What's Next In Education Post-Election?

Now that the election has passed and we have begun the transition process, prognosticators are in full bloom sharing minute-by-minute the latest piece of information that could be a foreshadowing of the next administration. What impact will the election results at the national, state and local levels have on education? How will the eventual implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) be impacted? Will education be viewed as an issue to be solved or as a resourceful strategy to help build our economy, strengthen our communities and lift our nation?

Education is both. It contributes to the problems facing our nation but it is also the most significant resource to solve our nation's problems. It is a problem in that we continue to struggle to address the unique challenges associated with successfully educating children in poverty. We have yet to systematically and systemically create real education opportunities for our children in poverty. Over 92 percent of our nation's lowest performing schools also are attended by our nation's highest concentrations of children living in poverty. This is both an education and economic issue. If we continue to fail these children and the current trend persists we will have a significant, growing population of adults living in poverty without an employable skill. What is the impact on our economy, including our financial structures, if this scenario endures?

The current Congress gave our nation's children and our state governments an opportunity to build and invest in new educational models through the passage of ESSA. However, after nearly a year since its passage, we are still in the planning stages and may be for several more months. Every state continues to make plans to submit to the United States Department of Education for approval. Unfortunately, most of the plans being developed continue to focus on maintaining a compliance regulatory function of accountability to satisfy federal law and regulations. This approach will not create the kind of change we need to address the long-standing, persistent problem of effectively educating children in poverty. Rather, an ongoing focus on compliance will continue to expose our weakness in education with no better future in site.

However, states still have time to change their approach. What we need is for every state to create an aligned system of education with improvement at its core. We need every state to establish a statewide framework of continuous improvement that has accountability for all stakeholders in support of student success. This is an important and fundamental shift from plans being considered today. Improvement is not a compliance activity. Compliance creates common order whereas improvement requires adaptive and agile change.

We need to rethink our approach to education in this country. We need to transform our strategies so that we build a system of education that is focused on ensuring economic opportunity for every student upon exiting the system. If we are able to successfully educate children in poverty, children win, families win, communities win and economy prospers. Every state needs to initiate actions to invest in and ensure such a system. ESSA grants every state that opportunity. Let's not pass or fail to act on investing in our most important resource and responsibility--our children.