Last week the Foundation for Excellence in Education (often abbreviated and styled as ExcelinEd) held its national summit that annually brings together countless education policy experts and activists.
ExcelinEd was founded in 2007 by Jeb Bush shortly after he had finished his second term as Governor of Florida. While in office, Bush was a vehement proponent of public education reform and the A+ Plan (which was signed into law 20 years ago this year) was among his top campaign promises. The plan brought about heightened requirement when it came to school accountability and state standards. During his tenure as governor Bush also oversaw significant growth in Florida’s charter school sector while also helping establish a state-level voucher program that was eventually struck down by the Florida Supreme Court in 2006.
As an organization, ExcelinEd champions a number of education policy positions which are all broadly intended to render public education as student-centered as possible. To this end, not surprisingly, the organization supports efforts to bolster both public and private school choice and its website constitutes a great resource for those hoping to learn more about the general concepts of- and latest research pertaining to charter schools, ESAs, or scholarship tax credits.
Additionally, the organization supports strengthened school accountability measures including school- and systems level report cards that focus most closely on student outcomes and are clearly and easily comprehensible for administrators and most importantly for parents. Last but not least, ExcelinEd puts forward much research pertaining to educational innovation. This includes a body of work pertaining to college and career pathways and an extensive series of career and technical education policy playbooks.
ExcelinEd’s annual summit went a long way to demonstrate the foundation’s commitment to all of these areas of educational innovation and more. The wide range of panels included a number of offerings pertaining to college and career pathways and CTE credentialing (indeed, you might recall that it was an ExcelinEd study that formed the basis for an earlier post on state-level supply/demand discrepancies when it comes to workplace credentials). Furthermore, hardly does anyone better demonstrate a commitment to educational innovation than did the summit’s final keynote speaker, Sal Khan, founded of Khan Academy, the free online education platform that has demonstrated what is by now a global track record of success.
In addition to Khan and Governor Bush (who opened the summit), the meeting featured addresses from Todd Rose and Jonathan Haidt. The former is a psychologist and social scientist whose work on personal achievement and individual difference and distinction could well stand to offer valuable insights for policymakers and administrators of schools and school systems. The latter is a social and cultural psychologist currently working at NYU whose primary interests of late lie in the area of moral psychology. Having previously authoredThe Happiness Hypothesis (2006) and The Righteous Mind (2012), Haidt last year co-wrote his third groundbreaking work in The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. The book examines the effects of the proliferation of social media on the cultural mores and psychological conditions of the generation of Americans who entered adulthood in the mid 2010s. Haidt offers a number of questions and challenges for educators, administrators, and policymakers alike to keep in mind when designing an education system that is best equipped to prepare the next generation of American students for adult life.
Additional speakers and panels from the conference (which are all well worth checking out), can be found here.