America’s children are our nation’s future; and without a proper education, that future is threatened. Since the mid-1980s, governors and other state policymakers have committed themselves to the long and arduous task of school reform. While this reform movement has had many successes—in states like Kentucky, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Texas, for example—a number of challenges remain. Perhaps the greatest challenge is the large number of consistently low-performing schools that are failing our children, literally and figuratively, in cities and states around the nation.
Governors are constantly searching for solutions that will help all schools succeed, but some schools require more help than others. The long-term goal for states is to improve overall system performance while closing persistent gaps in achievement between minority and non-minority students. Fortunately, there are places to look for guidance. Although some schools continue to struggle, some have responded successfully to state reform efforts and others have gone far in improving student performance and closing the achievement gap. Current research also suggests there are ways state policies can effectively stimulate and support school improvement.