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Aurora Institute Names Policy Priorities for Future of K-12

The nonprofit’s annual report on how to improve K-12 education in the U.S. includes recommendations to bridge the digital divide, promote education innovations, develop new assessments and recover from learning loss.

"Education Policy" written on a chalkboard with wooden letters piled around it.
The national nonprofit Aurora Institute, which focuses its efforts on education policy and innovation, has released its annual report on policy issues that it thinks will be integral in shaping the future of K-12 education in the U.S. Among the nine priorities in its report are several recommendations for technological improvements, including calls to bridge the digital divide, advance education innovations, transform systems of assessment and recover from learning loss that occurred during COVID-19.

To bridge the digital divide, the institute recommends that lawmakers fully fund the E-rate and Lifeline programs to help disadvantaged students access high-speed Internet; raise spending on connectivity, Internet services and access to devices; provide permanent and ongoing funding for affordable connectivity programs; streamline the E-rate application process; and develop better data collection processes.

In other recommendations for advancing education, the institute says the federal government should create an agenda for research and development to support new education innovations, invest in expanding opportunities to learn and fund ecosystems that support anytime-anywhere learning, among others.

To improve systems of assessments, the institute recommends a $100 million investment in the Competitive Grants for State Assessments program, to help states redesign their testing systems; an expansion of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to accommodate new assessments and more data collection; giving $100 million to the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA) and lifting the seven-state cap on how many states can apply to participate; and creating infrastructure and policies to assess learning in increasingly mobile environments.

To support learning recovery, the institute recommends that policymakers use this moment to give states incentives to create COVID-19 recovery task forces and multiple paths to graduation, and work with communities to define short- and long-term goals especially for students who were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The institute specifically endorses the idea of shifting from a time-based approach to teaching to a more flexible, individualized learning schedule.

“It’s past time that federal policymakers shift their mindsets and embark on fundamental changes that support innovation from the bottom up in order to begin to advance future-focused education systems for a greater good,” Aurora Institute President and Chief Executive Officer Susan Patrick said in a public statement.

Other recommendations listed by the institute include rethinking next-generation accountability; creating learning ecosystems and competency-based pathways aligned across K-12, higher education, career and technical education, and the workforce; modernizing the educator workforce; diversifying the educator workforce; and advancing educational equity.

According to a news release, the recommendations came from the Aurora Institute’s Center for Policy, which conducts policy analysis and offers ideas to federal and state officials, education agencies and other local policymakers to advance several priorities: promoting competency-based education systems, rethinking school accountability and student assessment, and advancing educational equity.