college and career readiness.
Third, partnerships of States and institutions of higher education should be supported to improve certification and develop a new pipeline of educators that can implement personalized learning approaches. This will harness the educational power across the spectrum, from community volunteers to full-time classroom teachers.
Fourth, our nation’s federal student aid system should be redesigned to pay for the actual acquisition and demonstration of knowledge and skills, not simply covering the costs of credit hour courses that may not lead to any actual learning. This approach would allow students to access their total amount of Federal aid at any time during their academic careers, allowing them to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in the workplace at a pace that works for them.  
Finally, we recognize the need to support a new approach to investing in education technology through a competition to spur new ideas and approaches. This support can incent technological innovation away from simply digitizing print media, and instead focus on new ways to impact learning.
The fact is that education is too important to gloss over. It is too important to play a mere cameo role in this election year. Education is too important to not address substantively as we select our next leader. As a nation, we must transform our system of education in the United States and we need to hear how our next president proposes to do that? Shouldn’t that be part of the job interview? I invite you to engage with us and with our Education Playbook and spread the word if you’d like.
Join the conversation using #EdDebate and visit to learn even more.
For more from KnowledgeWorks, check out:

Matt Williams is VP, Policy and Advocacy at KnowledgeWorks. Follow Matt on Twitter, @MattAWilliams.

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1 Comment

Romal Bell

I agree with your suggestions, Matt. I also think it's best to have access to the total financial aid amount especially taking classes or educational opportunities at a pace that is beneficial to the individual student's learning. This would represent a paradigm shift in post-secondary education.

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