The latest news and information from America Succeeds and our affiliates, along with items of public interest.
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Business View: U.S. Graduation Rate Rises to Historic High
Today, on news that the national high school graduation rate has improved for the fourth year in a row—according to the Obama administration—U.S. business leaders are taking a moment to acknowledge the progress, congratulate our hard-working educators, and promptly resume our relentless demand for, and support of, better student outcomes.
At America Succeeds, it’s our mission to elevate and expand America’s business voice for the dramatic and continuous improvement of public education. It’s an ambitious venture to turn business leaders into education champions, but it’s a necessary response to both the moral and economic imperative to ensure every child in the nation receives a quality education.
While the 83.2% of students who completed high school on time in 2015 marks an important and praiseworthy step in the right direction, it should not be considered a wholesale success or categorical victory. Not at all. There is still much work to do. More dropouts to prevent. More achievement gaps to close. More real-world value to build into the diploma. More high-caliber talent to attract into the field. More transparency and accountability to embed into the system.
Contrary to political competitiveness and media compulsions, the last thing the business community wants to do is quibble about who gets to take credit for these incremental improvements. Was it President George W. Bush whose No Child Left Behind policies pushed for more accountability? Was it President Barack Obama’s hard-charging Race to the Top program and his unwavering defense of higher standards? Doesn’t matter. What matters is that both of these presidents took the K-12 education bull by the horns, and made earnest and fruitful efforts toward substantive improvements.
It’s both these past presidents—spurred by the policy, advocacy, and organizing groups, as well as foundations and philanthropists, that keep education reform front and center at state capitols coast to coast—who collectively contributed to the good news of today. And to continue this progress, these outside forces of constituent power must become even more vocal and active considering the political forecast.
No matter the outcome of this 2016 presidential election—be it Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump—we have no reason to expect K-12 education will be highly prioritized or particularly well managed in the next administration. In fact, we expect K-12 education to be largely marginalized at the Federal level for the foreseeable future.
This means it’s even more critical for the business community to lead on educational innovation, stay engaged in advocating better policy, be vigilant in protecting good policies that come under attack, and continue to represent the radical middle of the political spectrum—those willing to do what’s best for children despite ideological differences.
The trajectory of improved graduation rates, and the persistent gaps and disparities, are captured well by Alyson Klein in her Education Week reporting: Graduation Rate Hits Record High of 83.2 Percent: Should Obama Take Credit?
From the perspective of business leaders and employers who rely on the K-12 education system to prepare students for the 21st century workforce, this is cause for cautious, measured optimism. A small step in the right direction. But it also affirms the need for our continuous positive pressure until all students graduate high school with the knowledge, skills, and behaviors to succeed in the globally competitive economy.
Tim Taylor is Executive Director of America Succeeds, a national network of non-partisan business organizations dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students.
Secret is Out About EdVenture
Looks like our quiet, low-key annual summit has been outed as one of the most unique and fun-filled education conferences on the map. We do it for our affiliates and invite our partners to join in, drawing a small and selective group of national leaders to Boise, ID to embrace our creed: “I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time.” – E.B. White.
Secret Weapon for ESSA Transparency
Call it a head start. Maybe a cheat sheet. Better yet, an accelerator. Yes, call it an accelerator!
Let me guess, your email and social media is bombarded with information, perspectives, concerns, and challenges related to state-level implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
There are big questions about standards, accountability, funding, spending, and, of course, the transparency thereof.
Our friends at the Center for Reinventing Public Education recently asked—and answered—this important question: What’s at Stake in the Ongoing Fight About School Spending Comparability?
Here is the good news. America Succeeds was looking around the corner and getting ahead on this issue several months ago. We think the new Colorado policy, crafted and championed by Colorado Succeeds, is a great roadmap for other states, so we used it as a case study and provide the detailed rundown in our Pulling Back the Curtain report.
In this report, we chronicle the evolution and enactment of signature education policy that unveils how money is being spent at every public school in Colorado. It requires the information be published on an easy-to-access, user-friendly website for full, free utilization by the public.
The measure provides unprecedented access to school-level financial data, such as line item budgets and expenditures. By overlaying this new level of financial detail with other data—like academic performance and staffing—we can finally see how effectively and fairly schools are, or are not, utilizing their available resources.
