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NASBE’s Standard Explores How States Can Reimagine Education Systems Post-Pandemic

Alexandria, VA – Bolstered by American Rescue Plan funds and lessons learned during pandemic-induced school closures, state policymakers have an opportunity to reexamine and reform their education systems. The spring issue of NASBE’s State Education Standard offers state leaders several ways they can ensure education systems meet the needs of all students and help them succeed.

In the lead article, Bellwether Education Partners researchers Bonnie O’Keefe, Andrew Rotherham, and Jennifer O’Neil Schiess help state leaders weigh the role of assessment and accountability. They argue that such systems should focus on data that can inform instructional improvement and help educators, parents, and policymakers better understand how students are progressing and make decisions with the best information available.

Predicting that schools will need to rely on remote learning again, Kristen Amundson, past NASBE CEO, and Andrew Ko, a former Virginia state board member and technology executive, offer questions state leaders can ask to plan for a more effective, efficient delivery of Virtual School 2.0.

The American Enterprise Institute’s Frederick M. Hess revisits his seminal, decade-old work on what it means to approach school reform as a “greenfield” and how state policymakers might apply it in a pandemic context. “State officials have an opportunity to champion creative approaches and fund promising pilots,” says Hess. “They have a distinctive role to play when it comes to dismantling the impediments that currently make this kind of reimagining impractical.”

Two articles focus on how state boards might rethink student learning. Aurora Institute’s Susan Patrick details ways states can make personalized learning—rooted in mastery of competencies rather than seat time—a reality. She highlights several policy levers that can advance student-centered learning and notes states that have made progress. Learning Policy Institute’s Monica Martinez and College of Philadelphia Professor of Sociology Dennis McGrath highlight examples of “authentic learning” where students engaged deeply in learning despite the pandemic. The key, they say, is ensuring such learning is tied to students’ interests, has real-world application, and leverages technology to do it.

NASBE’s Valerie Norville details a school redesign pilot program in Kansas where more than 160 schools have volunteered to reimagine their learning models in a state-led, multiyear process. Early program adopters say the redesign work prepared them to be nimble in a disrupted year, shifting and adapting to new instructional models quickly and efficiently.

New America’s Melissa Tooley and Joseph Hood write about the potential of high-quality microcredentialing to promote teacher growth, advancement, and retention. It brings the kind of flexible, anywhere learning education leaders seek for students to educators as well.

We also talk with XQ CEO Russlynn Ali about the role state boards can play in transforming the high school experience and the importance of tapping into the local communities and students to drive systemic change and create the conditions for success.

Read and share the “reimagining schools” issue of the State Education Standard.

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at


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