Nevada is lacking a coherent strategy designed to provide all school age children with the opportunity to receive a high-quality education. Over the past five years Nevada Succeeds has been working closely with stakeholders all over the state to do our part to build a great education system. It has been our observation that most organizations we are working with including; lawmakers, NV DOE, school districts, employee unions, businesses and community-based groups are all working honestly to make changes that will positively impact kids, but success has been disjointed and slow, because we do not have a unified agenda. We can change this if we decide to.
Recently the Interim Education Committee of the Nevada State Legislature, led by Senator Mo Denis, began hearings on structured around topics of research conducted by the National Conference of State Legislatures. The focus of the hearings is the “No Time to Lose” report that was commissioned in 2014 and published in August 2016. The bipartisan committee tasked with researching this report focused on the highest performing countries in the world and the commonalities across their policies and practice. The recommendations they are suggesting are designed to be broad enough for any state to adopt, yet specific enough to provide useful guidance. Nevada Succeeds would like to recommend to all stakeholders in Nevada that we begin to develop a common agenda based on this framework of research that will transcend any particular political climate and serve as the North Star for our efforts going forward.
State Senator Joyce Woodhouse served on the NCSL committee, participated in the development of the report, and is responsible for introducing it as a guide and resource for her legislative colleagues to use in crafting future legislation. Nevada Succeeds has been using the underlying research for the report (a summary of which you can find in “The 9 Building Blocks for a World-Class State Education System” by The National Center for Education and the Economy) to inform our policy work for the past four years. Most recently the Public Education Foundation and Nevada Succeeds have partnered to make the “No Time to Lose” report the centerpiece of The PEF’s annual Southern Summit. With this foundation we believe that Nevada has a unique opportunity, in this moment, to come together to focus our energies in a way we never have before.
The importance of a unified agenda is hard to over emphasize. We all know how much time and effort is spent every day by all of our organizations thinking about and acting on our own policy and political agendas. We also know how much we can accomplish when those agendas happen to align. Unfortunately, we more often witness how much effort is wasted when the agendas collide. The real irony though is that we are all really trying to get to the same place- the best education possible for every child.
Nevada Succeeds believes that now is the right time for every stakeholder to unify behind a common agenda. That agenda should be based on the research in the “No Time to Lose” report and other research about how to build successful education systems that educate all children. Lawmakers, the Nevada Department of Education, districts, unions, higher education, business, and community groups should all be able to agree that all of our interests will be best served when our school system achieves “World-Class” status.
What could divide us is the question of, “Where to start?” We acknowledge that most of the disagreements on policy and politics will stem from honest differences of opinion about what needs to be done first. Many will say that without more money we can really make no progress. Others will say that accountability must be in place before money will matter. When we get into the nuts and bolts of education policy, it gets messy. For this reason, we recommend the following, which is outlined in the NTTL report:
Build an Inclusive Team and set Priorities
Study and Learn from Top Performers
Create a Shared Statewide Vision
Get Started on One Piece
Work Through “Messiness”
Invest the Time
Fortunately for Nevada we are not starting from zero. When you assess the steps above, we have already done good work in some areas and the work has been done for us in others. In order to avoid delays and wasted time, Nevada Succeeds suggests the following modifications:
Reconvene the team that came together for the 2016 “What’s Next Nevada?” project. The members of that group are listed here, and any necessary additions could be made. Review the Priorities set by that team to determine how they relate to the NTTL report.
The study of top performers has been done. Of course, we will always want to stay abreast of what is new and changing, but this initial work has been done and we have it available in the NTTL report.
The Statewide vision should be based on the NTTL report and WNN? Work that has been done.
Work will need to be done in benchmarking our policies
Get started on one piece. While it is critical that we join together and reach consensus, we must begin real work immediately. Nevada Succeeds believes that the first piece of the puzzle that must be addressed is building a World-Class teaching profession. There are many aspects to this as you will see in the report and we will be writing more in depth on what needs to be done in future articles.
We must be committed to following through when it gets hard. If the agenda changes every time we have an election, or new leaders emerge, the consistency needed to produce results will be lost.
We believe this work will be ongoing and World-Class status will take 12 to 15 years to reach. However, if we invest the time, there will be many worthwhile celebrations along the way.
In Summary, Nevada Succeeds believes that we have a wonderful opportunity before us. Leaders in our state have taken the first steps to develop an agenda that transcends the political moment and offers an opportunity for the community to coalesce around work that has proven to be effective in delivering World-Class results for kids. If you are reading this and you or your organization engages in this work, we ask you to join us.