The purpose of public schools is to educate all students to high standards, prepare them for productive careers, and encourage them to be life-long learners (1997). NASBE asserts that school improvement is, fundamentally:
- A moral imperative in that a high-quality education is a civil right;
- A civic imperative in that a highly educated citizenry understands public issues as they become more complex.
- An economic imperative in maintaining the United States’ position in the world economy. (2005)
In order to achieve this goal, NASBE supports the following principles and school improvement efforts:
- States should create academic standards in all key subject areas at all levels, Pre-K 12, including standards for both content and student performance. Key subject areas should include language arts, mathematics, science, technology, citizenship, fine arts, health, and foreign languages/cultures. State standards should be measurable, broadly consistent with national standards, and regularly reviewed and improved. (1997)
- Performance standards for all elements of the education system should be developed to assure that each student has the opportunity to receive instruction in a positive environment from well-prepared teachers, working with quality materials and technology. (1997)
- States should provide technical assistance and support to schools and districts to assist them in implementing the state standards. (1997)
- States should take measures to ensure that students who do not meet rigorous academic standards are provided with effective alternate delivery systems. (1999)
- State assessment systems should be based on a definition of learning in terms of clear, succinct, and high standards that identify what students need to know and do to be college and career ready. Therefore, all states should:
- Have assessment systems that are designed to improve student learning. Recognizing that no single test serves all purposes, states need to create a comprehensive, balanced assessment system that includes both assessment of learning (reporting on what’s been learned) as well as assessments for learning (providing ongoing feedback to teachers and students as learning progresses). The assessments—summative, formative, interim—should function as a coherent system that uses a variety of approaches to integrate assessment as part of the fabric of classroom teaching.
- Frequently evaluate assessments to ensure validity, reliability, and fairness, and to determine their impact on teaching and student learning.
- Shift more attention to classroom-based assessments that permit a finer-grain analysis of student understanding through the use of a variety of performance-based tasks (e.g., openended responses, portfolios, technology-based items).
- Ensure that teachers have the tools and training they need to strengthen the connection between assessment and instruction based on our knowledge of how students learn and how such learning can be measured.
- Provide assessment results with user-friendly, transparent information that clearly describes differences in learning in a subject area in order to communicate effectively about student performance. Results should be communicated to a range of users, including teachers, students, and parents, in ways that position teachers and students as central actors in using results to guide teaching and individual instruction and to engage students in their own learning.
- Develop appropriate assessments and accommodations for special education students and
- English language learners through extensive research and testing to ensure they are of high technical quality (e.g., valid, reliable, and aligned to standards). They should provide for a range of options (e.g., emphasis on universal design, the development of high-quality accommodation policies, and provision of alternate assessments) that adhere to professional testing standards and support high achievement levels.
- Take advantage of the enormous possibilities offered through technology and its applications to integrate assessment and classroom teaching toward specific learning goals.
- Technology can contribute to powerful learning environments by embedding well-designed formative assessment strategies using highly engaging and innovative approaches consistent with how students learn.
- State accountability should 1) focus on how the system (including school, district, and state levels) performs in a number of key areas and 2) make use of multiple indicators, of which summative assessment is only one. States should collect qualitative and quantitative measures, including student growth over time across the entire achievement continuum, as well as other indicators of school progress. The accountability index or composite should include long-term data that measure whether or not students have been effectively prepared for college or the workplace, including graduation data, college or workplace entry, and college completion.
- To ensure that assessment systems achieve their purposes, states must establish standards for teacher and leader competencies regarding their knowledge and skills of how students learn, how learning can be assessed, and how these two must be closely integrated to guide classroom assessment and instruction. In addition:
- States must establish consistent teacher development standards that position assessment literacy as a major component for teacher licensure, accreditation for preparation programs, and teacher evaluations. States must also ensure that the national faculty responsible for training teachers and leaders throughout the United States has the requisite training in the fundamentals of effective classroom assessment.
