A new brief from NCEE explores how, in the wake of the pandemic, education systems both in the U.S. and abroad are harnessing innovation and digital technologies to deepen and accelerate learning for all students.

Together We Can Ensure Student Success by Design Not Luck

A message from NCEE’s next CEO, Vicki Philips, who says she couldn’t have achieved what she has without some luck early on. In her new role, she challenges us all to work toward an education system where success is a product of good design, not luck.

Dear Colleagues,

It is a privilege to greet you as Chief Executive Officer of the National Center on Education and the Economy, a job I officially began last week. I am particularly happy, as this is a homecoming for me, having previously led NCEE’s National Alliance for Restructuring Public Education in the 1990s. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to lead such a uniquely impactful organization and its talented team of content experts, practitioners and researchers. And I am honored to have so many of you as partners in our work.  

To the readers of this newsletter, chances are at some point I’ve held a position similar to yours. I began my career as a middle and high school teacher and then served as superintendent, chief state school officer, in leadership in philanthropy, and academia. I understand the challenges you face, as well as the opportunity we have to improve education in order to bring about a better future for all of our students.

This work is deeply personal for me. I grew up on a farm in Falls of Rough, Kentucky, and was the first in my family to go to college. That educational attainment was in large part due to luck as my achievement was the exception rather than the rule for people in my community. Some years later, far too many American students still face long odds of success. Young people in this country should receive the education they need and the opportunities they deserve by design, not by luck.

While much remains the same, the past three years were uniquely disruptive to our education system. More than a million students have left our public schools, including many in our highest-needs communities. Teachers are exhausted and under intense pressure. Parents are frustrated. School and district leaders have been dealt a cascade of problems to solve and lose-lose decisions to make. Many of the hot-topic issues in education are not solutions to these challenges, but distractions from them.

However, this is also a time of unique opportunity for leaders like you. It is imperative for us to rethink how our students learn, regardless of their circumstances, and redesign our systems for opportunity for all, not leave success to luck and happenstance.

Joyful education happens when the bond between a teacher and a student sparks inquiry and learning. Our shared sightline must always be focused on the classroom — in whatever form that takes — as we work to remake the system that surrounds the magic of learning. 

If our children are to compete in this global economy and lead in an uncertain world, they need to be prepared. Our role is to get them ready. It carries big implications, so we must work together to deliver a high-quality education system for all learners. 

The benchmarking of the world’s top-performing schools that NCEE has pioneered provides a powerful guide to how we can transform our own system of education. That research, vital as ever, drives our work with a growing alliance of practitioners, school districts, policy makers, and education departments throughout the country as they adapt, apply, and improve the lessons learned from top-performing systems. 

Still, NCEE will continue to learn more. We will not be afraid to step out on the path to improvement nor will we hesitate to link arms and advance together. The richness of NCEE’s work is equally a product of our research and of our partnerships around the world with people and institutions who share our vision for helping every child learn all they can. We will continue to collaborate globally as we work locally, learning and sharing to the benefit of our schools and students.

I’m excited to work with you. Together we can realize an education system in which teaching and learning can thrive.