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RISE 2018: A Report
posted by: McKenzie | April 18, 2018, 06:59 PM   

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Reagan Institute Education Summit (RISE) in Washington, DC. The theme of the conference revolved around a look at A Nation at Risk 35 years later. The piece was penned in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan's National Commission on Excellence in Education. The summit offered a real “who’s who” of the education world today and took a deep dive into the issues still plaguing education in the US 35 years after the publication of A Nation at Risk.

The opening panel featured Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California and the 21st Governor of Arizona, and Dr. Condoleezza Rice, 66th Secretary of State and professor at Stanford University. The panel was moderated by Romy Drucker, co-founder and CEO of The 74. The discussion focused around creating lifelong learners.

Dr. Rice provided profound thought around the fact that our nation is not united by a race, religion, or language, but by an idea – The American Dream. If that idea is unattainable due to a lack of educational opportunity, our nation will be divided. Education is the new frontier of civil rights, but it is also a privilege.

Napolitano followed by quoting, “A nation divided cannot stand.” She said that currently in education we are not fostering collaboration, but driving ourselves into corners. Napolitano closed with the concept that education is a common good and should be treated with a sense of urgency.

The second panel, Three and a Half Decades Later, looked at the trajectory of the education system over the last 35 years through the areas of change prioritized by A Nation at Risk. Members of the panel included Ms. Peggy Brookins, President and CEO of National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Dr. Virginia Foxx, US House of Representatives (NC-R), Dr. Milt Goldberg, Executive Director of National Commission on Excellence in Education (and one of the authors of A Nation at Risk), and Ms. Patricia Levesque, CEO of Foundation for Excellence in Education. It was moderated by Mr. Stephen Sawchuck, Associate Editor for Education Week.

The topic of teacher walkouts was presented and the panelists had varied thoughts. Brookins, a National Board Certified Teacher, said it is not just pay, but also the conditions, lack of listening to needs, etc. She was heartbroken by the fact that many teachers have to work several jobs to supplement their teaching income, noting her many experiences with Uber drivers who are also teachers. By creating a career pathway for teachers with real career trajectory and shared leadership with teachers having a seat at the table would improve the situation. Foxx concurred, by adding it is unfair to keep teachers so isolated and not allow them basic freedoms like going to the bathroom regularly, and added teachers must be treated as professionals.

Goldberg and Levesque commented that it was a responsibility of the states and states must fund their priorities, which should be education. Levesque said that all policies should be student focused, including the positive expansion of charter schools because schools should fit the child.

With high anticipation, Betsy DeVos, 11th Secretary of Education, sat down with Bill Bennett, 3rd Secretary of Education, for a conversation. Bennett casually asked DeVos if she enjoyed the job and she laughed and said, “I do! Most of the time!” The conversation continued on to recent NAEP results where DeVos highlighted the success in Florida.

The final panel of the day featured an introduction by Dr. Jill Biden, former Second Lady of the US. She delivered a moving speech about her passion for education sparked from her grandma and experience teaching at a community college.

Rod Paige, 7th Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, 8th Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, 9th Secretary of Education, and John B. King, 10th Secretary of Education, shared their regrets and triumphs from their time in office and their aspirations for the current education landscape in the US. The former Bush and Obama Education Secretaries shared consensus on the need for improvement in providing every student with access to a high-quality education. They also discussed the need for more diverse teachers, more respect for the teaching profession, and the risk our nation still faces in education.

Other panels not described above included:

  • What Are the New Basics? – a look at the goals and outcomes of education
  • A Luncheon Conversation with Senator L. Alexander and Senator. P. Murray
  • States Leading the Way – a meeting of education stakeholders at varied levels
  • Next Generation College – a look at the need for change in post-secondary education

The summit concluded with an awards ceremony honoring the Jackie Robinson Foundation. The events were livestreamed and archived by the Reagan Institute and can be accessed for viewing here. Please share your thoughts and responses in the comments section below.

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