P-16 Frequently Asked Questions What is P-16? nnovation, P-16 is the idea that federal education laws must be aligned to foster state innovation, eliminate costly duplication, expand accountability, and improve education outcomes for all students. Too often, federal education laws are isolated from one another. The federal-state-local education system must be coordinated to serve all students for a lifetime of learning. States across the country are working to better align their education programs from preschool through postsecondary education to improve opportunities and outcomes for all students. As a result, the overall efficiency and effectiveness of public education is improved for the student as well as the taxpayer. How are governors poised to lead on this issue? How have they led, so far? Education is primarily and properly a state responsibility. Governors are leading efforts to create state P-16 councils to oversee the integration of early, elementary, secondary and postsecondary education. From California to Georgia to Delaware, governors in nearly 30 states are leading P-16 reform efforts. Governors also are working to better monitor student success at every level. P-16 alignment allows governors to identify and fix the holes in the education pipeline. Federal laws should reinforce these sound state practices, not discourage them. What are silos? There are five major federal education laws—Head Start; the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB); the Carl D. Perkins Vocational-Technical Education Act; and the Higher Education Act (HEA). Including Head Start, there are almost 70 different early federal education programs. Given the natural ebb and flow of Congress, education laws are drafted, implemented and reauthorized with varying levels of coordination between them. The result frequently resembles "silos" that force policymakers to think within specific laws rather than across major reform areas. With federal silos in place, states’ ability to identify and fix problems along the educational pipeline becomes limited, as education becomes increasingly segmented. To change this mindset, the new vision of education will require decision makers to view policy in a coordinated system. Why now? Pending reauthorizations of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), HEA, Perkins, and Head Start in the 109th Congress present an unprecedented opportunity to align federal education laws and promote lifelong learning. The pathway to progress is clear. Federal education laws from pre-school through college need to be aligned to foster state innovation, eliminate costly duplication, and improve education outcomes for all students. Why do we need alignment? Ultimately, a successfully aligned P-16 education system will provide all students with the skills needed to succeed in the global economy of the 21st century. To do that, however, federal laws must support, not undercut, state education laws and practices. For our students’ futures and our nation’s continued economic prosperity, we must create an aligned and coordinated American education system. States have started this work, federal law now needs to follow. The economic strength of the United States depends on the ability of each state to develop an education and workforce system that supports, trains, and prepares skilled workers. How does this affect students and teachers? By dramatically reducing the inefficiencies of duplicative or unaligned services, states and localities will be relieved of the cost and burden of unnecessary bureaucracy. Instead, money will go to where it is needed most—educating students and training teachers for today’s classrooms. Alignment will make high school classes more rigorous and relevant to college and work. Teachers will be better prepared and supported for the classroom. Toddlers will be better prepared for kindergarten. Workers will be able to access the employment and education services needed to maintain and switch careers. This strategy benefits students at all levels. What can Congress do to embrace P-16? By aligning federal education laws and embracing state flexibility, Congress can shore-up the education pipeline so laws relate and support each other. Reform must be systemic, coordinated, and aligned with the needs of all students. This does not mean that Congress should mandate a one-size-fits-all solution to P-16 alignment. Federal education laws should support state P-16 efforts and encourage state-initiated solutions. To ensure maximum state and local flexibility to create P-16 systems and to ensure state authority to align education systems and standards, Congress should refrain from establishing any federal mandates. How can federal laws support sound state educational practice? Given that federal law establishes significant requirements across the education pipeline, it is important for federal laws to provide states with the flexibility to innovate and institute standards-based reform. Congress should align federal education laws to: • embrace state coordinated P-16 efforts; • provide greater flexibility to states; • streamline federal data reporting requirements; • expand gubernatorial authority to coordinate federal funds; and • support state high school redesign. How do states get to where they need to be? For this endeavor to succeed, federal education laws must treat each segment of the educational pipeline as a key element in one seamless system—from preschool through postsecondary. Moreover, these laws absolutely must support state innovations, provide added flexibility, and eliminate the bureaucratic duplicity and burdensome red tape. Federal bureaucracy forces state and local inefficiencies — this must be prevented, reverted, and halted for progress to continue. P-16 policies embrace state ingenuity and innovation because every state has different needs and different priorities. How does alignment benefit states? Alignment can help states create a more seamless education system, raise student achievement, and better prepare workers by: • aligning academic standards and programs to improve outcomes for all students; • eliminating gaps in education programs; • reducing duplication and unnecessary bureaucracy to improve the efficiencies of services; • utilizing data for better informed decisions; • expanding statewide accountability; • promoting flexibility for innovation; • returning authority to states to help them solve their own problems; and • allowing states to better see the problems in the pipeline that need to be addressed. What happens if we do nothing? Failure to align federal education laws will further segment an already-fragmented educational system. In the years ahead, federal, state and local officials will waste increasingly scarce resources on administrative red tape. The crisis in our nation’s high schools, the existing teacher shortage, and the achievement gap between children are all indicators that broad reform is necessary. A cohesive P-16 system would better serve all students by giving back states their authority to make decisions and their ability to be innovative.
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