State-By-State Report Card Calls for Education Reform

December 3, 2009

Donohue, Podesta, and Hess Release 'Leaders and Laggards' State Report Card on Educational Innovation

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Leaders and Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Educational Innovation, issued today, is a call for action in response to how poorly states measured up on key indicators of educational innovation. At an event held at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, John Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress, and Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy studies with the American Enterprise Institute came together in support of improving the education of America’s youth.
"As the driver of economic innovation, business must be deeply involved in educational innovation,” said Thomas J. Donohue. “Without innovation in education, we do our children an injustice by not meeting their academic needs and not adequately preparing them to enter the increasingly competitive workforce. If business heeds the call, America will have a brighter future with a larger potential for job creation, developing the talent to fill the positions that will drive a robust economy."
The state-by-state report card evaluates educational innovation, defined as, “the process of leveraging new tools, talent, and management strategies to craft solutions that were not possible in an earlier era” and seeks to catalyze flexible, performance-oriented cultures that can help drive system-wide change. 
“A nation that values human dignity and advancement for all cannot accept an education system that leaves too many of our young people consistently unprepared for the future,” John Podesta stated. “For our children, our educators, and our nation, we must offer better solutions. Our aim with this report is to inspire the reinvention of our school system and provide all students—regardless of their life’s circumstances—with the education that they deserve.”
“The opportunity for smart dynamic problem solvers to improve our quality of life has been the key to American prosperity over many years and across many fields of endeavor,” said Frederick M. Hess. “The thing is that problem solvers can’t operate in a vacuum; they fare best in an environment where the rules, resources, opportunities, and regulatory systems reward quality, encourage excellence, and sanction malfeasance. It is time to bring that same genius to schooling and this report helps point the way.”
The second in the “Leaders and Laggards” series, this report examines the 50 states and the District of Columbia in eight categories including school management, finance, technology, and staffing. Overall, the states posted mediocre results, and across the categories, not a single state earned top grades in more than one or two areas.
Based on the group’s research and analysis, a detailed list of recommendations was developed to suggest the most effective approach to reforming the nation’s education system. Recommendations include:

  • More flexibility. States and districts must empower schools and principals, develop student-based funding policies, and reinvent education management.
  • Better accountability. States and districts should hold individuals and organizations responsible for performance, reform teacher pay, and develop stronger data systems for the collection and dissemination of information.
  • More capacity. To makes schools flexible and innovative, states and districts should provide teachers with focused professional development and encourage the research and development of promising practices.
  • Stronger reform environment. States and districts should support efforts to create common academic standards as well as promote the development of entrepreneurial organizations. 

To our knowledge, this report is the first-ever attempt to evaluate the innovation gap in American education on a state-by-state basis, and it concludes that our nation must dramatically overhaul its system of schooling in order to remain an economic world leader.
State and national results as well as a technical explanation of our methodology can be found at: and
This report was made possible with the support of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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