AEP Innovation Policy Briefing Update

At the AEP Capitol Hill Briefing, “Policies to Foster Innovation in Education,” AEP unveiled its new policy brief that looks at the barriers to and opportunities for innovation in educational resources. Below are highlights from three of the featured speakers: Charlene Gaynor, CEO of AEP; Dr. Donald Pemberton, Director of the Lastinger Center for Learning, University of Florida; and Brad Thomas, Senior Education Policy Advisor, House Committee on Education & the Workforce.

Charlene Gaynor 

  • Many of AEP’s members are small publishers that specialize in specific areas of education like early childhood education, as well as large publishers that bring their resources to bear in an effort to promote innovation. What brings them together is an innovative spirit, a commitment to quality educational content, and a desire to improve student achievement for all of our nation’s children.
  • While AEP members have a strong role in promoting educational innovation, federal policies at times make the ability to innovate more difficult and fall short in their support of innovation.
  • In the policy brief, the first recommendation involves reversing some of the unintended consequences of federal evidence-based policies. Being evidence-based means undertaking the very expensive process of a random assignment experiment to show an impact of educational content. This threshold creates a huge opportunity cost for publishers. Often, publishers must choose between funding a rigorous evaluation and funding the development of the next innovation.
  • Accordingly AEP is asking that reforms to ESEA minimize these opportunity costs. AEP believes in upholding the evidence-based threshold, but is asking for equal access for publishers to governmental resources for evaluation. Government programs that fund evaluations, like the I3 grants, should be open to all developers of educational content that have an evaluation-ready innovation.
  • AEP is also asking for more clarity around the materials to which the evidence-based threshold applies.
  • Second, AEP members know that educational innovations are only as good as the teachers who implement them, so the organization strongly supports the nation’s teaching professionals and the policies that attract, retain, and reward high-quality teachers. AEP is asking that the ESEA policies encourage funding for mentoring and career-embedded professional development of early-career teachers.
  • Read the AEP policy brief, “Fostering Educational Innovation to Improve Student Achievement.”

Dr. Donald Pemberton

  • The Lastinger Center focuses on professional development. Many current programs focus on compensating and evaluating, but Dr. Pemberton and his colleagues are asking what happens after that?
  • They are working on creating systems of professional development that are job-embedded that show teachers how to improve themselves.
  • Innovation cannot be just about the latest technology, though. It must be about transforming the lives of students and teachers.
  • Universities and other organizations also have a difficult time scaling up innovations. Advancing innovation in education will require a public-private effort.
  • Publishers know how to create materials, market and distribute them, and work with schools.  As new policies are made, Dr. Pemberton hopes that there are new opportunities for public-private partnerships to scale innovations and disseminate them broadly.

Brad Thomas 

  • There is no timeline for reauthorizing ESEA. It will be done in bits and pieces. The Republicans feel that large, multi-page bills are not effective.
  • The lawmakers do understand the urgency from the education community, but Rep. Kline, Chair of the House Committee on Education & the Workforce, wants any new laws to reduce the federal footprint in education. Current leadership feels that many issues should be handled at the state and local level.
  • Similarly, it’s a mistake to think that federal policy alone could encourage innovation in education. Many innovative practices have started at the state and local level and are being driven by superintendents and state chiefs.
  • The federal government needs to stop being a hindrance and empower parents to take control of their children’s education.
  • It is appropriate, however, for the federal government to have accountability measures to track federal investment.
  • In addition, all students should have access to an excellent education, but the concern of the current House leadership is that the federal government is making it harder on states. The federal government should only offer flexible guidelines that can be adapted to local needs.

NCLB spurred action in key areas, but it swung the pendulum too far.

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