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The Word That Was Glaring in Its Absence: Education

That's the number of times the word "education" came up in Wednesday night's Republican debate. I don't think seven is a very lucky number when it only represents 0.0002 percent of the roughly 35,000 words spoken over the course of three hours.

I'm a pragmatic person and realize that we have many important issues to tackle. Taxes received a huge number of mentions (59 times), as did Iran (43 mentions) and immigration (23 mentions). However, when the mere seven mentions of education are dwarfed by marijuana (22 mentions) and even the word "face" (15 mentions), I start to wonder where our priorities lie.

Fixing the U.S. education system is a vital issue. The numbers are staggering. Let's start with student debt, which currently stands at $1.2 trillion. To put this number in perspective, $1.2 trillion could pay for the salaries of over 21 million teachers for a year (or cover the salary of LeBron James for the next 50,000 years).

It would be one thing if all the students who were paying such sums were actually earning the degrees they need to boost their earnings. But far too many students who enroll in higher education don't graduate. Fewer than 60 percent of students at four-year colleges or universities graduate within six years, and at two-year colleges, fewer than 30 percent of students graduate within three years.

Combine these two factors and it's a toxic mix. When I moved to New York from my home in London to lead McGraw-Hill Education, I thought the debt problem was a student graduating from a four-year school with $100,000 or more in debt. That's not it. Rather, it's the student who doesn't graduate from school, has to take an underpaying job, and is saddled with $10,000 in debt but without a high paying job that comes from having a degree to help pay it back.

New, Needed Principals' Standards Are Coming. Now What?

We all agree that teachers are the most important in-school factor in student learning. We pay less attention—a lot less—to school principals’ essential role in creating the conditions for teaching and learning. It’s the principal’s job to make sure that all students have equitable access to the best teaching in a safe, supportive learning environment.

Responding to principals’ increasingly demanding roles and to the latest research, after a tumultuous two-year process, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Policy Board for Educational Administration are scheduled to release revised school leadership standards next month. These standards build on the current ones, the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) Standards—guidelines on what school leaders should know and be able to do. They provide a framework for how to train, develop, evaluate, and support principals and other education leaders. (Full disclosure: I participate in the panel that is finalizing the 2015 Standards.)


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Learn More About Education

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