Ask a Governor: Here Are the Questions Student Advocates Would Put to Key State Leaders at Friday’s ‘Raising the Bar’ Axios Education Event

By The 74 | February 21, 2018

Axios executive editor Mike Allen on Friday morning will convene a gathering of governors from across the country to explore the tactics and strategies being used to improve their states’ education systems.

Cutting across regions as well as political parties, Allen will sit down for individual conversations with Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado), Gov. Roy Cooper (D–North Carolina), and Gov. Jeff Colyer (R-Kansas) for “Raising the Bar: A Conversation on Education in America.” Allen will guide in-depth discussions of the states’ responsibilities in raising expectations for students and exploring what methods are now proving successful in lifting student achievement.

The Axios Live event, presented by The 74 and sponsored by the Walton Family Foundation, coincides with this weekend’s National Governors Association 2018 Winter Meeting being held in the nation’s capital. You can read our full preview of the gathering, and RSVP to attend right here.

What should Allen ask the three governors? Advocates, students, journalists, and education groups across the country had a few ideas:


Over the past decade, Colorado has been held up as a state policy leader (teacher evaluation, new grad requirements, charter schools, etc.). However, the state’s overall achievement improvement according to NAEP has been flat — what needs to be done to improve? Is Colorado missing something, or did we make mistakes? —A Plus Colorado

In 2015, you showed a tremendous amount of leadership as part of the 1202 Task Force, drawing a clear line in the sand around the importance of keeping the Colorado growth model intact by protecting the ninth-grade assessment. Many believe that this commonsense approach — holding on to important aspects of the assessment system while still decreasing the amount of time on assessments by more than 30 hours — was key to setting up the reauthorization of ESSA. What advice do you have for others about how you strike this balance and protect accountability in the system for students? —Jennifer WalmerDFER Colorado state director

What policy changes or preventative measures are you actively working on to keep our schools safe from gun violence? What have you specifically done to advance those policy changes and/or preventative measures? —James Burnett, editorial director of The Trace

What programs would you implement to ensure that students from low-income communities are able to afford college, be successful in college, and complete their degrees? —Brandon Gonzalez, KIPP Denver Collegiate High School 2015 graduate

• Gov. Hickenlooper, you proposed adding $10 million in funding to address teacher shortages in rural Colorado. Why is this additional funding so crucial to the achievement of Colorado students, and what should other states be considering to address the needs of rural students? —Education Post

• Our current education system was built for a past era, when humans were manufacturing goods on assembly lines and computers didn’t exist. This system has not kept pace with the changes to the economy. By year 2030, do you think the Colorado school will look different from today? If yes, please describe how it will look different —America Succeeds

A big success story in Colorado, Denver Public Schools, has seen the district move from below the state average to above the state average on achievement largely because of their focus on performance management for all schools — charter, innovation, and district.  However, most of the other lowest-performing school districts (Pueblo, Aurora, etc.) across the state have not improved.  How should the state address the significantly underperforming districts? Does Colorado have the right accountability system? —A Plus Colorado

Last year, Colorado was the first state in the country to address equity in distribution of local tax levy revenue regardless of school governance type. Understanding that there are obvious differences in state authorization rules, can you share how you were able to pass this legislation by focusing on the student and not the school type? —Jennifer Walmer, DFER Colorado state director

ဝ Background The State of Education in Colorado: Strengthening rural schools, fighting over student performance measures, a massive funding shortfall, and more


While improving traditional teacher preparation programs is a worthwhile policy priority, a number of high-quality teacher preparation programs now operate outside of institutions of higher education. Several such programs have been launched by nonprofit charter management organizations (including Aspire, MATCH, Success, and Uncommon) and others by nonprofit startups (including Relay Graduate School of Education, The Urban Teacher Center, and TNTP). These programs, despite their inclusion of policies cited in the UNC report that traditional teacher prep programs have been slow to embrace, face significant regulatory obstacles to certification and barriers to equitable participation in federal and state student aid programs. Would you support accreditation models and pilot programs to promote non-traditional teacher preparation programs, including those operated by nonprofit providers outside institutions of higher education? —Charles Barone, DFER policy director

An Opportunity Culture extends the reach of excellent teachers and their teams to many more students, for more pay, within school budgets. It’s in use in multiple districts in North Carolina and nationwide, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg. A recent study showed that it has delivered huge student learning gains. What are your plans for spreading teacher leadership that works like this to all of North Carolina’s students and teachers? —Public Impact

How do you feel about students crossing district lines to attend schools outside their ZIP codes? —Education Post

What do you tell the high school students of your state who are worried about shootings at their school? Or in their neighborhoods? —James Burnett, editorial director of The Trace

A recent report commissioned by UNC president Margaret Spellings found that few students in the UNC system’s teacher training programs could cite specific strategies for children struggling to read. In addition to ensuring that teacher prep programs adhere to evidence-based practices in reading, the study also recommends changes to beef up student teachers’ classroom experiences. Other research indicates that, nationally, only about half of all teacher preparation programs require clinical practice (or teacher residency) as a condition for awarding a degree in teaching. Would you support requiring at least a year of clinical practice (or teacher residency), with an emphasis on using evidence-based practices in areas such as reading, before teachers assume full-time teaching roles? —Charles Barone, DFER policy director

What are you doing to help ambitious college students who can’t afford to pay for higher education? What is the state of North Carolina doing to help struggling students with mental health issues? How do you see online education being used in the future? Have you thought about using online education as a way to save money? —Lara Rabinowitz, Chapel Hill High School senior

ဝ Background — The State of Education in North Carolina: Funding choices for low-income kids, the vast rural-urban divide, a new turnaround district, and more



Should a state Department of Education have the authority to close down long-failing schools? Or is that a local decision? What are your personal parameters around state intervention (beyond whatever is in your Every Student Succeeds Act plan)? —Education Post

What place do guns have in your state’s schools? Do you support arming teachers and school staff? Should parents and visitors with concealed carry permits be allowed to bring their guns onto school grounds and into classrooms? —James Burnett, editorial director of The Trace




• While high school graduation rates have risen above 80 percent in recent years, college readiness rates remain much lower. Fewer than half of graduating seniors leave high school on track to earn even a “C” in college courses. And about 40% of those who enroll in college are placed in remedial courses. This means a huge percentage of high school diplomas handed out every year are empty promises. What will you do to close this college and career readiness gap in your state? And what will you do to ensure parents get more honest information about their children’s readiness for success after high school? —TNTP

Disclosure: The Walton Family Foundation provides funding to The 74.

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