7:30 am – 2:00 pm EDT Washington Court Hotel Washington, DC
From the Capitol to the classroom, America is debating how to improve high schools. We widely agree on the problem – too few students graduate with the skills they need for college, work, and citizenship. We also agree on what is needed to improve high schools – set a high bar for success and give students what they need to reach it. What we lack is consensus about what role federal policy should play in high school reform.
For two days in October the Alliance for Excellent Education convened the country’s leading experts on high school reform. Discussion, centered on what is and is not working at the state and local level, explored what a shared federal agenda for reform might encompass. Guided by research and good practice, we examined what federal policy levers are best suited to advance smart federal policy.
Like it or not, federal policymakers are making decisions about high school reform, even if they choose to take little or no action. This conference offered a rare opportunity to inform those decisions by connecting conversations among federal, state, and local stakeholders.
Thursday, October 12
Setting a High Bar
On the current path, high schools are bound to serve only a third of students well. Governor Wise set the stage for this two-day conference by identifying what policymakers, practitioners, and advocates need to know to engage in an informed discussion about federal policy and high school reform.
Panel I: What Are We Preparing Students For? Audio (MP3)*
To move high school reform forward, the first step is to agree on the direction in which we are moving. This panel explored what defines high school reform – considering whether the nation can agree on what all students should know and be able to do with a high school diploma.
For background information on this topic, please see: Panel 1 Concept Paper (pdf file)
William Kirwan, Chancellor, University System of Maryland
Hugh Price, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
James Whaley, President, Siemens Foundation
Panel II: How Can Alignment and Rigor Raise the Bar? Audio (MP3)
If high school students must have higher levels of knowledge and skills to compete in the global economy, what must be done to raise the rigor of high school coursework and to align standards, curricula, and assessments with those goals? The panel explored promising practices to increase rigor and align expectations with inputs and measures, while considering how federal policy can promote this movement.
For background information on this topic, please see: Panel II Concept Paper (pdf file)
Joe DiMartino, President, Center for Secondary School Redesign
Dan Challener, President, Public Education Foundation, Chattanooga
Stanley Jones, Commissioner, Indiana Commission for Higher Education
Michael Cohen, President, Achieve, Inc.
Raymond Pierce, Dean of Law, North Carolina Central University
LUNCH: Turning Up the Volume: Amplifying Student Voices for Change Audio (MP3)*
Policymakers rarely hear the voices of students who are directly impacted by high school reform. Participants heard how Los Angeles engaged and enlisted Latino students (and parents and community members) to raise the bar in their own high schools.
Panel III: What Is an Effective High School Accountability System? Audio (MP3)*
The No Child Left Behind Act promulgated a framework for accountability throughout the country. Unfortunately this framework was largely developed without focus on the unique nature of the high school. This panel examined accountability systems in place at the local and state level to consider what an effective system for high schools might look like and how federal accountability can support and improve them.
For background information on this topic, please see: Panel III Concept Paper (pdf file)
Michele Cahill, Senior Counselor for Education Policy, New York City Department of Education
Peter McWalters, Commissioner of Education, Rhode Island
Bethany Little, Vice-President of Federal Policy, Alliance for Excellent Education
Bill Taylor, Chair, Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights
Panel IV: What Do We Do With All That Data? Audio (MP3)*
“Data-driven decision-making” has become a cornerstone of education reform. Action to date has focused on the technical hurdle of building statewide data systems. There seems to be much less action around the greater challenge of building the knowledge, skills, and willingness of educators to use the data. How do we move the national discussion from collecting to using educational data? The panel explored promising practices at the state and district level and how federal policy can support and encourage them.
For background information on this topic, please see: Panel IV Concept Paper (pdf file)
Craig Jerald, Break the Curve Consulting
Lynn Olson, Senior Editor, Education Week
Mary Ann Lachat, Director of Evaluation, Public Consulting Group, Center for Resource Management, Inc.
Striving Readers is the only federal grant program dedicated to improving literacy for middle and high school students. The reception recognized the eight school districts – out of one hundred forty-eight who applied – receiving the first round of these prestigious grants. Keynote remarks by Moctesuma Esparza, award-winning film producer, aptly capped off the evening by discussing the importance of reading and high school education as the means to redress inequitable school systems.
2006 Striving Readers Grantees, Featured Guests
Friday, October 13
Reaching the Bar
Raising the bar for high schools must be accompanied by supports, resources, and incentives to help high schools reach that bar. That means changing the way teachers teach, boosting efforts to turn around low-performing schools, and leveraging federal policy to make a difference now for the lives of students languishing in dropout factories.
Michelle Armstrong, Education Program Manager, MetLife Foundation
Each year, through their Survey of the American Teacher, MetLife Foundation explores teachers’ opinions and brings them to the attention of the American public. The 2006 survey examined what deans and chairs of schools of education, principals, and teachers each think is most critical in preparing teachers to meet classroom demands. The survey set the stage for the morning conversation on teacher quality.
PowerPoint Presentation: The MetLife Survey Of The American Teacher, 2006: Expectations and Experiences
Panel V: How Do We Improve Teacher Performance? Audio (MP3)*
The panel began with the observation that the highly-qualified teacher provision in NCLB is a minimum threshold. More can be done to ensure those teachers are actually effective in raising student achievement for all. How do we move the national discussion from ensuring students have highly-qualified teachers to ensuring students have highly-effective teachers? The panel explored promising practices at the state and district level and how federal policy can maximize them.
For background information on this topic, please see: Panel V Concept Paper (pdf file)
Michelle Rhee, CEO & President, New Teacher Project
Brad Jupp, Senior Academic Policy Advisory, Denver Public Schools
Doug Wood, Executive Director, National Academy for Excellent Teaching
Joseph A. Aguerrebere, President & CEO, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
Andrew Rotherham, Founder & Co-Director, Education Sector
Panel VI: What Options and Interventions Actually Turn Around Failing Schools and Districts? Audio (MP3)*
High school reform should both identify problems and fix them. Once we identify troubled high schools, what role does federal policy play in improving them? The panel explored what structural reforms and instructional programs have been successful to date. It also teased out how federal policy can better support and avoid hindering high school improvement.
For background information on this topic, please see: Panel VI Concept Paper (pdf file)
Gerry House, President & CEO, Institute for Student Achievement
Stephen Schenck, Associate Commissioner, Kentucky Department of Education
Bob Balfanz, Associate Research Scientist, Johns Hopkins University
PowerPoint Slides: What Turns Around Failing Schools and Districts?
Danica Petroshius, Senior Vice-President, Collaborative Communications Group
What now? Governor Wise brought the conference to a close with brief remarks on the bounce-back theory and power-of-one theory – both of which build the public will necessary to ensure policymakers act on the good ideas presented at the conference. At the end of the day, to move high school reform from debate to action, all stakeholders must engage and urge policymakers to act now.
In a globally competitive world, high schools have a critical need to prepare all students for success in college, work, and as citizens. How can the federal government support and accelerate effective high school reform? Participants heard what the Administration is thinking and doing to ensure high schools are equipped to thrive in the 21st century.