The NCSL Blog


By Mark Wolf

In any serious discussion of public policy it's helpful when everyone puts their cards on the table.

Participants try to determine the five biggest reasons for failing schools.That's what happened, literally, during a session on "Improving Schools - It Can Be Done," during NCSL's Legislative Summit.

Moderator Josh Cunningham, a senior policy specialist at NCSL, told the attendees to examine the stack of cards placed on their table that contained reasons why schools are failing. The assignment: Pick out the five most significant.

For about 15 minutes, the participants discussed and debated as cards were chosen, discarded and replaced until only five remained.

At Arkansas Senator Joyce Elliott's table, the remaining cards were

  • Student mental and physical health
  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Family economic insecurity
  • Family engagement
  • Attendance

Among the cards that nearly made the table's cut: libraries, summer pgorams, public safety, volunteers, transportation, business support, food and nutrition.

"What this illustrates is how foolish it is to try to turn around a school at the school site," said Elliott, who is the director of legislative outreach for the southwestern region of the College Board.

In that vein, attendees heard presentations from a range of big-picture research and strategies and success stories of turnaround efforts.

Mark Wolf edits the NCSL Blog.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.