EducationNext: Looking for Innovative Policy Solutions from Voices Not Always Heard

AUGUST 2, 2018

Education Next

This summer marked the launch of a new initiative called Pathway 2 Tomorrow: Local Visions for America’s Future aimed at producing a catalog of locally inspired policy proposals to meet the needs of state and local education leaders.

The centerpiece of the effort is an open call for proposals for innovative policy solutions that are tied to the needs of specific communities—but could be valuable to other communities around the nation. With less than a month remaining until the submission deadline, Education Next editor-in-chief Martin West sat down with P2T’s leader, former New Mexico Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera, to discuss the initiative’s origins, its aspirations, and what makes it unique.

Martin West: There’s been a lot of talk of late about the fact that the broad political consensus around an education reform agenda centered on principles of standards, accountability, and choice that prevailed for much of the past several decades has broken down in recent years. Do you agree with that analysis? And, if so, in what sense is P2T a response to this development?

Hanna Skandera: No, I don’t think it’s broken down, but I do think we must recognize that the ed reform space is evolving. Standards, accountability and choice are pivotal pieces of the foundation—they are absolutely necessary, but not sufficient on their own. It is time to build on that foundation and cast a forward-looking vision that is responsive to local and regional needs, which was the impetus for Pathway 2 Tomorrow: Local Visions for America’s Future. For example, we have to recognize we have a long way to go when it comes creating 21st century educational models that are more responsive to individual student needs and simultaneously more responsive to workforce and economic needs.

MW: You haven’t been just an observer of education reform in recent decades; you’ve been a participant, most recently as the state chief in New Mexico. How has your experience there and in prior roles informed this new effort?

HS: Too often we framed the foundational pieces—accountability, high standards, and choice—as everything. As I mentioned before, they are absolutely necessary, but they cannot be the end point. Once these foundations are in place, we must build upon them. It’s time now to build, and as we do, we must be more responsive to local needs, more innovative, and more inclusive in our approach.

MW: The P2T initiative is starting with an open call for proposals. The end goal is a catalog of ideas that education leaders around the country can and will draw upon to fulfill the commitments they’ve made to the communities they serve. What comes in between? What is the process by which initial proposals will be vetted, developed, and disseminated?

HS: The call for proposals aims to discover bold and innovative solutions to transform education outcomes. The initial call for proposals is designed to identify those ideas at a very high level and select the most promising ones to develop into more expansive policy papers. Some ideas may be completely outside the box while other may address basic challenges we’ve failed to create adequate solutions for to date.

The process to develop the policy papers may be unique to each selected solution, and P2T and its Partners will work to support the submitter in the development process as needed.

Once the final policy catalog is compiled, P2T will use a variety of channels to circulate the ideas for implementation, including local coalitions to inform strategic priorities and implementation plans, partner organizations to distribute aligned solutions in conferences or events, and publication of solutions in various mediums.

MW: Your website emphasizes that you want to receive proposals from “voices not always heard” in the conversation around education reform. Who exactly do you have in mind?

HS: We believe that great ideas are out there but that people with those ideas may not have had the time, means, or expertise to develop their ideas fully in a way that is well-positioned for implementation. We hope our process lowers that barrier to entry so anyone with a good idea can share it—teachers, parents, students, entrepreneurs, advocates—we want to hear all ideas that can help us impact students faster.

MW: What sorts of ideas are you hoping to receive? By what criteria will they be evaluated?

HS: We hope to receive ideas across the spectrum spanning K-12, higher education and early learning. We’ve highlighted some topic areas that many prospective governors are talking about, for example, career technical education, personalized learning, early college or college affordability, however, all ideas are eligible.

Proposals will be reviewed by a cross-professional group of peers (local educators, leaders, and advocates) and evaluated using 5 criteria: evidence of need, alignment with available research, innovativeness, feasibility of implementation, and expected outcomes/results. While we have specific criteria, I’d like to emphasize that the evaluative process values the promise of the idea, not the scholarly nature of the prose.

MW: OK, so let’s say I want to propose an idea. What exactly is required? How heavy is the lift? And what happens after I submit?

HS: The initial proposal, due August 31, is limited to 1 to 3 pages. We’re intentionally trying to reduce the barriers to participation so that we hear from all voices, especially those who don’t develop proposals frequently. We have a sample proposal available on our website to show the high-level overview of the solution.

After you submit, the review panel will select proposals for advancement. Those selected will work with P2T and its partners to develop more expansive policy paper including more details on the solution and what it would take to scale. The authors of those policy papers would receive a $15,000 stipend.

MW: You announced the initiative at the end of June. What kind of a response have you seen so far?

HS: The response so far has been great. We have well over 50 partner organizations and even more supporters who agree that we have a critical need for fresh ideas and support the P2T initiative. We’ve been encouraged by the various organizations and individuals who have reached out with questions and signaled they are preparing their proposals for submission. There really are some great ideas out there!

