Seven issues warrant discussion in 2017

As a new year begins, here are seven educational issues that I think will and should generate a lot of discussion. Forty-five years as an educator, parent and researcher convince me that there’s no single strategy that solves all our problems. But implemented well, these seven can help many more students succeed:
1. Early childhood education. Compromise seems possible to expand programs focusing on low-income families and young people.
2. Learning from and expanding use of the learning and teaching approaches at the state’s most effective public schools — district or charter. A special focus should be on schools that are reducing or eliminating achievement gaps among students from low- and middle-income families, and those that help many more students with special needs succeed.
3. Deepening existing partnerships and forming new arrangements that build on schools sharing space with other organizations.
4. Tapping into the energy, insights and creativity that many teachers have to promote the teacher-led school idea as an option for families and educators, as demonstrated at this site: www.teacherpowered.org. Also, building on students’ creativity to help them study, solve or reduce problems as they develop strong academic skills, as shown at these two sites: www.whatkidscando.org and https://nylc.org.
5. Improving and expanding dual high school/college credit arrangements allowing high school students to earn college credit. This will be part of a larger conversation about how to most effectively expand school choice options for students and families.
6. Increasing safety for young women on college campuses. A national study in 2015, located at this website: http://bit.ly/1JmT4A0, found that almost 25 percent of University of Minnesota female undergraduates reported being the victim of some form of sexual assault. Those results can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/2i8LyUp
7. Increasing graduation and completion rates on Minnesota State (formerly called MnSCU) campuses. Minnesota Office of Higher Education/U.S. Department of Education statistics show less than half of students at four-year colleges graduate in six years. See more details here: http://bit.ly/2iBYral.
The three-year completion rate at Minnesota’s two-year public colleges varies, but in most institutions it is less than 50 percent. See details here: http://bit.ly/2iypkOA.
Building on success, and honoring progress will have more students succeed, and allow us to make the best possible use of our taxes. I’ll be writing separate columns about each of the ideas described above. Thanks to many readers who share their reactions, whether you agree or disagree. — Joe Nathan (Editor’s note: Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, is a former director and now senior fellow at the Center for School Change. Reactions are welcome at [email protected])