About the Study Group
The National Conference of State Legislatures hosted a plenary session during its 2013 Fall Forum to discuss the results of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) most recent survey of what 15-year-olds in industrialized countries could demonstrate about their knowledge of reading, mathematics and science. This survey is known as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Upon hearing of the disappointing performance of students in the U.S., officers of NCSL’s Standing Committee on Education requested that NCSL launch a legislative study into international comparisons of high-performing education systems. They wanted to study other high-performing countries to learn which policies and practices were in place and what lessons the U.S. and individual states might learn from their success. They also wanted to learn about the consequences for our economy and quality of life if we failed to improve our standing.
A bipartisan group of 28 veteran legislators and legislative staff, along with several partners from the private sector, began an 18-month study in 2014. They focused on the highest performing countries on PISA to discover commonalities across their policies and practices. They met with education leaders from these countries, along with national and international experts who study their systems. They also visited several countries to see the differences firsthand.
This first report explains why there’s no time to lose in rebuilding state education systems. However NCSL’s study group still has questions—and surely the reader does too—about how to design and implement these systemic changes in the states. Where should legislators begin—teacher recruitment or preparation, standards, assessments, early learning? How should states realign their resources? Do some of these policies fit together better into an actionable package? There is still much to learn and discover.
The study group members will continue to meet through 2017 to find the answers to these and other questions by continuing to study and learn from other successful countries, as well as districts and states here in the U.S. Upon completion of our study, the study group will produce a policy roadmap that states can use to guide their reforms, as well as provide support to states ready to embark on these efforts.
“We invested in this working group because we believe having a world view on education systems can give policy makers a clearer perspective on the central role education can and should play in civil society. This work has also proved to us something we’ve believed for a long time, when teaching is treated as a revered profession, great things are possible.”
—Bilal-Threats Daaiyah, National Education Association
“The NCSL report makes a compelling case for state legislators to act now on improving the outcomes their education system is producing today. The ability of U.S. students to compete on a global stage requires state legislators to use data as the backbone of their agenda for improving outcomes. The NCSL report provides a roadmap for addressing the key elements of a state policy agenda that are essential to ensuring every student is college and career ready.”
—John Engler, president, Business Roundtable
“This diverse and bipartisan Study Group of state legislators discovered that top-performing countries have built their successful education system around a strong teaching profession. This includes recruitment of top students, rigorous preparation, meaningful professional development and empowerment of teachers to guide their own profession. This is THE cornerstone of their reforms and their success, and this should be a huge lesson for the states.”
—Linda Darling Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education, Stanford Graduate School of Education and president and CEO, Learning Policy Institute
“The National Conference of State Legislature’s ‘No Time to Lose’ presents timely and valuable analyses and recommendations for transforming American education and training. The report stresses the importance of world-class learning systems for maintaining and improving economic, social, and political welfare in a much more competitive and knowledge-intensive world. Several features make No Time to Lose a valuable and timely report:
It is not only based on solid academic research but, following the example of almost all successful American institutions, benchmarks international best practice.
The report is addressed primarily to states, currently the most important level of government for transforming schools and other learning systems, though all public and private institutions have important roles to play in this important enterprise.”
—Ray Marshall, professor emeritus of the Audre and Bernard Rapoport Centennial Chair in Economics and Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, and former U.S. Secretary of Labor
“Our students deserve the best and we must pursue the best educational practices whether they are found in the United States or around the world. This report is chock full of the best lessons of what works from other countries. We should use this research to inform our work. In that way we can provide our students with the greatest possible chance at success.”
—Christianne Y. Runge, director, Public Employees Division, American Federation of Teachers
“This hard-hitting, refreshingly honest report is a bipartisan clarion call for a very different definition of ‘education reform’ than the one that has dominated the American political landscape for years. The country will ignore it at its peril.”
—Marc Tucker, president and CEO, National Center on Education and the Economy