- States must ensure that at all levels of the system—classroom, school, and district—educators are provided with ongoing, high-quality professional development, along with the guidance, tools, infrastructure, and technology, to improve educators’ assessment literacy and their use of multiple assessments to measure students’ progress and respond to individual learning needs. (2010)
- State boards should consider the significant potential of growth and value-added assessments models—when used in conjunction with other measures and supports—as tools to improve teaching and learning, evaluate programs and provide for effective equitable resource allocations. However, states should be aware that value-added assessment is not designed for high-stakes use in teacher evaluations, and that value-added assessment models need continued pilot testing, research, evaluation, and validation. (2006)
States should develop comprehensive accountability systems that foster continuous improvement of educational practices, with the ultimate goal of improving student learning. The key elements of accountability systems provide that:
- Student achievement and performance are at the core of clear goals for the accountability system.
- Schools are held accountable for the performance of all students.
- The accountability system has broad political, business and community support so that it can be sustained over time, yet also be adaptable to necessary change.
- The accountability system has clear incentives and motivates students and educators to achieve high standards of performance.
- Accountability is based on multiple measures producing accurate, meaningful, and valid results.
- The results of accountability measures should be used as the basis for a full range of interventions that include capacity building in addition to specific sanctions and rewards.
- Education policies and the accountability system should send consistent messages about the state’s educational goals. (1998)
NASBE supports the work of states and territories in their efforts to develop high-quality, voluntary common standards for students across multiple states. NASBE holds to the following additional points regarding these efforts:
- The resulting standards must be rigorous, aligned with college- and career-readiness expectations, and internationally benchmarked.
- Participation in common standards efforts must be voluntary on the part of states, with state boards of education being at the heart of an open and inclusive standards adoption process. NASBE strongly opposes efforts to remove state boards of education from the adoption process.
- The adoption of any common standards by individual states must not be a condition for the receipt of federal aid.
- While common standards are an important reform, they are not likely by themselves to result in higher student achievement without concurrent state implementation efforts that include improved teacher development and induction processes, aligned instructional materials and assessments, and robust student intervention systems for those struggling to meet standards.
- In addition to their potential benefits for teaching and learning, common standards should be encouraged as a catalyst for lowering barriers for teacher certification reciprocity among states. (2009, 2013)
Schools must be dynamic educational institutions that graduate students with the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in the world. This requires a long term commitment of time, energy, and resources. States should:
- assure that students in all schools have opportunities to:
- learn and work cooperatively with other students,
- engage in higher order thinking,
- interact with teachers and other adults, and
- participate in courses across the curriculum;
- include students, educators, parents, business, and the broader community in significant school decisions;
- focus on individual schools as the sites for change;
- ensure that schools address the academic and non-academic needs of children and youth;
- ensure that schools develop and sustain positive school climates that:
- generate a strong sense of community, with commonly shared goals and high expectations for students and staff,
- encourage faculty to work together to develop materials, plan lessons, and improve their teaching practices,
- encourage students and parents to actively participate in school life; and
- have accountability systems that assess student performance, teacher effectiveness, school climate, and the effective use of resources at the school level. (1997)
- Eliminate barriers for student learning based on the calendar, seat time, and fixed physical boundaries in order to create environments that actively promote and support innovation within and beyond the school walls. This includes state actions that:
- allow and support flexibility and innovation for districts, schools, and teachers in developing schedules/calendars;
- allow students more flexibility in accumulating credits in order to break away from restrictive Carnegie Unit and seat time requirements;
- call for school improvement plans to include a broader range of adequate yearly progress metrics, such as health, science and technology, arts, and safety goals;
- support dual credit/dual enrollment and other opportunities for students to learn outside of the traditional classroom;
- allow districts to create alternative pathways to student graduation such as service learning and apprenticeships;
- allow districts flexibility to add their own measures to state assessments. (2011)
- Promote the use of technology to facilitate student learning that transcends the traditional building and school day. In particular,
- States should ensure that instructional materials policies allow schools to use technology to provide access to the most effective teaching and learning resources.
- Competency standards for educators should ensure that educators can effectively use technology for student engagement and achievement. Professional development should be offered to support the standards to ensure educator success.
- Technology should be used to provide real-time assessment and immediate support for student learning. (2011)
States should develop a structure to coordinate and address issues among the pre-kindergarten, K-12, and higher education systems. Among the actions states can take are:
- Creation of a joint database or mechanism to link the databases of the K-12 and higher education systems.
