National Education Task Force Says Students Must Spend More Time In School

WASHINGTON – A national task force on public education co-chaired by Gov. Janet Napolitano, D-Ariz., Goldman Sachs Group senior director Philip D. Murphy and George Mason University professor Roger Wilkins called for major reforms to the nation’s public education system today at the National Press Club. Top on the list of improvements is increasing the amount of time students spend learning.

The task force, called “Renewing Our Schools, Securing Our Future,” outlined a wide range of policy recommendations that go far beyond the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act. Innovative ideas in the report, titled, “Getting Smarter, Becoming Fairer: A Progressive Education Agenda For A Stronger Nation,” include extending the school day, reorganizing the school year and providing learning opportunities before kindergarten and after high school.

Gov. Napolitano said that the task force’s solutions close two sets of student achievement gaps—one at home and the other on the international stage.

“Children across America must be prepared to meet the needs of our times,” said Gov. Napolitano. “We need high-quality schools and high-caliber students to compete with young people overseas who boast about their world-class educations. We can move every child in America forward if we take the time to reform our outdated education system.”

Over the past year, the task force held public forums with community leaders and people across the country to find innovative solutions to the nation’s education problems. They found that our nation’s education system faces the double challenge of raising standards and closing the learning gap among our students.

Task force members noted that the furthest behind in our nation are those who have received the least support— students who are African American, Latino and Native American; whose first language is not English; or who come from low-income families.

Task force members believe that if all of their policy recommendations are implemented, every child would receive the education needed to sustain the nation’s economy. The task force recommended addressing shortcomings within our educational system with more and better uses of learning time.

According to the task force, this increased learning time must be met with higher expectations and accountability for every student; more high-quality teachers in every classroom and effective leaders at every school; and a stronger connection between schools, families and communities.

The task force was created last year to address our nation’s education needs by Center for American Progress president and former White House chief-of-staff John Podesta and Institute for America’s Future president Robert L. Borosage.

In addition to task force co-chairs, Gov Napolitano, Philip Murphy of New Jersey and Roger Wilkins of Washington, D.C., members include former U.S. Rep. John H. Buchanan, R-Ala.; University of New Mexico president Louis Caldera of Albuquerque, N.M.; John F. Kennedy High School principal Charita L. Crockrom of Cleveland, Ohio; Discovery Communications, Inc. president Judith A. McHale of Silver Spring, Md.; Lesley University president Margaret A. McKenna of Cambridge, Mass.; The Achievement Alliance director Delia Pompa of Washington, D.C; former Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Schools superintendent James L. Pughsley of Charlotte, N.C.; Public Education Network president Wendy D. Puriefoy of Washington, D.C.; and 2002 National Teacher of the Year Chauncey Veatch of Thermal, Calif.

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**NOTE: Media representatives interested in a copy of today’s task force report complete with state-specific data, should visit www.ourfuture.org or www.americanprogress.org/schools. To schedule an interview with a member of the task force, please contact Jessica Mantooth at jmantooth@ourfuture.org or Daniella Gibbs Leger at dleger@americanprogress.org. **

EDUCATION TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS SUMMARY

Getting Smarter, Becoming Fairer lays out a road map for creating a public education system capable of meeting the challenges our country faces. The task force recommendations are in four major areas.

– More and Better Use of Learning Time

Students need more time on task. In other words, they need more learning time. The traditional use of the K-12 public school years needs to be overhauled. And all students need to start earlier, with pre-school for all, and continue their studies longer by obtaining a college education or postsecondary occupational credential.

– High Expectations, National Standards, and Accountability for All Students’ Learning

The federal government should support the crafting, adoption, and promotion of voluntary, rigorous national standards; expand national accountability measures; and assist low-performing schools and districts. We also need to initiate a national conversation about not only the importance of standards and accountability, but also the need for paying sufficiently and equitably for public schooling.

– Highly Qualified Teachers for Every Classroom and Strong, Effective Leaders for Every School

States and local school districts, with support from federal financial incentives, should restructure and upgrade preparation programs and on-the-job training opportunities for teachers and school leaders. Compensation and career advancement systems should be redesigned to reward effective teachers and school leaders through fair performance measures while holding them accountable for adding value to their students’ leaning. States and local districts should also guarantee the equitable distribution of high-quality teachers and offer incentives for teachers to work in the most challenging schools or in subject areas with shortages.

– Connecting Schools with Families and Communities

There should be increased state and federal support for the establishment of community schools that connect students and families to social services such as early screenings for developmental and physical challenges, provide professional home visits to at-risk families and provide teachers with training on how to better engage parents.

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