Our American States | An NCSL Podcast

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The “Our American States” podcast—produced by the National Conference of State Legislatures—is where you hear compelling conversations that tell the story of America’s state legislatures, the people in them, the politics that compel them, and the important work of democracy.

You can listen to the podcast on this page, you can subscribe through iTunes or Google Play, or you can use the RSS icon at the right to copy a feed URL for your podcatcher. 

Education

27

Winston Berkman-BreenThe level of student debt in this country is of mounting concern to state legislators. The more than $1.6 trillion owed by more than 44 million people is starting to affect when people buy homes, get married and make other major life decisions.

On this episode, we talk with two NCSL experts, Sunny Deye and Andrew Smalley, about the scope of the problem and steps states are taking to address it. In our second segment, we talk with Winston Berkman-Breen, who is the student advocate and director of consumer advocacy for the New York State Department of Financial Services. His role, essentially that of student debt ombudsman, is one step states are taking to help better manage the student debt challenge.

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14

Researchers and scientists continue to make advancements in determining how young people learn and how their brains develop. State legislatures devote significant time to education policy and approve considerable state resources to improve the education systems in their states.

Our guest is Dr. Linda Darling Hammond, who is the president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute. She explains what we are learning about brain development and how it affects how young people are taught today. She says the ideas from the research can work in any school, regardless of its socio-economic status. And, she says many of the principles can be applied in school systems without additional state funds.

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11

Our nation’s education system is constantly being evaluated and analyzed—including the area of school leadership and how it impacts teachers and the quality of learning students receive. The focus of this edition of “Our American States” is on principal supervisors.

The Principal Supervisor Initiative, a recently released national study, specifies five components for consideration that urge school districts to help stem the tide of principal turnover by ensuring supervisors provide leadership, rather than just focusing on compliance, legalities and evaluations.

Helping us to learn more about school leadership, principal supervisors and the study, is Dr. Mollie Rubin, a research assistant professor in the department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations at Vanderbilt University.

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14

Taking classes in the summer was once seen as a punitive measure. Research, though, is showing that students of all ages and grades often suffer from a “summer slide,” or summer learning loss that makes re-entry to school in the fall more difficult. Our guests explain how this slide is tied into the achievement gap and affects students over time.

Matthew Boulay is the founder and CEO of the National Summer Learning Association. He discusses how students experience a “summer slide” and why it’s important to help students maintain gains from each school year.

Oregon State Representative Barbara Smith Warner (D) chaired the state’s Summer Learning Work Group, and is working to enhance summer learning programs for students in the state.

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08

For a little more than two years, states have been implementing a federal law called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bipartisan federal education law that the Wall Street Journal characterized as “the largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.”

ESSA enhances state’s ability to close “opportunity gaps,” which occur when one group of students consistently receives more educational inputs than another group. In this podcast, economist Art Rolnick explains how investing in early childhood education can pay off in big ways for the states, by closing opportunity gaps before they become achievement gaps. Through research, he has quantified the economic benefits to states.

We also talk with Utah state Senator Howard Stephenson (R), who shares how working with incarcerated youth in his state changed his perspective on the value of early childhood education programs.

For more on early childhood education and closing opportunity gaps, review NCSL’s research.

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21

Following each school day, more than 10 million students take part in afterschool programs in this country, taking advantage of a system that provides additional educational opportunities, social engagement, exposure to new skills. For parents, those programs provide comfort, knowing their child is safe and in a structured environment.

The Afterschool Alliance says data demonstrates significant value for students that take part in these opportunities, but acknowledge that the quality and accessibility of afterschool programs varies across the country. They estimate that more than 11 million other children take care of themselves each day after school.

In this episode of “Our American States,” we talk with Jodi Grant, executive director of the Afterschool Alliance to find out what is happening nationally, and Texas State Representative Trent Ashby, to get a perspective on how these programs work on the state level.

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12

Each day, a half million school buses are on the road transporting students. The safety record is impressive. The design of school buses, known in the field as “compartmentalization,” has limited fatalities each year. However, experts have been looking at adding seat belts on school buses to increase safety.

Our guests are intimately involved in the issue.

Kris Poland is a senior biomechanical engineer in the National Transportation Safety Board’s and describes her agency’s investigations of crashes and the development of federal policy to maintain and improve the safety record of school buses. She explains what they’ve learned about seat belts on buses and how they continue to learn from each crash episode.

Tennessee State Representative JoAnne Favors, who last November had a tragic school bus crash in her district that resulted in six students losing their lives. The incident prompted her to push for seat belts on state school buses. While the effort stopped short of passage, she feels the legislature is close to an agreement and offers advice to colleagues on what to look for sponsoring similar legislation. 

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18

Historically, citizens have held high expectations for education in the United States. Over the course of the last several years, while the delivery of that education has become more politically challenged, there is still a strong belief that American students should compare favorably with their counterparts across the globe.

In today’s edition of “Our American States,” we talk with experts in international and U.S. education, and talk to a state legislator in one state that rates highly when compared to other countries.

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