Hoover Institution (Stanford, CA) – The Hoover Institution hosted its first education summit on Wednesday, March 9, and Thursday, March 10, featuring discussions with scholars, educators, activists, and other experts about the formulation and advancement of policies aimed at improving outcomes for American K–12 students.
The idea for an education summit was conceptualized by Condoleezza Rice, who, since taking leadership of the Hoover Institution in 2020, has stressed the importance of quality education opportunities, especially in helping disadvantaged and minority youth overcome discrimination and achieve true social, political, and economic equality.
The summit was organized by Macke Raymond, Hoover distinguished research fellow and founder and director of Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO). Raymond was editor of a 2021 Hoover report, How to Improve Our Schools in the Post-COVID Era, which focused on the challenges of making up for students’ learning losses caused by school closures, and on how the pandemic period has revealed to the public glaring deficiencies within the education system, thus creating extraordinary opportunities for change.
Click here to watch Macke Raymond's opening remarks at the summit.
A New Day for Education Work at the Hoover Institution
Condoleezza Rice, Tad and Dianne Taube Director of the Hoover Institution
In opening remarks at the conference on March 9, Condoleezza Rice explained that what has made America more prosperous and innovative than other nations is that its diverse population, particularly those born in less-fortunate circumstances, have not been constrained to live out their wholes lives in a specific economic class. Rather, Americans have enjoyed distinct opportunities to climb up from the “bottom rung of the ladder” in their society and achieve great success and meaning in their lives. The key factor for social mobility in America is access to education, she maintained.
This was especially true for Rice, who grew up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama. For her and other Black children in the South, education was their “armor.” She stressed how critical it is today to expand access to a quality education, explaining that the modern economy punishes those who have little or no skills in its labor force. In addition, Rice explained how education is also critical to national security. She worries, for example, that only 30 percent of members of the US military (the most technologically advanced in the world) can pass assessments demonstrating proficiency in basic math skills.
Click here to watch Condoleezza Rice’s remarks, followed by an audience Q&A moderated by Macke Raymond.
Education Leaders Carousel
Hoover stands with many passionate, driven experts and leaders all working to improve the US K–12 public education system. Many of the top experts shared their ideas in a few video montages shared throughout the program to help stimulate conversations during the Hoover Education Summit 2022 addressing the topics of "The Biggest Challenges Facing US K–12 Education," "The Meaningful Changes that Need to Be Enacted in the US K–12 Education System," and "What Does Success Look Like 10 Years from Now?"
What Are the Stakes? A Global Perspective
Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
Eric Hanushek, Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution
On the morning of Thursday, March 10, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development director of education Andreas Schleicher provided a global perspective on factors that drive positive educational outcomes and the ability of students to adapt to learning in the digital age. Schleicher said that traditionally observed measures, such as school funding, bear only small or zero correlation with student achievement. He explained that data shows that school funding is important up to a certain level, but there isn’t a wide disparity between countries that have large amounts of school funding and those with minimally sufficient levels.
In some comparisons, well-funded school systems have performed at a lower level than those less funded. For example, in Slovakia, which spends $53,000 per pupil ages six to fifteen, students perform better than in the United States, where the average allocation per pupil is $115,000. Put simply, how money is spent matters more than how much is spent. Schleicher argues that the goal of every education system should be to invest time and money in career development of quality teachers, which he believes is the most significant factor in enhancing student achievement, well above other variables including class size and the socioeconomic backgrounds of students.
Schleicher was followed by Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow Eric Hanushek, who explained that although declining achievement rates of American students have resulted in a less-skilled workforce, there are compensating factors that have allowed the United States to remain among the leading nations in terms of economic growth. These include a long-established, stable, and well-functioning market system; a more favorable regulatory environment; and the ability to pull in top talent via immigration. However, time will tell whether these advantages can hold, Hanushek maintained.
Hanushek argued that for students who experienced school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be a substantial reduction of learning and skills for the remainder of the century. If schools aren’t made better than they were before the pandemic, he predicts lifetime income for these students to lessen by 6 to 9 percent, meaning a decrease of $20 trillion in national income over the next one hundred years.
Click here to watch “What Are the Stakes? A Global Perspective.”
Making Change in Public Education
Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO and education philanthropist in conversation with Condoleezza Rice
In the second morning session, Netflix CEO and education philanthropist Reed Hastings told Condoleezza Rice that he doesn’t worry so much that declining rates of student achievement will negatively impact national income. The strength of the American economy is demonstrated by consistently high earnings posted by the nation’s top one hundred companies.
Nevertheless, he asserted that if the education system fails in making measurable improvements, many Americans won’t realize the nation’s economic gains. Widening gaps in income and wealth could thus drive legitimate resentment and further erode political cohesion.
Hastings’s diverse work in education policy has included service as a member (and chair) of the California Board of Education and staunch advocacy for school-choice opportunities. He argued that for school-choice reforms to achieve success, there needs to be a willingness among community leaders to build bipartisan coalitions. The right tends to favor a limited government approach to education, while the left advocates social justice and equity. Hastings believes that both sides can largely agree that expanding educational opportunities for children would provide enormous benefits to their communities.
