WATCH — America’s Education Priorities for the New School Year: 8 Current & Former Education Chiefs Weigh In on How States & Schools Can Drive Innovation in 2019

Updated Sept. 19

In the lead up to the new school year, The 74 interviewed an array of education experts about the current state of America’s schools and the top challenges facing the nation’s education system as states rethink student goals and district accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

All eight interview subjects expressed concerns about the country falling behind others in preparing its high school graduates for a rapidly evolving workforce. And all of them pointed to governors as the elected leaders who must double down in making this issue a priority among state leaders.

Here are some of the most notable insights from our back-to-school interview series:

1 Jeb Bush

Former governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush sits down to discuss America’s rapidly changing economy and workforce, why the ability of our schools to adapt and prepare a new generation of graduates will become a national priority, and why many of the education reforms he implemented in Florida were not the easiest political route but remain a high point of his Florida legacy:

2 Arne Duncan

Duncan, former secretary of the Department of Education and current managing partner of the Emerson Collective, sits down to talk about the future of education and the top four priorities every state must have if it’s going to help its graduates adapt to a rapidly, radically changing world: access to high-quality pre-K, increasing the high school graduation rate, ensuring all high school graduates are ready for both college and career, and accelerating college completion rates. He says our education systems are not currently keeping pace with the world and that this might lead to dire consequences when it comes to America preserving its quality of life:

3 Margaret Spellings

North Carolina president and former secretary of education Margaret Spellings sits down to discuss the urgent need for a more equitable, accountable, and affordable school system — and how the promise of a quality education transcends basic civil rights as a key economic issue, ensuring the growth of the “innovation economy” for the next generation:

4 Jim Hunt

Jim Hunt, former governor of North Carolina and foundation chair of The Hunt Institute, sits down to talk about state-level education leadership under the Every Student Succeeds Act, how governors must realize that their economies are irrevocably linked to the performance — and the goals — of their schools, and how in a time of fractured national politics, classrooms could become the key intersection of bipartisan cooperation:

5 Lewis Ferebee

The Indianapolis superintendent sits down to talk about the need for schools to adapt as “college- and career-ready” comes to mean something very different in the modern economy, the growing need to bring agility into the classroom, and why education is the most urgent social justice issue of our times:

6 Joel Klein

Former New York City Schools chancellor Joel Klein sits down to talk about lessons he learned while overseeing reforms in America’s largest school district, why so many schools are failing to prepare low-income and middle-class children for a radically changing economy, and how parents must learn to wield their enormous political power:

7 Hanna Skandera

New Mexico’s former education secretary and current editor in chief of The Line sits down to talk about the importance of giving families a place at the table when deciding district priorities, and why we must all coalesce around the goal of ensuring college or career readiness for every high school graduate. “What does it look like when a student says, ‘I’m ready … I’m ready for college, I’m ready for the job I’ve always wanted to have, and there’s no retraining?’” she asks. “What does it look like when our businesses and communities say: ‘You know what? When our kids graduate, whether it’s high school, college, or a certificate program, we know they are ready to really work, contribute, and be a part of our community and citizenry — and our success.’” Watch here:

8 Marc Sternberg

Marc Sternberg, K-12 education program director for Walton Family Foundation, sits down to discuss the urgent need for local leadership in improving America’s schools — and how the country’s future hinges on districts’ abilities to put students on a path toward prosperity:

See previous 74 interviews: Civil rights activist Dr. Howard Fuller talks equity in education, Harvard professor Karen Mapp talks family engagement, former U.S. Department of Education secretary John King talks the Trump administration, and more. Get the latest interviews delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for The 74 Newsletter.

Disclosure: Walton Family Foundation provides financial support to The 74.

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