Beginning at 9:45 a.m. (ET) on December 14, MSNBC is hosting a public education forum for eight of the Democratic presidential candidates: Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, and Elizabeth Warren.
The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) has prepared a series of education recommendations that every presidential candidate, including President Donald Trump, should consider to ensure all children have equitable opportunities to thrive and be well prepared to assume a productive role in an increasingly global economy. The future of our country rests on what we offer to our students and our actions tell our students what it is we value.
Transforming High School into A Relevant and Meaningful Experience
Economic reality and academic preparation are at an impasse. Eighty percent of good paying jobs require postsecondary education, but only 40 percent of first-time college freshman graduate in 4-years. Evidence demonstrates that students with early college experiences are five to seven times more likely than their peers to earn a postsecondary credential. While opportunities have grown for high school students to earn college credits, they have yet to be systemically embedded into the high school experience, particularly for historically underserved students.
The demands of the modern economy call for high school to be transformed and restructured. Rather than maintaining high school and higher education as distinct entities, presidential candidates should consider ways to restructure secondary and postsecondary education so that high school culminates in a degree/certificate with labor market value or substantial transferable credits toward a bachelor’s degree, in addition to a high school diploma. Policy recommendations include:
- Align high school graduation requirements with college admissions requirements;
- Redesign 12th grade by allowing academically prepared high school seniors to either graduate early with a scholarship or enroll in a full-slate of dual enrollment (or AP/IB) courses that constitute the equivalent of the freshman year in college and replace seat time with demonstrated mastery of core competencies;
- Create a federal program to support the expansion of early college high school programs and require multiple dual enrollment courses, AP/IB, etc. in all high schools at no cost to the student or the student’s family;
- Design High School to College and Career pathways, including pathways that incorporate real work experiences with statewide articulation agreements that culminate in meaningful postsecondary credentials; and
- Implement reporting and accountability systems to ensure equitable access and success in college-level coursework enrollment, credit attainment, and completion of High School to College and Career pathways.
Five-Point Equity Agenda for Education
Educational equity is the civil rights issue of our time. Presidential candidates should issue a multi-point equity agenda for education to reverse Trump/DeVos policies and close opportunity gaps that have led to persistent achievement gaps. Items on the agenda should include:
- Providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented young people brought to the U.S. by their parents.
- Increasing investments in core education programs (Title I) in tandem with formula changes to ensure resources are equitably targeted to communities and students most in need. (Note: it is essential to ensure students have support systems to increase literacy and numeracy achievement so that success in rigorous coursework is achievable);
- Advance resource equity (beyond funding) to ensure historically underserved students have equitable access to rigorous coursework, excellent educators, modern school facilities and technology (including internet access), school counselors, social workers, etc. (Note: the ratio of support staff, such as students to counselors and social workers ratios, must be altered dramatically);
- Promote school integration through new federal funding to combat the trend toward increasing school segregation evident in recent research and to realize the promise of Brown V. Board of Education;
- Ensure schools are safe/inclusive environments for all students, including protecting the rights of transgender students, expanded funding for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Title IX enforcement, addressing significant disproportionality under IDEA, expanding the role of Safe and Healthy Schools programs, and banning the use of federal education funding for firearms in schools and firearms training for educators.