Click here to watch the conversation between Reed Hastings and Condoleezza Rice.
This Moment in Time
John McWhorter, Professor of Linguistics, Columbia University
The lunch keynote address was given by John McWhorter, professor of linguistics at Columbia University, who listed out five areas where he would like to see change in American education:
- Return to phonics. McWhorter argued that the best way to teach children reading is to have them carefully sound out words, letter by letter. He explained that the prevailing mode of reading instruction, which asks students to memorize words by single chunks, has proved effective only among a very small minority of children.
- The prioritization of standard English above “Ebonics.” McWhorter explained that some educators in Black communities teach Ebonics to help bridge their understanding to standard English. This is a distraction, he argued. Black children’s reading skills have proven to be better when they received direct instruction of standard English instead of having to mediate between dialects.
- End the debate over “Critical Race Theory.” McWhorter said that many on the left inappropriately have taught White children that they are culpable for the institution of slavery and other transgressions of their ancestors. Nevertheless, some on the right are guilty of wanting to gloss over or avoid discussions entirely about injustices from America’s past.
- Less writing and more talking. McWhorter said that he would like educators to assign less writing to students and focus more on the development of verbal communication. People spend most of their lives talking and should be encouraged to express themselves with oral finesse, he said.
- Don’t expect all students to pursue a bachelor’s degree. McWhorter argued that most people would stand to earn more in their futures by pursuing postsecondary educational opportunities in vocational schools. He explained that for people who want to continue to enrich themselves with a classical education, they can do so by accessing vast amounts of high-quality online resources instead of attending an institution of higher learning.
Click here to watch the lecture by John McWhorter.
Action and Activism
Myrna Castrejon, CEO, California Charter Schools Association
Romy Drucker, Director, K–12 Education Program, Walton Family Foundation
Russlyn Ali, Managing Director of the Education Fund at Emerson Collective and co-founder of the XQ Institute
Following McWhorter’s lunch keynote, a group of education policy experts and activists talked about the growth of charter schools and the expansion of other school choice opportunities.
In a discussion moderated by Macke Raymond, three women education leaders described the fraught political environment for school-choice advocates, largely created by teachers’ unions, and demonstrated how the COVID-19 pandemic has presented extraordinary opportunities to advance reforms for the improvement of the public education system.
They explained that change can best be realized by building strong coalitions across partisan and ideological lines. They also said that education leaders should consider creative ways to staff schools so that they not only enhance the academic domain but also serve the various social needs of communities, especially where livelihoods were drastically disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Click here to watch the conversation “Action and Activism.”
Reimagine for What?
Bernita Bradley, President of Engaged Detroit
The afternoon featured a talk by Bernita Bradley, an African American education activist from Detroit, Michigan, who described how the city’s K–12 school system has been failing students for years.
Bradley explained that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Detroit’s education crisis reached epic proportions as many of the district’s teachers abandoned their vocations, leaving large proportions of students, including Bradley’s daughter, to learn on their own at home.
Motivated by this experience and the realization that they could no longer wait for the state and local government to improve the quality of education, Bradley and many other Black families chose to opt out of the public school system and pursue homeschooling options. During this period, Bradley founded a homeschool co-op and advocacy organization called Engaged Detroit, whose mission it is to provide parents with community partnerships, tools, and free coaching that helps them individualize their homeschool journeys, based on the needs of children.
Click here to watch the entire presentation by Bernita Bradley.
Where Do We Go from Here?
Daniel Schwartz, moderator, I. James Quillen Dean and Nomellini & Olivier Professor of Educational Technology at Stanford Graduate School of Education
Chester Finn, Jr., President Emeritus and Senior Advisor, Fordham Institute, and Hoover Senior Fellow
Caroline Hoxby, Scott and Donya Bommer Professor in Economics, Stanford University, and Hoover Senior Fellow
Paul Peterson, Shattuck Professor of Political Science, Harvard University, and Hoover Senior Fellow
The final presentation of the summit featured three Hoover senior fellows—Chester E. Finn, Jr., Caroline Hoxby, and Paul E. Peterson—on changes they believe need to be enacted for the improvement of learning outcomes for American K–12 students.
In addition to other measures, the panel stressed the importance of reinforcing rigorous student assessments, which have been shelved by many states and districts since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The availability of test performance data not only allows for educators and parents to understand whether students have demonstrated mastery of subject matter, but it also holds schools accountable for the effectiveness of instruction and thus helps create an environment where school choice can thrive.
The panelists explained that data-centered research is also pivotal in shaping teacher compensation structures, as well as allocating teachers to modes of instruction where they are most effective—whether in traditional, virtual, or hybrid classrooms.
Click here to watch “Where Do We Go from Here?”
To see all the sessions from this event, click here.