A bipartisan group of state lawmakers are warning that “most state education systems are falling dangerously behind the world,” leaving the United States “overwhelmingly underprepared to succeed in the 21st century economy.”
The group, convened by the National Conference of State Legislatures, released a report entitled, “No Time to Lose: How to Build a World-Class Education System State by State” August 9 at the organization’s annual summit in Chicago.
The report finds that “states have found little success” while “high-performing countries implement policies and practices and build comprehensive systems that look drastically different from ours.”
According to the report, when it comes to improving schools, states have failed to create cohesive policy. Rather, recent reforms have underperformed because of silver bullet strategies and piecemeal approaches. Meanwhile, high-performing countries implement policies and practices and build comprehensive systems that look drastically different from ours, leading them to the success that has eluded states.
Common elements in high-performing countries include: a strong early education system, a re-imagined and professionalized teacher workforce, robust career and technical education programs, and a comprehensive, aligned system of education. These elements are not found in the U.S. in a consistent, well-designed manner as they are found in high performers
The group calls on fellow legislators to lead the effort to make these changes.
“Education is first and foremost a state responsibility,” the report says. “Each state can develop its own strategies for building a modern education system that is globally competitive, similar to the approach taken by other high-performing countries.”
The report is the product of a study group consisting of 28 legislators and staff from 26 states that worked over two years. It also recommends steps that states can take immediately, such as being “unafraid” to compare their state to other states and countries, and working through “messiness” to design system-wide reform. Still, the study group says it has more questions about how to design and implement systemic changes, and it will continue to meet through 2017.