High-profile programs like Race to the Top and Common Core have brought education reform again to the front of the national agenda. Discussion, however, settles over class size, teacher certification and teacher compensation because they seem like the most important issues related to student achievement. Significantly less time is spent on discussing the role of the principal. With increasingly complex duties, higher accountability and only modest pay increases, the principal’s job has become frustrating and unappreciated. Nevertheless, new studies are shedding light on the substantial impact that principals, as a part of institutional leadership, have on student performance.

US Education Secretary Arne Duncan called for states to develop methods to place effective teachers in high-poverty schools in a letter earlier this month. Calling for a plan to ensure equal access to qualified teachers regardless of race or income from each state by April 2015, Duncan also introduced the Educator Equity Support Network, which will work with states by compiling best practices and providing technical support related to implementation. Concurrently, the Education Department will provide each state with its data file from the Civil Rights Data Collection which will serve to highlight current income- and race-based gaps in access.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assesses the progress of 4th- and 8th-graders in reading every two years. The NAEP reports that there were significant achievement gaps across demographic groups and states in 2013.

Children continue to be the poorest age group in America. Child poverty remained at record high levels in 2012, with more than 1 in 5 children identified as poor. This poverty leads to student achievement gaps, reductions in readiness for school, increased absenteeism, and developmental delays. Poor children also are less likely to complete high school - limiting potential employability and economic success in the future, and leading to poverty as an adult.

Since President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty in 1964, the rate of young children in poverty has only slightly decreased.
“It is the case that children are more often poor...

Children continue to be the poorest age group in America and poverty in childhood has a substantially negative impact on a number of educational outcomes. Poor educational outcomes can in turn limit future economic success and potential employability as an adult.

The more education a person attains, the better the chance he or she will get a job, earn a living, support a family, pay taxes and contribute to the community in which he or she lives.
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The National Education Association Foundation recently announced a $1 million commitment toward its efforts to close achievement gaps in America. The Foundation’s “Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative” is an effort to accelerate the achievement rate for under-achieving low-income and minority student groups via targeted philanthropy. 

The U.S. Department of Education released progress report information for the 12 states that received Race to the Top funding in 2010.  The specific summaries highlight the reform efforts and initiatives each state is implementing along with challenges along the way.  Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Tennessee developed aggressive plans for statewide reform and secured funding for the work.

Educators and policymakers realize that all of America’s students need a high-quality education to prepare them for college and careers. 2012 promises to be another busy year in  transformational strategies in education. In order to ensure a world-class education, leaders will likely address these top five issues facing states and territories (“the states”) this year.

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