Newly-released Aurora Institute policy priorities call on policymakers to transform K-12 learning to a future-focused education system.

9 priorities for a future-focused education system

Newly-released Aurora Institute federal policy priorities call on policymakers to transform K-12 education

The Aurora Institute, a national education nonprofit focused on education systems change, has released its annual report outlining key federal policy issues aimed at transforming our K-12 education system so it is fit for purpose, strengthening our democracy and shaping our next generation of engaged citizens.

Informed by the expertise and wisdom of thousands in its community, the Aurora Institute’s federal policy priorities are a set of nine recommendations designed to ensure education systems move from the current state to future-focused education systems capable of preparing all learners with building the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve lifelong success.

The priorities include:

Advance education innovations: Innovations in education are taking place around the world. The federal government should take a bolder stance on supporting investments in education innovations for equity that reimagine education. Research on how students learn best challenges time-based education and training practices.

Transform systems of assessments: Our systems of assessments should align with current research on how students learn best, support durable learning, and provide evidence of deeper learning. Providing data and information on how students are doing each day is critical. Doing this will require building capacity for valid and reliable
assessments of student learning, and ensuring student outcomes include demonstrations of learning that produce evidence of student work and better transparency.

Rethink next generation accountability: There is a growing realization that the traditional, time-based K-12 education system in the United States is failing to adequately prepare students for the future. Problems arise when goals and purposes defined in accountability systems are too narrow and incentives (or disincentives) are too limiting. The current accountability framework does not guide states or local communities towards an education system that reflects the evolving demands placed on our youth.

Create learning ecosystems and competency-based pathways aligned across K-12, higher education, career and technical education, and the workforce: With the unprecedented influx of $123 billion in federal funding to states and local education systems, it is critical that investments are made in what is most needed for reimagining our education systems and not just tweaking what we currently have.

Modernize the educator workforce: The federal government should invest in competency-based educator professional learning systems to build educator capacity for student-centered learning. This requires improving and developing new educator recruitment, pre-service preparation, and professional development to better support competency-based education systems.

Diversify the educator workforce: Research shows that a diverse educator workforce improves academic outcomes and wellbeing for all students. Recruiting and retaining a more racially diverse educator workforce is essential to best serve students and address injustices that have prevented educators of color from teaching. In the last 30 years, the number of teachers of color has grown from 13 to 20 percent, but students of color make up 51 percent of public school students.

Advance educational equity: For over a century, due to inequitable policy conditions past and present, students of color—especially Black and Brown students—have fared worse in almost every traditional educational measure of success compared to their white peers. Learning science research, however, shows us that all students can achieve at high levels and that learning happens on a continuum.

Bridge the digital divide: Student success in the 21st century requires access to technology and high-speed internet. Bridging the digital divide requires increasing federal funding and expanding access to broadband so that all students, families, and staff in K-12 education are connected to high-speed internet.

Support COVID-19 learning recovery: The long tail of COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate decades-old academic and opportunity disparities in a K-12 education system designed for an industrial era. The federal government should use this critical moment to modernize our education systems.

“This set of innovative, future-focused federal policy recommendations are geared at challenging the status quo and current federal policy frames that perpetuate tinkering with the existing system, rather than reimagining it,” said Susan Patrick, the organization’s president and chief executive officer. “It’s past time that federal policymakers shift their mindsets and embark on fundamental changes that support innovation from the bottom-up in order to begin to advance future focused education systems for a greater good.”

The Aurora Institute Center for Policy conducts policy analysis and provides recommendations to federal and state policymakers, education agencies, state boards, education leaders, and other local policymakers to work together with their communities to transform education systems; advance competency-based education systems and align pathways; build capacity by investing in people, rethink accountability and assessment, and advance educational equity.

This press release originally appeared online.

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