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August 21, 2014

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Nevada 3.0 - The state of education:

Better ideas, better schools

Nevada 3.0: Education

As the Legislature considers several proposals for education, the Sun asked for a variety of opinions on the state of education in Nevada. It's part of the Sun's Nevada 3.0 project, which is looking at issues confronting the state and ways to move forward. You’ll find:

• The Sun’s editorial, "Invest in schools"

• A conversation with Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction James Guthrie

• A conversation with Clark County School District Superintendent Dwight Jones

State Sen. Scott Hammond, a public school teacher and charter school board member, writes about choices facing the state.

Dr. Sonya Douglass Horsford, the senior resident scholar on education at The Lincy Institute at UNLV, writes about a missed opportunity in Nevada.

Ruben R. Murillo, president of the Clark County Education Association, writes about what the schools need.

Victor Wakefield, executive director of Teach For America in the Las Vegas Valley, writes about grassroots ways to improve schools.

Another view?

Have your own opinion? Write a letter to the editor.

Many of the issues confronting our state and nation are complicated and do not lend themselves to simple solutions. Education is certainly one of these areas. To address the complex economic, social and systemic challenges facing public education, we need leaders who are willing to rethink and reshape our schools.

The highest-performing organizations recruit and retain top talent. To bring about real change in public education, we need leaders with vision, knowledge, imagination, skill and the courage to stimulate solutions and produce results.

The Public Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization, is bringing together business and community leaders and educators to promote innovative and bold strategies to improve public schools.

The foundation understands that improving public education requires being receptive to smart, new ideas. We have been at the forefront of forging public-private partnerships, demonstrating the independence, flexibility and patience to pursue long-term changes that educators often cannot accomplish alone.

I believe the most important action the state can take to improve public education is to develop policies and support initiatives that attract, grow and retain the best minds to teach our children and lead our schools.

While much attention rightly falls upon the decisions being made by state officials, there also is much work that nonprofits and other groups can do to strengthen our public schools. In the words of Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach for America, “Leadership is the single most important variable to turning schools around and influencing students.”

With this in mind, the foundation established the Leadership Institute of Nevada. The institute is building a network of leaders from Nevada’s public schools and businesses to drive school improvement. The institute includes forums, public engagement and intensive executive leadership experiences.

The institute consists of two distinct programs.

The first program is the Education Leadership Summit. Two times per year, principals, business leaders, elected officials and stakeholders from across the state are invited to attend each event featuring the world’s best practitioners, scholars and business experts. Participants from Northern and Southern Nevada are exposed to new ideas, entrepreneurial thinkers and best practices intended to motivate, inspire and foster awareness of innovative problem-solving.

The Executive Leadership Academy is designed to provide an intensive executive leadership experience to a select group of education and business leaders. The Executive Leadership Academy enables participants to apply strategic, adaptive and entrepreneurial approaches to the effective use of talent, tools, time and money.

One extended weekend per month, participants are exposed to world-class professionals in the fields of education, business and public policy. The multidisciplinary curriculum consists of lecture and discussion, an examination of case studies and opportunities for analysis and application of practical skills in a real-world context.

The program also provides executive mentoring from leaders in education and the private sector, both local and national, to support each participant throughout the academy experience and beyond.

At the conclusion of each academy, the state’s most promising leaders are equipped to solve problems in better, smarter ways for students. This group of educational and entrepreneurial leaders has an impact on hundreds of thousands of children in Nevada. They ultimately set the standard and raise the bar for educators, creating a talent pipeline to transform the system.

National trends in educational research confirm that the time is now for a new approach to leadership preparation. The Executive Leadership Academy design complements and expands upon current best practices in school leadership programs throughout the nation.

If we all work together to advance innovation and talent development as levers for accelerating student achievement, we can solve problems in better and smarter ways to transform public education in Nevada, ensuring our students are prepared to succeed in an ever-changing global community.

Judi Steele is president of The Public Education Foundation.

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