The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides an opportunity to find alternatives to standardized testing, such as performance assessment, which allow public schools and districts to more equitably meet the needs of all students and to use more relevant, engaging curriculum and instruction that prepares students for complex problem-solving and collaboration.

Increasingly, a high school diploma is not enough to prepare students for college and career success. How do we know when a student is college ready, and how do we use that information to design effective supports and interventions? What kind of partnerships are needed to make this happen?

With widespread support for the expansion of early education programs, there is an increased need for collaboration across systems to support the critical transition from pre-K to elementary school in order to ensure positive educational outcomes for all.

Rather than view educating English language learners as a problem, an asset-based view embraces and values ELLs as bicultural, bilingual leaders of the future.

Public education today remains highly inequitable; some children have far more opportunities and resources than others. And those with the fewest opportunities and resources tend to be children of color.

More time spent on instruction equals is essential for more learning, but longer school days or years only raise achievement if the time is extremely well planned and executed. Learning time must be transformed and aligned inside and outside of school to provide a rich array of learning and enrichment opportunities, especially in traditionally underserved communities. 

Family and community engagement is a proven strategy for raising student achievement and strengthening schools. Organizing groups across the country in communities that have been poorly served by our education system are building the power to demand and win real improvements.

Academic content knowledge alone, commonly measured by grades and standardized tests, is not enough for student success. Tenacity – a student’s underlying beliefs and attitudes, along with skills like self-discipline and other non-cognitive skills – is just as crucial to high achievement.

Educational improvement at scale requires broad-based alliances made up of parents, teachers unions, civil rights organizations, municipal and state agencies, youth leaders, community-based organizations, research institutes, funders, and higher education. These cross-sector partnerships must be built around equity and a common vision of transforming opportunity and outcomes for all students.

The last decade has seen increasing public scrutiny of discipline policies and practices that result in disproportionate numbers of low-income students, particularly students of color, leaving school and, in some cases, entering the criminal justice system. Districts and communities across the country are finding ways to move away from punitive, exclusionary approaches that contribute significantly to persistent achievement gaps.

Districts are often seen as the problem, not the solution. But a high-performing, redesigned “smart district” is the only entity that can ensure both equity of opportunity and high-level achievement across all groups of students.

Addressing persistent achievement gaps and developing sustainable education reform at scale requires the commitment, efforts, and investment of an entire community. In a “smart education system,” districts and communities work together to provide a comprehensive web of opportunities and supports to young people in and out of school. 

The movement toward Common Core State Standards is an important step forward in education reform. But more emphasis is needed on long-term investment in teaching and learning, supports to stabilize struggling schools, community engagement, and measures of effectiveness that go beyond test scores.

Contrary to the prevailing national education reform discourse that sees teachers unions as obstacles to reform, communities across the country are showing that organized parents and teachers unions working together are a powerful force for improvement.

Data-informed decision making has played an increasingly important role in district improvement strategies. But “lagging indicators” like test scores are not enough; “leading indicators” are needed to identify struggling students in time to put supports and interventions in place.

In communities around the nation, youth organizing groups have become outspoken, effective, and powerful partners in school reform.