The Role of States in Education Reform

Wednesday, February 6, 2008 (All day)

The University of Pittsburgh's Learning Policy Center (LPC) featured Susan Fuhrman, president of the Teachers College at Columbia University, and Ron Cowell, president of the Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC), at a colloquium titled "The Role of States in Education Reform."

Fuhrman and Cowell's presentation contributed to the national discussion of the increasing role states are playing in public education. States are now forced to the forefront of such educational issues as performance standards and assessment and accountability, as well as, according to No Child Left Behind, in assuring that schools in need of improvement receive remedies. The colloquium will address states' capacity to take on these increased responsibilities.

Abstract: Despite historic authority over education, state activity in the field was minor until the '80s. Now states take the lead in standards, assessment and accountability, and, according to No Child Left Behind, in assuring that schools in need of improvement receive remedies. However, their capacity, perhaps reflecting their come lately status, is typically far inferior to their responsibilities, posing a major dilemma for education policy. State agencies lack resources and technical expertise and legislatures seem unwilling to redress the situation. Americans are beginning to expect state agencies to act like Ministries of Education in other nations--providing leadership and expertise to schools--but we are not making the investments required by that change in role.

Fuhrman, who earned her bachelor's and master's degree in history at Northwestern University and her PhD degree in political science and education at Columbia University, is also chair of the management committee of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education. Her many professional involvements include membership on the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Coca-Cola Council for Corporate and School Partnerships.

Cowell, a graduate of Pitt who earned a law degree at Widener University, was a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for 24 years. During that time, he served on the boards of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, and Pennsylvania's Interagency Coordinating Council for Early Intervention Programs. He also served as chair of the Government Affairs Committee of the National Association of State Boards of Education, vice chair of the Education Commission of the States, and member of the National Education Goals Panel.