2017-02-26 National Governors Association

K-12 Education Reform

Feb 26, 2017


America’s elementary and secondary education system has evolved over the decades with changing economic pressures, intense globalization and rising expectations for all students. Despite these changes, however, too many of our nation’s students are unprepared for college or a career.

Governors believe federal education policy should embrace a stronger state-led accountability system, reflect individual student growth toward college and career ready standards, reward state and school successes, differentiate state and locally-led strategies to turnaround the lowest performing schools, build on state policies to support effective teachers and leaders and accelerate ongoing state-led education innovation.

To this end, governors believe the following key principles should be addressed in any federal bills on elementary and secondary education.

Guiding Principles

1.2.1 State-Federal Partnership

  • State gubernatorial authority should be recognized and supported in federal law. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act should be amended to recognize the proper, leading role of governors and other state officials to collectively govern education.
  • The federal role in education should be refocused and strategically targeted. The federal government’s new role should focus on sharing research, information and data on state and local best practices and bringing states and schools together to promote innovations to better serve students. Additionally, federal policy can incentivize a culture of excellence, while ensuring a minimum floor of financial support for the most economically challenged communities, schools and families.
  • The federal government should economize, downsize, eliminate duplication, consolidate programs, cut federal red tape, minimize reporting requirements and avoid the imposition of federal unfunded mandates in education. Across the country, states, districts and schools have been forced to economize, prioritize, consolidate and reinvent government. The federal government can benefit from these state and local lessons and also move to restore fiscal discipline to promote the long- term sustainability and success of the nation’s education system. Federal education mandates that shift cost burdens to states and locals should be eliminated or struck-down.
  • States and schools must be given increased funding flexibility to create efficiencies and achieve results. Any decreases in federal funding should be accompanied by an increase in state authority to manage programs, streamline federal sources of funding and find savings. More importantly, states and schools should be allowed to consolidate federal funding streams to maximize taxpayers’ investment and fully utilize the limited funds that are available to states and schools.
  • The federal government should not impose and limit maintenance of effort (MOE) provisions on states as a condition of funding. MOE’s curtail state authority to control their own budgets and fiscal systems and over time discourage investment and the identification of cost-savings. The process for states to apply for and receive a waiver from MOE requirements should also be reviewed, streamlined and made more transparent for states, schools and taxpayers.

Standards and Assessments

  • State academic standards are a state-led decision and process. The federal government should recognize and support state authority over education. To this end, the federal government should provide technical assistance in the oversight, development, implementation and ongoing utilization of state academic standards and refrain from directing, mandating or interfering directly or indirectly in this process.
  • Governors believe in a transparent, rigorous and strong state-led and state- determined accountability system in education that annually tests students and disaggregates individual student performance. Federal policy should hold states and schools accountable for results; states and schools should retain the authority to determine how to achieve those results. Additionally, federal policy should support the on-going and promising work of states to come together to streamline, align and improve assessments aligned to rigorous state standards. Federal funding requirements should not be linked to a particular set of standards, such as the Common Core State Standards, but should be available to all states, as long as states can show they have rigorous standards deemed college and career ready.
  • The current federal accountability system is broken and a new state-led system is needed to support, reward and incentivize high expectations. To this end, federal law and regulations should support and enable states to establish meaningful and transparent systems to measure school and student performance and promote high expectations, while refraining from prescribed categories and labels. Additionally, federal policy should support state efforts to assist the lowest performing schools and transform education.
  • States, working with the federal government, should be allowed to develop a workable transition and timeline to migrate from the current accountability framework to a new system. As states and school transition to new standards, new assessments, new measures of individual proficiency and performance for students, while using a new accountability framework, governors urge their federal partners to work with states to ensure a reasonable implementation timeline, while upholding strong standards and high expectations for accountability.

Human Capital

  • Support and incentivize state led strategies and innovations to prepare, recruit, retain, reward and evaluate high quality teachers and school leaders. The federal government can accelerate state work to improve teaching through pay for contribution, improvements in professional development and numerous other sound human capital practices to build a high quality education workforce.

Special Programs

  • School turnaround strategies must be state-led, transparent, nimble and evolve with best practices and research. The federal government should grant states and territories greater flexibility in the use of federal funds. Current federal policy prescribes limited options for states and schools to improve student academic performance. The knowledge of today will not solve all the problems of tomorrow. The federal government should refrain from directing, limiting or requiring specific academic and human resource strategies in all schools, districts or states.
  • Reform the Race to the Top (RTT) by applying governors’ lessons learned through previous competitions to ensure that the federal program truly supports governor-led innovations in K-12 education and early childhood education. Every state and territory should benefit from this program. To this end, RTT should be refined to better support cross state and territory collaboration, recognize differences in capacity of states and territories and support the development of a learning network that will benefit all states and territories, even non-winning states and territories.
  • Ensure the common state-led NGA high school graduation rate is authentic and consistent with state best practices.

Time limited (effective Winter Meeting 2017 – Winter Meeting 2019).
Adopted Winter Meeting 2017.

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