- Alignment of high school general education requirements with those of postsecondary education.
All students should have knowledge and expertise in broad curricular areas, including:
- Language arts, to include writing, reading, speaking, listening, literature, and communication;
- Mathematics, to include quantitative reasoning, problem solving, and the use and comprehension of data;
- Scientific literacy, with an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning;
- Technology, to include the use of technology to locate, analyze, and communicate information and understanding of the implications, both positive and negative, of technology for individuals and society;
- Citizenship, to include American and world history, civics and civic engagement, economics, and geography and a global perspective, as well as the promotion of such values as service to others, the dignity of work, sensitivity to our multicultural society, and the responsibilities of democracy;
- Fine Arts, to help young people develop their creative and critical abilities and understand the relationships between the arts, other disciplines, and society, and promote personal expression;
- Health topics, to be taught using a comprehensive approach combining physical fitness and general health information with HIV/AIDS education, sex education, and substance abuse education;
- Knowledge of the languages and cultures of the world’s peoples and of the interdependence of all peoples. This study should begin in the early grades; one of the benefits of the early study of foreign language is the understanding it brings to the study of English, and
- Financial literacy, to include the concepts, knowledge, and skills that will provide students with a foundation for analyzing increasingly complex financial problems, with a focus on young people becoming knowledgeable consumers, investors, money managers, citizens, and members of a global workforce and society.
It is essential that all students learn to read well. To that end, every state should develop, adopt, and vigorously implement a statewide literacy plan to ensure that all students can read proficiently. Such plans must be comprehensive, multifaceted, and at the same time reside within the framework of the state’s vision for standards-based education. As part of the plans, states should:
- Set statewide literacy goals and standards, ensuring alignment with curricula and assessments, and raising literacy expectations across the curriculum for all students in all grades.
- Ensure that teachers receive research-based preparation and professional development to provide effective, content-based literacy instruction.
- Strategically use data in identifying student needs, designing cohesive policies, and evaluating the quality of implementation and impact of reading initiatives.
- Require districts and schools to develop literacy plans that infuse research-based literacy instruction and support strategies in all content areas.
- Provide districts and schools with funding, supports, and resources.
- Ensure that assessment and reading improvement programs continue throughout kindergarten to twelfth grade.
- Provide strong state guidance and oversight to ensure robust implementation of comprehensive quality literacy programs at the local level.
- Encourage parents/caregivers, families, and community members to read to children, and encourage schools to use innovative techniques to increase the availability of reading materials and resources to parents and families. (2006)
States should have as a goal that all students complete a challenging, coherent, and focused K-12 mathematics curriculum which includes introductory algebra and geometry by the end of grade 9. In order to achieve this goal, states should work to ensure that:
- Mathematics is taught by teachers who are well-prepared in appropriate content and techniques of teaching mathematics.
- Graduation requirements prescribe that all students master a rigorous mathematics course of study.
- Pre-service teacher education programs are aligned with state licensure/certification standards.
- All persons teaching mathematics receive ongoing professional development consistent with the best available research.
- Assessment and mathematics improvement programs continue throughout kindergarten to twelfth grade.
- Mathematics assessments such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the Third International Mathematics and Science Survey (TIMSS), which are beneficial to states, should be continued. (1998)
Professional library-media specialists and a comprehensive library program with a wide variety of resources, including current technology, are essential to support student learning achievement and mastery of study and research skills. (1997)
- State school systems should provide meaningful opportunities for all students to engage in rigorous and relevant career and technical education, both at the high school level and in the middle grades. States should actively work to provide a range of experiences that expose students to career-related clusters such as health, law, or the performing arts. The goal is to provide exposure for students that gives them the opportunity to plan and to chose their own path in life, whether that choice is work after high school, a direct route to college, or work that’s followed by college at a later date.
- State boards of education and business leaders should join forces to drive an education agenda that will promote 21st century learning that focuses on developing our nation’s workforce and its citizens.
- State boards of education should support the convening of other state-level stakeholders, such as the chamber of commerce, the workforce development board, the legislature, the governor, other labor-related agencies, community colleges and higher education, P-20 councils, and industry leaders in an effort to connect economic and education issues.
