Christopher Cross has written an insightful piece for Teachers College Record, focusing on the need to establish a national policy on education so that there is a clear understanding of our national priority and appropriate roles for states and the federal government.
We have no stated national commitment to education, no understanding about the division of responsibilities and accountability between the federal government and states.
We have no clear expectation for what constitutes an education that is equitable. We have no priority for education as a human right. Yes, there are federal policies in place, as detailed below; however, all of these policies have arisen as a result of forces essentially external to education, such as national defense, civil rights, and the war on poverty.
There is a significant agenda of issues that needs discussion and resolution. For example, the following issues need to be resolved:
* How can the traditional state responsibility for education be cast in ways that recognizes state autonomy, but also contributes to achieving nationwide educational excellence?
* What are the appropriate and strongest roles for both the federal government and the states to play in the development, maintenance, improvement, and administration of educational systems and institutions?
* In which areas are states and the federal government in disagreement or working at cross-purposes-putting all levels at risk of failing to achieve our collective national goal of improving outcomes for all children?
* How do we stimulate both state and federal innovation, document and replicate successful strategies, facilitate cross-state collaboration, and support the adoption of evidence-based reforms?
* Can we agree upon a national goal, such as: Providing opportunity for the education of everyone is one of the highest responsibilities of the states and of the nation to preserve a free and open society, to retain the nation’s economic health and democratic institutions, and to assure that Americans may live and enjoy a safe and secure existence.
To address these issues, the nation needs a blue ribbon panel of leaders in fields that range beyond the usual suspects who engage in almost every education conversation. These additional constituencies should include labor leaders, business CEOs, representatives of various racial and religious groups and the military, government, and scientific fields.
Although this panel would operate at the national level, parallel committees could be created in every state so that the views and recommendations that emanate from every part of the land could be incorporated in the final work of the national panel. The goal would be to issue a set of findings-not recommendations-tailored to each level of policy making that could be used to provide guidance and cover legislative and executive bodies at the state and federal levels, as they move forward with the re-authorizations and the development of both new laws and policies.
Findings might include:
* Defining the primary role of the federal government relative to the states and the need for capacity-building. Fostering a robust discussion around the fact that while research and data sharing is best done at the federal level, innovation should be fostered at all levels.
* Educating decision makers on ways financial resources can be deployed more effectively and efficiently by such things as amending laws to use common definitions of program eligibility, and allowing the delivery of services in all public facilities such as schools, community centers, and public health locations-highlighting how common standards and assessments are vital to assuring the maintenance of an educated workforce and competitive economy.
These findings could be key elements of creating a framework for the re-authorization of federal laws such as ESEA, IDEA, and Perkins, and could guide states in their policy development. If we do not engage in this dialogue, stress will continue to dominate the education system-assuring that professionals in the education field are continually buffeted by the winds of policy change.
For more, see http://www.tcrecord.org/content.asp?contentid=18014