WASHINGTON – Increased access to early childhood education, improved workforce readiness and closing the socioeconomic achievement gap in education are top goals for 2014, a group of mayors from across the nation said Wednesday.
At the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, an education reform task force led by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock laid out its 2014 agenda. It comprises four goals: increase access to early childhood education, increase the number of students with access to top schools, keep students on track to graduate and ensure students have access to and complete post-secondary education or training.
“We have an overriding objective of not just closing the achievement gap as a task force, but eliminating the achievement gap,” Hancock said.
Hancock said the task force will create an online playbook in the coming year, a collection of education reform practices tried in different cities. The playbook will critique the effectiveness of these practices.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings called for tougher action in reforming education.
“We are arguing about stuff and we are not really approaching this with the intellectual vigor I think we should,” Rawlings said. “If there ever was an issue that could be bipartisan, I would think education should be it … If we don’t set up measurements that we all agree with, then we don’t care about it.”
Duncan praised Washington, D.C., for improving its education system by focusing on early childhood education, setting higher standards, emphasizing teacher and principal evaluations and adjusting their plans based on community feedback.
“A package of things together here in D.C. are leading to outsize gains and I think they are absolutely replicable in your cities,” Duncan said. “I’m much more interested in metrics and gains than where we are today.”
In an interview after the meeting Duncan said the meeting was one of “many, many conversations” he has had recently with mayors on improving education at a local level. Recently, the Obama administration announced five “Promise Zones” – San Antonio, Texas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, southeastern Kentucky and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma — where the federal government will work closely with localities to improve economic development, education, safety and other practices in the community.
“We’re investing not just on the part of education but across the administration to work with urban areas to drive quality,” he said.