- State boards of education should adopt policies to integrate CTE and academic coursework and standards, while providing multiple assessments to measure skill and knowledge attainment. States should also adopt policies to recognize students for career-focused learning.
- School systems should ensure seamless transitions for students from high school to postsecondary and beyond. This transition is one of the biggest hurdles for many students. State boards should work with other policymaking bodies throughout their state to ensure an easy-to-navigate transition of credits and skill attainment from high school to work and postsecondary education.
- States and local school systems need to develop policies to address quality, recruitment, and compensation for CTE instructors. Challenges include finding ways of incorporating skilledtrade experts into the classroom while continuing to provide high-quality instruction in core academics, as well as problems in recruiting high-quality candidates for CTE teaching positions when industry salaries are often higher than those offered to educators.
- State and local school systems need to address the poor image of CTE with educators, parents, guidance counselors, and the public. This should include an aggressive campaign to educate school administrators, teachers, guidance counselors, parents, and students about the promise of high-quality, rigorous CTE programs. Policymakers and business leaders have to convince those with doubts that CTE is a viable option for preparing students for life-long learning. (2009)
Reducing actual class sizes to 20 or fewer students per classroom teacher in kindergarten through the third grade has been shown to be effective in improving student achievement. NASBE supports state and federal efforts to reduce class sizes. However, class size reduction is only effective when accompanied by resources to provide adequate space, classroom supplies, professional development, and recruitment of new teachers. In addition, any state or federal effort to reduce class size should assure adequate, continuous funding. (1998, 1999)
- State boards of education should develop policy statements that recognize the importance of middle grades education and encourage the development of middle schools that have the following components:
- A rigorous academic program for all students that is aligned with state and local content standards, includes algebra I, and uses a variety of instructional approaches;
- Strong student engagement through such means as advisory programs, curricular relevancy, learning communities, and opportunities for virtual learning;
- Responsive support services for intervention with struggling students, beginning in the 6th grade;
- Practices that help students make smooth transitions from elementary school to middle school and from middle school to high school, ensuring that middle schools are an integral part of the P–16 system.
- States should develop licensure standards for middle level teachers and administrators that will lead preparation institutions to include the following elements in their middle-level teacher education programs:
- Recruitment of middle grades educators as a critical need area;
- Study of the psycho-social and personal development of early adolescents;
- Broad academic background plus concentrations in at least two academic areas;
- Early and continuing field experiences in middle schools.
- States should promote professional development for middle grades teachers and administrators that is focused, ongoing, and relevant to daily work of educators. These inservice experiences should be standards-based, deepen content knowledge, expand instructional skills, help educators use assessments and data to improve instruction, and provide follow-up assistance to help teachers use their newly gained knowledge and skills. (2009)
The institution of the American high school must undergo sweeping improvements in order to prepare all students for today’s economy. High schools must reject the notion that students with different abilities should be prepared for different futures. They must be willing and able to prepare all students to achieve both in postsecondary education and in the workforce without remediation. To accomplish this, policymakers should promote the following principles of high school reform:
- High schools should be structured to provide a personalized learning experience for each student. This can be accomplished by:
- Creating smaller schools or schools within schools;
- Facilitating interdisciplinary courses and teacher teams;
- Developing individual student plans for each student, which should be revisited at least annually;
- Providing more intense, personalized counseling through reducing the student:counselor ratio or incorporating teacher advisories as part of the daily or weekly schedule; and
- Adjusting the timeframe associated with high school so that all students can meet the standards at their own pace.
- High schools need to reverse the long-standing trend which shows that family involvement tapers off when students reach high school. Secondary school students with involved families reach higher grades, complete more course credits, have better attendance, display fewer behavioral problems, and are better prepared for school.
- The high school curriculum and pedagogy should include contextual learning, which relates what is taught to some real-world context. Ways to promote learning in context include curriculum integration, service learning, project-based learning, problem-based learning, and work-based learning. In addition, learning environments should relate to the technology found in today’s workplace.
