State officials and policymakers have been focused on college- and career-readiness for several years yet challenges still exist to graduate students with the skills and competencies necessary to obtain sustainable employment. 2015 promises to be another busy year concentrated on implementing best practices and enacting innovative policies that prepare America's youngest students for entry into school, create environments for all students including those at-risk, and offer a variety of experiences so students participate in work-based opportunities. In order to ensure a world-class education for all students, leaders will likely address these top 5 issues facing states this year.

During a national briefing call on June 3, Texas Sen. John Whitmire noted that, in his state, 84% of African American boys had received one or more suspensions in their educational career.  This was a startling wake-up call for policymakers and is now a priority as they work to create welcoming school cultures and effective learning conditions to keep students in the classroom.

According to a 2014 Annie E. Casey  Foundation report, large disparities exist related to fourth-grade student reading assessment results.  National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores show 80% of lower income students read below proficient levels.  In order to graduate high school with the skills, knowledge and dispositions needed to find and maintain a job a student must not only learn to read but use reading to learn other subjects.

With the mounting snow days in New Jersey the Pascack Valley Regional High School District took a new approach to learning.  Instead of adding another day with no instruction Superintendent Erik Gundersen made the bold decision to utilize students' district-issued laptops as the vehicle to provide lessons. 

Across the nation, an increasing number of students are being required to enroll in remedial courses when they arrive on college campuses. These additional courses add to the time spent obtaining a college degree and increase an already growing student debt problem. By implementing college- and career-readiness standards, states can better prepare students for the challenges of college or the workforce. 

Technology has changed the course of the world—making daily tasks easier, faster and cheaper to complete. But are American students prepared to change the course of technology in the future? How can technology change classrooms today? These were the questions posed by experts at The Council of State Governments’ Digital Learning and STEM Initiatives Policy Academy, sponsored by Microsoft and held in conjunction with CSG’s 2013 National Conference in Kansas City, Mo.

According to Cameron Evans, Microsoft’s U.S. Education Chief Technology Offer, on any given day the corporation has 8,000 vacant jobs due to the lack of a skilled workforce.  These are not highly technical jobs but those that can’t be filled by recent graduates due to the skills gap especially in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. 

Digital learning offers a new direction for students, teachers and school districts.  Opportunities exist to customize and personalize education so each student receives the tools they need to engage in their instruction and become self-directed learners.  Additionally, digital learning opens the door to connect students across the state, region and nation with instructional content and practices they may not otherwise receive.  Teachers and school leaders also benefit through online instruction, professional development and building capacity to expand and increase rigor in learning opportunities and equip students with the skills they need in the 21st century.  

Stateline Midwest ~ 2013 MLC Annual Meeting Edition

Picture a school system with no credits, no grades and no educational units.
And rather than graduating from high school after passing a certain number of courses over a set period of time, a student instead demonstrates proficiency in an agreed-upon set of skills and academic content. Sandra Dop of the Iowa Department of Education calls this vision a “CBE utopia.”
“CBE” stands for competency-based education, and while states may never reach or even want to reach this “utopia,” the idea of providing more pathways and individualized instruction to students is gaining more interest among state leaders.

Video Series: A Framework for State Policymakers: 
Ensuring All Students are College- and Career-Ready

Disc One: Problem Solving Through Project-Based Learning (Danville High School, Danville, KY)  (3:14)

Project-based learning represents a dynamic approach to...