What a great time NASBE’s Annual Conference 2016 was!  We hope our keynote speakers left you inspired, our sessions provided you with new ideas, and our “down times” gave you a chance to connect with old friends and board colleagues. The NASBE team left energized too: We are already brainstorming a long list of great ideas for next year’s conference and new NASBE work. Stay tuned!

While we hope that you joined us in Kansas City last week, we know many of our members did not. As promised, here are five key takeaways from the conference that you are welcome to share with your boards.

  1. States matter more now than ever. We are witnessing the biggest shift in education governance in decades. The outlook for implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act is promising: While states are in the early stages of planning, most can see tremendous opportunities ahead for state decision making. While states matter more under ESSA, it is also clear that state boards are growing in importance. Note that two sitting governors attended this year’s Annual Conference.
  2. Our mission gets bigger all the time. If you heard Manny Scott at this conference, you got a vivid picture of the challenges confronting some students, ones most of us cannot imagine. Our schools serve a greater diversity of students than they once did. We have to start educating those students earlier and ensure they receive rich experiences. For some state boards, this presents a governance challenge. Finding ways to build bridges with government agencies that serve students in the early years is critical. For older students, we must make sure higher-level courses are really open to everyone. We cannot turn Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate into a way to resegregate schools. In thinking about everything from student privacy and teacher discipline to computer science, the job of state boards is getting bigger, not smaller.
  3. To quote the movie “Jaws”, “We’re going to need a bigger boat.” State resources will only grow tighter. There is only one way for state board members to learn what they need to know to meet the challenges ahead. That’s by turning to fellow state board colleagues and, through NASBE, connecting with other states that are solving your same problem. NASBE has always been important, but our connective tissue becomes even more critical as the political environment becomes more volatile.
  4. Accept that some decisions your board makes will be unpopular. David Von Drehle reminded us that the current political sphere makes it easy for people to organize around “No.” Your decisions will anger people; that goes with the territory. Keep doing right by kids as your North Star, and accept that politics generates some noise, because …
  5. Your job is to get to “Yes.” You do not have the luxury of saying, “Since we can’t agree on this, we’re just not doing third grade math.” Because you have to get to yes, you must make compromises. State boards can model the behavior people want from their state legislatures and the US Congress. It’s important to show our country that state boards of education are made up of people of goodwill who are committed to public service on behalf of our children.

~Kris Amundson, NASBE President/CEO