Top 5 Issues for 2013 Expanded: Education

Policymakers know America’s educational system must transform to significantly increase the academic achievement of all students. A high-quality education, including content mastery and real world application, is critical to prepare students for college and careers. In order to ensure student success, leaders must tackle these top 5 issues facing states this year.

College- and Career-Readiness

With the changing face of technology and the critical need for a postsecondary degree or credential, students must possess both content knowledge and the ability to apply those skills in order to succeed and become employable. Businesses and the workforce demand analytical thinkers, problem solvers, effective communicators and team players.  State policymakers will be looking at creating rigorous guidelines for schools and districts as they work to radically change the way instruction is provided so that personalized learning is a staple in today’s educational environment.

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Assessment and Accountability Systems

Policymakers are looking to offer flexibility for districts to develop multiple measures of student learning as evidence for course credit, promotion and graduation. Accountability systems can be amended to utilize multiple measures to assess the success of individual schools and districts with a focus on college- and career-readiness measures, including mastery in core subjects, annual student growth, closing achievement gaps among all student groups, attendance and improved graduation rates. 

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Preparation for Teachers and School Leaders

In order to adequately prepare students, teachers and school leaders also must be appropriately trained, licensed and evaluated. State policymakers should articulate a comprehensive set of professional standards to ensure teachers and school leaders are equipped to help students graduate college- and career-ready. Teacher training, licensure, evaluation and professional development should align to rigorous state standards. More rigorous teacher pre-service programs can connect with high academic standards so teachers enter the classroom prepared to guide all students to success. They also should have access to ongoing, high-quality, relevant and effective professional development including research on how students learn, personalized learning, new technologies for teaching and learning, innovative teaching methods, inclusive practices and the latest specialized knowledge in the subject area taught. 

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College Completion

College access rates are climbing nationally, but completion rates remain stagnant. Because of this, the Obama administration set a goal for the United States to again become the leader in postsecondary degree attainment by 2020. Although this task will not be easy, states are working to increase the number of people who hold a postsecondary degree, certificate or credential. Knowing that college completion is a vital tool for economic success and growth, state policymakers are developing and monitoring completion agendas to ensure students persist to degree attainment. Policy levers include a focus on improving retention rates, easing transfer and articulation among institutions, and targeting data-based strategies to ensure persistence and success. State leaders also must focus on collaboration between legislators, educators and officials at public colleges and universities as they work together to increase production of postsecondary degrees and certificates.

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Funding Options for Postsecondary Education

Linking postsecondary education funding to productivity will be on many state agendas this year.  New approaches that tie appropriations and individual campus performance hope to increase completion, since funding will connect to degrees instead of simply counting heads.  Policymakers should consider formulas that reward student success and completion leading to high-quality graduates that meet demands of the workforce. Policy targets must include a clear identification of the funding source and use of existing allocations with a balance between money awarded for completion and those funds received from tuition. States should consider  rewarding institutions that succeed with underserved populations, and focusing on institutions that improve degree and certificate attainment, while giving attention to those that achieve momentum points that demonstrate students are progressing toward graduation.  

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