- Teaching staff of high schools should consist of quality educators who have been adequately prepared to teach a rigorous, standards-based curriculum to all students. All teachers must be prepared with appropriate pedagogical skills including the teaching of reading, basic academic skills, workplace skills, mastery of their specific content areas, and up-to-date knowledge of technology and how to use it effectively in the classroom. (2003)
The central goal of all education policies and programs needs to be school improvement for greater student achievement. In order to reach this goal, states should take the following actions:
- Allocate funds to districts to ensure that all schools have the resources they need to attract and retain high-quality school leaders, high-quality teachers, and high-quality staff;
- Develop and adopt effective teacher and school leader induction, support, and evaluation systems;
- Ensure that all teachers and school leaders are provided with quality professional development experiences that are related to state standards and continuous school improvement;
- Encourage teacher and administrator preparation programs to locate in communities that need school leaders and teachers;
- Provide fiscal resources, guidelines, and technical assistance to establish effective data systems to inform school improvement at all levels;
- Develop a comprehensive, statewide plan for improving schools that consistently do not meet standards. The elements of such a state plan should include:
- A strategy for building district capacity to turn around schools;
- Guidance to school districts on turnaround options, their research base, and conditions and environments where they were proven to be successful;
- State approval of local improvement plans;
- Investments in leadership, particularly at the school level;
- Requirement that all schools develop a school improvement plan;
- A system for tracking, analyzing, and disseminating results of ongoing restructuring efforts;
- A strategy for building the capacity of the state education agency to ensure it is able to carry out the state’s plan to help district improve schools that are not meeting standards; and
- Options for schools that continue to miss benchmarks. (2008; for more information, see NASBE’s report: Meeting the Challenge: The State’s Role in Improving Low-Performing Schools through Restructuring.)
- Promoting a strong connection between schools and families by ensuring that teacher and leadership preparation programs include a strong parent involvement component and that state mission statements and SEA staff members support parent involvement and promote parents as a resource; and
- Helping schools build a community environment to support improvement through:
- Promoting high-quality preschool by setting standards for preschool curriculum that align with K-12 standards, setting standards for preschool teachers and evaluating teachers according to these standards, and providing funding for the establishment of high-quality preschool;
- Supporting business partnerships with low-performing schools; and
- Supporting integrated community and social services by:
- Reviewing policies to ensure they support rather than impeded promising practices.
- Funding integrated service centers in targeted areas.
- Minimizing inter-departmental barriers at the state level. (2003)
- State boards should provide leadership to ensure that textbook adoption procedures and criteria at the state and local levels reflect an increasingly diverse array of materials.
- Materials should support the development of higher order cognitive thinking skills, rather than being merely attractive media that comprise a checklist of topics.
- State boards should ensure that educators and students have access to a full range of curricular materials that present a wide range of viewpoints.
- Students and families should have the opportunity to choose among schools and programs within the public school system.
- State boards should encourage innovation and a variety of quality education options for students. For any system of public school choice to work, state boards should ensure that all families are actively informed about the alternatives available to them.
- Publicly supported charter schools that contract for greater autonomy in exchange for strict accountability can be a viable educational option. The authority to grant public school charters should primarily lie with school districts, state boards of education, or with other entities that are also accountable to the public. Every chartering body must be able to give fair consideration to charter applicants and have the necessary capacity to assess instructional and business plans, compose valid time-specific contracts, and monitor student achievement and fiscal accountability on an ongoing basis. Procedures for canceling a charter due to poor student performance or other valid reasons should be fair, yet decisive.
- State charter laws, policies, and procedures should address students’ diverse learning needs including those of students with disabilities. Additionally, it is critical that laws, policies, and practices prevent charter schools from becoming instruments for the segregation of students based on the level of their academic ability.
- Appeal mechanisms should be established in order to assure due process for charter applicants and holders. State boards must maintain ultimate oversight of all publicly funded schools, including charter schools.
