By: Matt Repka, Policy Analyst
The Education Commission of the States (ECS) held its annual National Forum on Education Policy in late June 2018 at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, DC. Hundreds of state legislators, state board members, principals, teachers, and other education stakeholders attended the three-day event, which featured presentations, workshops, and addresses from prominent elected officials, educators, and researchers, including former U.S. Secretary of Education John King.
ECS is a nonpartisan national organization that assists state government officials in developing education policies. Founded over 50 years ago, its objective is to bring state officials together to share best practices on how to improve the quality of education in their states, and to provide research and other resources to better inform policymakers.
The summit’s plenary presentations tackled big-picture issues in education, from equity to school safety and the future of education. The smaller breakout sessions, including workshops and state case studies, focused on specific applications, like state school funding formulas and assessments.
Secretary King opened the conference with a keynote address on the current education policy landscape in 2018. The current president and CEO of Education Trust reflected on the just-concluded school year and the many challenges educators are currently facing, from school safety to funding uncertainty. He spoke about recent progress on several public education issues and highlighted some recent successes, including early learning, teacher quality, and school diversity. Michele Weise from the Strada Education Group spoke about workforce readiness and the future of education credentials and pathways to careers. She described how technology is already reshaping the traditional pipelines from K-12 education to the workforce.
On Thursday afternoon, Dr. James Heckman from the University of Chicago and former Mississippi governor Phil Bryant led a conversation on early learning and opportunities for states to benefit from the large returns on investment in early childhood development, based on Dr. Heckman’s research into early childhood programming and outcomes.
On Friday, Dr. James Johnson, a professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina, delivered an extensive and engaging presentation on demographic changes in the United States and their implications for public education systems both now and in the future. Dr. Johnson’s presentation tackled issues ranging from the shifts in the racial and ethnic composition of school districts relative to the electorate of that district, as well as trends in aging and what differences between generations will mean for school districts as they plan to provide services for the next generation.
The conference was a valuable opportunity for SBOE staff to meet new education policymakers, reconnect with friends from across the country, and learn more about innovations and best practices in education from school districts all around the country. All of us are looking forward to next year’s event!