America’s state legislatures and public schools should study and learn from top-performing education systems in other countries to improve education in the U.S., according to a new bipartisan report from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) that prescribes an urgent call to state action.
According to the study, the common elements present in nearly every world-class education system include: a strong early education system, a reimagined and professionalized teacher workforce, robust career and technical education programs, and a comprehensive, aligned system of education.
The report, entitled “No Time To Lose,” is the culmination of an 18-month study, which began in 2014, by a bipartisan group of state legislators and legislative staff to understand what lessons from the top performing countries may be appropriate and informative to states.
The study group, made up of 22 experienced state legislators–11 Democrats and 11 Republicans–and six senior legislative staff persons, sought to better understand why other countries are outperforming the U.S. in education results. State Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon, pictured) was a member of the study group, which talked with experts from around the world and visited several top-performing countries.
Along the way the group learned that all of the top performing countries approached education reform strategically with a series of interconnected reforms. They did not implement individual and disconnected reform policies; rather, their efforts were strategic, systemic, purposeful and targeted.
The report notes that many states have implemented individual education reforms but have not achieved the results they hoped for. Among other things, it suggests states need to develop a shared long-term vision and an evidence-based strategic plan that sets goals and priorities and benchmarks practices and outcomes against those of high-performing countries and high-performing states. The report’s authors note this does not mean states should wait to implement all the pieces together; however, states should understand and emphasize the connectedness of the policy pieces they put forward.