- State boards should ensure that every public charter school:
- is nonsectarian and not-for-profit, and does not assess families for additional tuition;
- is governed by an independent board knowledgeable about education and exercising full fiduciary responsibility;
- actively informs families of their opportunities to apply for admission and admits students on the basis of a lottery if more students apply than can be accommodated;
- submits sound instructional, academic assessment, staffing, financing, facilities, and fiscal management plans to its sponsoring entity;
- meets or exceeds state-determined content standards and is subject to the state’s academic accountability requirements;
- endeavors to foster a cooperative relationship with its local school district;
- provides an annual audit and reports on audit results, student learning results and other indicators of school performance to its sponsoring agency;
- employs qualified teachers and administrators as per state and federal requirements;
- complies with all applicable federal, state and local civil rights laws and regulations, including those concerning the education of students with disabilities; and
- complies with all applicable public health and safety laws and regulations. (2004)
- Quality data is essential for improving education systems, classroom instruction, and student achievement. State boards of education should not only support the building of a complete longitudinal data system, but also create a culture of data use to ensure that this information is used in the effort to improve student achievement and ensure that student privacy protection is an inherent part of any data system.
- NASBE recommends that all state data systems have the following essential elements, based in part on recommendations by the Data Quality Campaign:
- A unique statewide student identifier;
- Student-level enrollment, demographic, and program participation information;
- Ability to match individual students’ test records from year-to-year to measure academic growth;
- Information on untested students;
- Teacher identifier system with the ability to match teachers to students;
- Student-level transcript information, including information on courses completed and grades earned;
- Student-level college readiness test scores;
- Student-level graduation and dropout data;
- Ability to match student records between the P-12 and post-secondary system;
- Data on student health indicators, including but not limited to mental health; tobacco, alcohol, and substance use; teen pregnancy; school safety; unintentional injuries; and physical fitness; and
- A state data audit system assessing data quality, validity, and reliability.
- State boards of education should take the following steps to promote the use of longitudinal data:
- Ensure the longitudinal data system facilitates the easy transfer of student records between and among schools and districts.
- Appoint a data coordinator for the state who will ensure that data use is central to all instructional and management processes.
- Create tools, resources, and services that will assist districts and schools in using data.
- Develop statewide professional development programs for school personnel on accessing and using data from the state longitudinal data system.
- Ensure that all graduates of the state’s teacher colleges and certification programs are trained in using data as an instructional tool. (2009)
- Recognizing the need for high-quality, innovative instructional materials to advance student achievement, NASBE recommends that states use the following principles for instructional materials:
- They allow for flexible use and control over content by users to meet a range of instructional approaches and modalities and the individualized needs of all students, including access by students with disabilities.
- They are closely aligned with state standards for what students should know and be able to do and with the state accountability system.
- They are accessible “on demand” at the time and place of learning, whether in or out of school.
- They are cost-effective and represent good value for the investment of public dollars.
- They address the needs for teacher training on using the materials.
- They are vetted by subject matter experts and educators to ensure academic quality for increased student achievement.
- They are updated frequently to reflect new developments in the content areas and be consistent with the development of new standards and assessments.
- They engage learners through multiple media (in print, online, audio, video), as well as through interaction and simulation.
- They are able to be supported by or grow from voluntary, collaborative inter-state efforts.
- States should consider copyright, liability, and other legal issues in the adoption of instructional materials. (2010)
Policymakers and educators can learn success strategies from many military training programs, which succeed with young people where others fail because of their attention to a holistic approach to student education and development. These program strategies, placed within a school context, provide a structured environment with personalized support that includes relevant curriculum aligned to desired outcomes, postsecondary planning services, and multiple pathways to graduation.
NASBE believes state and local policymakers should take steps to foster successful education-military partnerships and promote the use of successful educational strategies developed as part of military training programs. These steps include:
- Evaluating and modifying policies to encourage student participation in programs that help young people become productive and responsible citizens.
- Instituting cognitive and non-cognitive assessments, such as the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), as diagnostic tools to assist students as they plan for their transition from secondary education to postsecondary life.
- Seeking out and promoting evidence-supported education programs and strategies, including military-themed/generated programs, that help prepare students for any postsecondary pathway: education, military service, or employment.
- Taking advantage of possible educational partnerships with all branches of the armed services.
