Mayors' Education Advisors Discuss Impact of Federal Policy, Share City-School Partnership Efforts: NLC's Mayors' Education Policy Advisors Network (EPAN), Sponsored by the Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute), Seeks to Strengthen the Capacity of Mayors and Other Municipal Leaders to Be Strong Advocates for Education and High School Reform

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Senior policy advisors to mayors in 25 cities gathered in Washington, D.C., last week to discuss the impact of federal education policy on local efforts to improve schools as well as strategies for creating effective city-school partnerships.

NLC's Mayors' Education Policy Advisors Network (EPAN), sponsored by the Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute), seeks to strengthen the capacity of mayors and other municipal leaders to be strong advocates for education and high school reform. Senior municipal staff from the nation's 75 largest cities comprise the network, which is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Federal Policy

On Sunday, June 10, former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise, now president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, kicked off the meeting by discussing the nation's recent progress in improving public schools. Wise noted new challenges, including changing labor market requirements that make high school completion and postsecondary education vitally important for all young people. He also talked about the important roles that local and state leaders can play in advancing a vision of how to improve public schools.

The following day, Dr. Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of Great City Schools, and Gary Huggins, director of the Commission on No Child Left Behind, discussed the implications of the pending reauthorization of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and the recently introduced Graduation Promise Act.

Although both Casserly and Huggins agreed that NCLB has been a step in the right direction, they also stressed that a number of changes should be considered to improve the law. They highlighted issues such as how progress is measured, the need to strengthen data collection and standards and the narrowing effect of the law on school curricula.

The speakers also discussed the Graduation Promise Act, which seeks to identify and implement strategies to reduce dropout rates in the nation's struggling high schools.

During the next session, Dr. Kenneth Burnley and Dr. Daniel Keating of the University of Michigan described the non-academic constraints on student learning and development that have a disproportionate impact on children from low-income and recent immigrant families. The researchers discussed plans to launch a pilot initiative that will attempt to boost academic achievement by combining school reforms with school readiness efforts during early childhood, and non-academic supports in areas such as health, housing and afterschool programs.

Role of City and State Leaders

The meeting concluded with a panel discussion on the role of state and municipal leaders in ensuring that students graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education, the workforce and civic engagement. …