Monday, November 7, 2016

K-12 Innovation

By Ranada Robinson, Research Manager

In December 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaces the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Recently, Market Street staff participated in a webinar hosted by Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives entitled “K-12 Innovation and Accountability,” which featured three panelists who discussed their professional experiences in transitioning to the new ESSA standards. According to Alliance for Excellent Education, the following features set ESSA apart from NCLB:
  • All students must be on a path to postsecondary education, and states have flexibility to design an accountability system that supports this
  • States set their own ambitious goals and short-term measures of progress
  • The Accountability System includes an indicator of “school quality or student success”
  • Interventions for low-performing schools are locally-tailored in consultation with teachers, stakeholders, etc., rather than federally prescribed
The focus of the webinar was on what chambers can do to help states improve education policy and outcomes. In our work, we’ve seen (and encouraged) more and more chambers and EDOs doing more in the workforce development space and helping to create and make stronger the link between what schools are including in academic curriculum and special programs and what businesses need. Christopher Shearer, the Education Program Officer at the Hewlett Foundation encourages chambers to do the following to help states:
  • Use their convening power to host stakeholder meetings for local education agency leadership and regional business leaders
  • Ask state leaders if the state plan includes a career readiness indicator
  • Discuss potential collaboration opportunities for work-based learning, internships for students, externships for teachers, guest speaking, mentorship, and job shadowing
  • Be open to other ways state officials might be able to include the business community in implementation
A few of the notable programs that were mentioned during the webinar were the Louisiana Jump Start initiative, described by Liz Smith, the Director of Policy and Research at the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, and the L.A. Compact, described by David Rattray, Executive Vice President of Education and Workforce Development at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. 

Jump Start – Jump Start Louisiana was rolled out in 2014 by state superintendent John White as a way to “restore the dignity” of career and technical education and to recognize that earning an undergraduate degree is not the only path to the middle class. Starting with the Class of 2018, there are two high school diploma pathways: (1) TOPS University, for students who want to attend college after graduation, prepares students to qualify for a TOPS scholarship, and (2) Jump Start Pathway, for students interested in college and/or career, which allows students to earn industry credentials that will help them attain entry-level employment after graduation and continue their education at a community or technical college. There are also opportunities for teachers, including externships, training for industry credentials, access to industry experts in any business sector in which they are interested anywhere in the United States, and stipends from the Louisiana Department of Education to develop course materials.

L.A. Compact – The L.A. Compact was first introduced in 2010 as a commitment by a broad range of community partners to focus on increasing graduation rates, ensuring that students are prepared for college, and providing more meaningful career opportunities to students. The partners included City officials, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, and 11 colleges and universities in the Los Angeles area. The Compact later won an Investing in Innovation Fund grant from the U.S. Department of Education for its proposal entitled “L.A.’s Bold Competition – Turning Around and Operating Its Low-Performing Schools.” Since then, the initiative has developed into a collective impact initiative with goals, workgroups focused on major components of those goals, and measurement tracking. 

As the nation moves into transitioning to implementation of ESSA, this is an opportune time for the business community to become more engaged in the workforce pipeline—understanding that starting early by making sure Pre-K – 12 programs are strong and will prepare students for their eventual careers or for continued higher education only helps to support businesses in the long-term. Talent has become and will remain the #1 issue for economic development, and teamwork across community partners will be vital to the betterment of our children and future working adults.