Unlocking Education Reform: Powerful Resources for Educators, Parents and Leaders

The Essential Toolkit for Education Reform Starts Here.

Paul Tough

Author of How Children Succeed

Mr. Tough addresses the audience at the Worldwide Innovation Summit for Education to share his analysis of the issues plaguing the United States education system and across the globe.

The ideas that Tough writes about in his book “transcend national borders” and can be applied to schools around the world. He shares what happens when we stop focusing on a child’s IQ and standardized testing, and instead, focus on character education, particularly during early education and adolescence.

How Do We Fight For Education Reform?

Worried about the state of our public schools? You’re not alone.

Maryland’s successful school reform plan can be the key to unlocking a brighter future for our children. The State of Maryland established the Commission of Innovation and Excellence in Education in 2016, comprised of 25 diverse experts to tackle critical issues in their entire public school system.

By working together, we can implement this proven solution and ensure our education system thrives for generations to come.

How did Maryland’s Innovation and Excellence in Education Commission Succeed?

The first step for the Maryland Commission was to define the college and career-ready (CCR) standard is for Maryland School Systems. Once they completed their study, they were alarmed to discover that only 40% of their high school graduates met those standards.

They commissioned the help of education experts and a financial company to help them with education reform, and conducting a return-on-investment analysis of the costs and rewards for their proposed plan.

The return to the state treasury was exceeded expectations and was a significant win for the Maryland education system

How do we get leaders to take action?

It might surprise you, but your local and state Chamber of Commerce is the best avenue to change.  This organization is highly vested in improving education; after all, the graduates of the state schools are a major source of their employees, and highly rated school systems attract new business. Once they decide that educational reform is needed, they have a weighted influence on the legislature to set up a study commission.  

Here is an example letter that may help guide your own:

Dear _____,

I am writing to you as a concerned citizen who is perplexed by the never-ending stream of bad news about the performance of our public schools. Each year we see state test scores (Indiana) that are deplorable. On the US assessment tests, scores on the 8th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2019, found that barely 3 in 10 students are proficient in both math and reading. Our international rankings are unacceptable, and some are getting worse. We see no apparent action to correct the problems. Why do we tolerate such poor performance? As a nation we have always prided ourselves on the quality of our K-12 educational system. This is certainly not the case today. 

We are entering a period of severe reductions in graduates of educational programs. The more recent forecasts predict a dramatic shortage of approximately 200,000 out of a need of 300,000. We must take actions that will redirect graduates into teaching; we are already too late but begin we must. 

Why am I writing to you?  The Chamber has a deep vested interest in the quality of the state’s K-12 education system. I am hoping I can motivate you to action. Basically, I am recommending that the state replicate the study team approach used by the state of Maryland. They commissioned a team to take a comprehensive look at their entire public school system. The Maryland legislature established the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education in 2016. The study team was comprised of 25 individuals appointed by various policymakers and education organizations. They were not pleased with their findings; their schools have many problems, for example only 40% of their high school graduates were college or career ready. This was a shock since they are in the top tier of states re school quality. This reform proposal was passed by the Maryland legislature in 2021 with a veto-proof majority.  To learn more about what Maryland did, go to my website: elevateteachers.org and click on Lessons then click on Lesson 19.

By the way, a group of Massachusetts businessmen initiated a similar study in the 1990s and Mass. ended up as the number one state for K-12 public education. 

An old high school teacher hammered this into all of us: education is the Bulwark of Democracy. Just as our education is slipping badly so is our democracy.