- Leveraging state board authority over state school counseling mandates, guidance counselor certification requirements and school counseling programs so that counselors can better inform students and parents about evidence-supported education programs and strategies, including military-themed or generated programs, as well as help them create a postsecondary plan that examines all options in education, military service, or employment. (2011)
NASBE is strongly committed to holding high expectations for all students and eliminating persistent disparities in achievement performance among students of different racial, ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic groups. NASBE believes all children are capable of learning at high individual levels when supported by a receptive and nurturing community, quality instruction, and rigorous curriculum. (2012)
- Effective summer learning programs can combat the effects of learning loss. To ensure summer programs are effective, states and districts should take into account the best available research and use the following promising principles:
- Increase the duration and scope of summer programs so they are of sufficient length, full time, and integrate these programs into any district reform strategy;
- Expand participation beyond academically struggling students, since all students can benefit from summer learning programs;
- Strengthen and expand partnerships in order to improve coordination between programs, agencies and funding streams;
- Encourage attendance and participation through a variety of means, such as providing transportation, comprehensive supports, and attractive programming that blends academic learning with engaging activities;
- Align the curriculum with the school year, providing both remediation from the previous year and an introduction to material for the upcoming year;
- Emphasize professional development for staff in summer learning programs.
- State boards of education should ensure that districts recognize their authority and are encouraged to include high-quality summer learning as part of their overall academic program. State boards can also develop model standards or guidelines for out-of-school time and/or summer learning programs. (For more information, see NASBE’s Discussion Guide, Summer Learning: A New Vision for Supporting Students in Summer Programs – 2012)
Deeper learning represents an education that not only facilitates mastery of academic content, but other key competencies – including critical thinking and problem solving, effective communication, collaboration, learning how to learn, self-regulation, and academic mindsets – that are important for success in college, career, and civic life. To enable all students to acquire both the knowledge and skills they need, state boards of education should:
1. Align students’ educational experiences with 21st century college, career, and civic demands so graduates have not only mastered core academic knowledge, but have attained competency in such as areas as problem solving, written and oral communication, teamwork, and self-direction. To accomplish this, state boards can:
a. Develop and communicate a comprehensive vision of college, career, and civic readiness.
b. Provide students with guided awareness opportunities and project based learning to extend their understanding of postsecondary education, career, and civic life beyond the high school experience, and help them develop deeper learning competencies. These should be incorporated as part of high school graduation requirements.
c. Prepare educators to use instructional approaches that facilitate deeper learning. Such approaches include team teaching; emphasizing broad applicability of concepts, encouraging elaboration, self-explanation, and metacognition; and formative assessment.
d. Create opportunities for educators to more easily access open education resources that support deeper learning.
2. Enable a system that is driven by quality and open to innovation. In an era of rapidly changing knowledge, technology, and skill-requirements, state boards must work to ensure their school system is nimble enough to promote needed changes while maintaining an eye toward quality and positive results for all students. To accomplish this, state boards can:
a. Engage in important discussions on new educational policies both within and across states. Boards should continually learn from promising initiatives being pursued by other states and districts.
b. Designate innovation zones, provide waivers, and take other steps to empower those willing to try out promising innovative practices.
c. Develop a comprehensive state strategy for promoting deeper learning.
d. Continue as an on-going partner after a new policy or program is approved.
e. Continue investments in data systems that help evaluate the effectiveness of policies.
3. Support a system that comprehensively addresses the unique needs of individual students and their ability to learn. This means educators and other school staff must be able to identify student challenges in a proactive, preventive manner; be trained in addressing the needs of students holistically; and be sufficiently knowledgeable and supported in referring students to other resources when challenges exceed their capacity and expertise. To accomplish this, state boards can:
a. Develop standards that meet the complete needs of the learner. This means not just approving core academic standards, but providing guidance and quality standards around a range of topics that contribute to a well-rounded education, including everything from physical education and nutrition to social-emotional learning and postsecondary counseling. Note that while addressing essential needs, these standards should also be reinforcing key deeper learning knowledge and skills necessary for college, career, and civic success.
b. Ensure that educators can meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student body. For example, state boards can develop school climate guidelines that provide districts clear benchmarks for removing barriers to learning, facilitating community engagement, and making direct connections between school climate and deeper learning.
c. Empower schools to leverage external partnerships to meet learners’ needs comprehensively. This is especially important when students face challenges beyond a teacher’s training, or what a school’s climate can accommodate.