In line with the new requirements and opportunities of ESSA, Pulling Back the Curtain encourages states to smartly systematize the publication of this important information, and, conveniently, serves as a powerful guide and tool for states and advocacy groups on how best to do it.
While the politics vary from place to place, the principal need for transparency and accountability in school funding, spending, and performance is universal.
-America Succeeds Team
It Pays to Improve School Quality
This week’s release of It Pays to Improve School Quality, a report by Eric Hanushek, shows that by adopting and implementing aggressive education reforms now, and raising student achievement significantly over the next 10 years, states can realize tens of billions of dollars in increased GDP over the next several decades.
It punctuates the point America Succeeds and our affiliates have been making all along: “great schools are good business.” Hanushek is singing our song when he says: “Realizing these gains will require a sustained commitment on the part of the state’s political leaders.”
Replete with compelling data and economic projections, the report features specific information for each state. There’s an interactive map that that allows you to select the state, then choose how ambitious you want the student performance improvements to be, and it calculates the resultant economic benefit.
For respective states, the increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is in the billions. For the nation, it is in the trillions.
Read the report and use the interactive map here: It Pays to Improve School Quality
3 Keys to School Accountability
by Eric Lerum
The Elementary & Secondary Education Act of 2015 (ESSA) presents a tremendous opportunity for states to retool their school accountability frameworks to be more flexible and to reflect a broader definition of what it means for a school to be successful for students and parents. It’s also critical, however, that states hold a high bar for success that is predicated primarily on student outcomes. Business leaders should be at the front of the conversation, ensuring that state leaders strike the right balance. As future employers, business leaders know firsthand that schools must prepare graduates with the skills and knowledge to be successful in today’s workforce and the creativity and curiosity to imagine the industries of tomorrow.
America Succeeds has been paying close attention to this issue and recently participated in a design competition sponsored by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute focused on new frameworks for accountability under ESSA. While there are many ways to design an accountability system and no single model will fit every state, we believe three guiding principles will position business leaders to contribute to the discussion in their states: (more…)
Idaho Working Toward “Go-On” Goal
This story in The Spokesman-Review highlights Idaho’s efforts to get at least 60% of high school graduates to go on to college:
Rod Gramer, head of Idaho Business for Education, said research shows that by 2020, 60 to 70 percent of the jobs in Idaho will require a post-secondary degree or certificate, and we’re not there. “The need for our employers is real – we need an educated workforce,” Gramer said. “Not achieving this goal has serious ramifications for our business community.”
The New York Times boldly says what needs to be said with this recent piece:
The Counterfeit High School Diploma
Contrary to what most Americans believe, earning a high school diploma does not equal college readiness, or even proper preparation for entry-level jobs in the workforce. While the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) preserves and protects some critical practices to improve student learning, like mandatory annual testing, it also has some persistent shortcomings. It is important for education advocates to recognize and address the fact that “most states still have weak curriculums and graduation requirements that make high school diplomas useless and that leave graduates unprepared for college, the job market or even meeting entry requirements for the Army,” writes the NYT Editorial Board. This is a stark reminder of both the moral and economic imperative to bring our public education system into the 21st century. America must deliver on the promise, and necessity, of providing an excellent education for all.
America Succeeds Expands Team
For Immediate Release
America Succeeds is excited to announce the addition of two new team members. Eric Lerum, formerly Vice President of National Policy at StudentsFirst, is joining our team as Vice President of Growth & Strategy. As the organization continues to improve and expand our mission, Eric will play a critical role in both managing our growth into new states and improving quality and effectiveness with our current affiliates.
Also, Lauren Cole is a recent graduate of Cornell University and will serve as Project Director to support the home office and all affiliates.
These additions to the team set us on course to meet and exceed our ambitious goals and strategies for turning business leaders into education champions to ensure all students have the opportunity to succeed in a competitive global economy.
Staying the Course on Higher Standards
In Colorado, the first round of Common Core-aligned test scores are in, and Colorado Succeeds has some important perspective to offer. Having implemented higher standards for students at every grade level, it is not at all surprising that scores were underwhelming on the new and more rigorous test. The good news is that we are now aware of, and honestly reporting, true proficiency levels, which are troubling, and which were masked by the score inflation of the previous state test. In this blog post and video, Colorado Succeeds explains why the new tests are critical to providing students what they need and deserve from our schools.