The Hoover Education Success Initiative (HESI) hosted the fifth episode in a six-part series that explores how public education can improve amidst the disruption of in-person instruction caused by COVID-19-inspired restrictions.

The session, Who Needs to Be In the Room Where It Happens’ to Improve US K–12 Schools?,” featured Margie Vandeven, commissioner of elementary and secondary education for the Missouri State Board of Education; Derrell Bradford, president of 50CAN; and Christina Laster, director of policy and legislation with the National Parents Union. The program was moderated by Margaret (Macke) Raymond, distinguished research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

This session between leading experts and advocates focused on important stakeholders in the education policy-making process, and how they should coordinate their actions to realize positive outcomes for student achievement.

Vandeven argued that the most important stakeholders are organizations that best represent student interests. She emphasized that coalitions of such groups are more effective when they are broad, diverse, and disciplined in the message they intend to convey.

Laster said that during the course of school closures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, parents largely weren’t given deferential treatment by school boards and other elected officials. This was despite the failure of many schools to deliver a quality education and prevent the significant learning losses that occurred during that eighteen-month period.

Vandeven emphasized that her constituents have largely been split on the future of instruction. Ultimately, she believes that all stakeholders are pursuing the same goals of school safety and expanding opportunity for students to receive a quality education. The disagreement lies in the policies put forth to achieve their shared ends of putting students first.

To this point, Laster added that policy conversations should be outcome oriented and grounded in unbiased data. She also said that the formulation of policy should be directed toward the transition from a one-size-fits-all learning structure to one that accommodates personalized modes of instruction.

Bradford asserted that the solution to improving public education systems should address not just improving average student achievement but also those schools in inner cities and rural areas that are struggling to keep pace.

All participants agreed that improving public schools in the post-COVID era will require a shared and actionable vision from policy makers, educators, and parents, as well as other leaders in local communities who have a stake in enhanced educational outcomes.



Margie Vandeven was appointed commissioner of elementary and secondary education by the Missouri State Board of Education in December 2014 and served in that capacity until December 2017. She was reappointed in January 2019. She has over 30 years experience as an educator, administrator, and builder of effective partnerships.

Derrell Bradford is the President of 50CAN: The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now, and the executive director of its New York branch, NYCAN. In his role, Derrell trains and recruits local leaders across the country to serve as executive directors of state CANs, advocacy fellows, and citizen advocates.

Christina Laster serves as the Director of Policy and Legislation with National Parents Union (NPU).  Previously she worked in the San Diego Unified School District-Early Childhood and Special Education Program Offices.  She formerly served as Statewide Community Organizer for the California Policy Center and as local NAACP Education Chair. 


Margaret “Macke” Raymond is the Program Director for Education at the Hoover Institution, guiding the expansion of education research, policy analysis and engagement at the institution.  She is also the founder and director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, which studies efforts to improve student results in US K-12 education. 

The Hoover Education Success Initiative (HESI) focuses on providing state leaders with sound research-based recommendations to improve education in America.

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