We have heard that some people are hesitant to submit because they don’t know how to write a policy paper and want to emphasize that we are looking for the promise of the idea, not the language with which it is presented. And if you’re looking for support to translate your idea into a policy paper, Whiteboard Advisors, a P2T Partner, is offering coaching for interested submitters, as well as a policy boot camp webinar on August 8th. More information on both of those opportunities is on our website.

MW: This sounds like an ambitious initiative. What would success look like? And how are you setting the effort up to succeed?

HS: It is ambitious—but we are taking on this ambitious initiative because our students have no time to waste. The extensive, broad base of partners and supporters is the backbone of this initiative. They signal the need for P2T and will support it in its future phases. The P2T team is intentionally lean, as we draw on the expertise of various partners to support the activities.

Success would be a robust catalog of solutions that are truly innovative, locally responsive, and scalable. Ultimately, we would like to see locally-driven coalitions work together to implement these solutions in a way that addresses their local and regional challenges and closes educational and economic gaps in their communities. P2T is a unique opportunity for states and communities to work together to create solutions that are locally inspired.

From The 74: Exclusive: Pathway 2 Tomorrow Issues Call for Innovative, Local Education Proposals, Seeks Solutions From ‘Voices Not Always Heard’

JUNE 28, 2018

Emmeline Zhao, The 74


An initiative launching today is issuing an open call for proposals to match community needs with innovative education policy solutions.

Led by former New Mexico secretary of education Hanna Skandera and education consultant Kristen Lozada Morgan, Pathway 2 Tomorrow: Local Visions for America’s Future “is an inclusive approach to education solutions and is interested in hearing from voices not always heard – those of educators, practitioners, parents, researchers, advocates, nonprofit and business leaders, and entrepreneurs.”

“What’s really unique about Pathway 2 Tomorrow is the local grounding,” Skandera told The 74. “It comes out of local voice and demands, and the way these ideas are shared in states and communities is through partners. People don’t go to a policy catalog to create their next policy agenda. They go to the places and the coalitions that they build at the local level and the people they trust.”

P2T has signed on nearly 50 bipartisan partners and even more supporters and advisers, ranging from school chiefs to political leaders. Among the partners are Teach for America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Data Quality Campaign, and the College Board.

Amid an evolving education landscape that is clamoring for solutions to prepare for the growing needs of an unknown future economy, coupled with new requirements for state-driven policy under the Every Student Succeeds Act, P2T launched as a response to the changing needs of state and local business, government, and education leaders.

“We know that in any given space, it’s a local decision more than ever based on our political space and ESSA. States are leading,” Skandera said. “So how do we really encourage and support in their leadership and ensure that they’re set up for success in their local environments and that we have ideas that are responsive to what they need? There’s no presumption at Pathway 2 Tomorrow that any individual or entity has all the right answers.”

From a legislative standpoint, there’s a critical need for coordination and cooperation across business and education to overcome workforce development and economic challenges, said Republican Indiana state Rep. Todd Huston.

“These solutions will require intentional consideration of, and alignment between, K-12 and higher education, and these complex challenges cannot be solved independently,” Huston said.

Through Aug. 31, P2T is accepting three-page idea proposals that can “effect change in education across the spectrum, from early childhood education to career readiness and anything in between.” Submissions will go through a review process, and selected finalists will receive $15,000 to execute their proposals. P2T will also curate chosen proposals and policy papers into a solutions catalog for state and local leaders.

“With ESSA and all the incredible stakeholder engagement that states did, we saw a lot of local ideas and suggestions in a way we hadn’t seen in the past,” said Carissa Miller, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, a P2T partner. “Those conversations haven’t ended, but this is another opportunity for sharing and cultivating good ideas to help build a more robust system. Being open to local innovation so we can provide equitable opportunities and increase equity in our schools is the reason we do all of these things.”

And, for the first time since No Child Left Behind, when education governance was stronger at the federal level, states no longer have a cohesive vision to work toward — and in the absence of that vision, the country has started to drift apart, said Derrell Bradford, executive vice president of 50CAN, also a P2T partner. Bradford and his group don’t believe in centrally organized policies at the federal level, instead favoring a “locally led, nationally supported” system in which leaders can work together while serving the very disparate needs of each individual community.

“In the Obama-Duncan NCLB era, we at least had a set of common principles. People didn’t agree with all of them, but people at least agreed upon them, and they mainly kept us together,” Bradford said. “The absence of anything coherent like that right now has fractured the landscape so incredibly that we might not recover from it. The idea of going to the states and trying to build these landing pads of ideas that are state-manufactured, sourced locally, and unique to the context of individual states, I hope, will start bringing people who were allies when we had a playbook back together again.”