Public Agenda

Making our Schools Work for our Nation's Children

Our nation's public education system must do more to meet the diverse needs of our country's children. While we have made progress in many areas, we still have a long way to go.

What's more, the reforms we have made, like devising models for school transformation and getting serious about measuring teacher effectiveness, have hit many hurdles along the path to implementation and sustainability. Public Agenda has been working to help education leaders, teachers, students, parents and community members work together on solutions to our education challenges for nearly four decades. Our efforts include:

  • Giving voice to often-overlooked stakeholders. Education reform affects the daily lives of students, teachers and parents. Yet far too often, these groups are left out of the decision making process. Reform often suffers, due to anything from unrealistic expectations to outright rejection. Our opinion research brings the ideas and concerns of teachers, parents and students to education leaders, who can then craft policy that is more likely to be supported and sustained.
  • Celebrating the positive. As much as we complain about our nation's education system, there are a lot of things about it to celebrate as well. Our report "Failure Is Not an Option" tells the story of nine unexpectedly high-achieving schools in Ohio. We hope that the insights from principals, teachers, students and parents at these schools can help improve the dialogue about how to make such schools the norm instead of the exception.
  • Engaging teachers on their profession. For our research series, Lessons Learned and Retaining Teacher Talent, we spoke to teachers from diverse backgrounds about issues including merit pay, challenges of the profession and teacher preparation and effectiveness. As a part of our initiative Everyone at the Table, we developed tools for education leaders to engage teachers in dialogue around teacher evaluation reform. The model used in these discussion materials can be modified and adapted for important conversations on other key but divisive topics.
  • Contributing engagement support and nonpartisan discussion guides. In communities around the country, including in Nebraska, Connecticut, and Washington, DC, we have helped leaders and community organizations develop initiatives to meaningfully engage school leaders, teachers, parents, students and community members on education reform issues. As part of this support, we help frame issues in a way that encourages exploration and creative thinking. We also develop nonpartisan Choicework discussion guides to help frame productive, solutions-oriented dialogue.
  • Improving the conversation complex and divisive issues. Public Agenda's vast body of research on stakeholder concerns, as well as our communications and engagement recommendations, helps education leaders work with teachers, parents, students and community members to find solutions on divisive issues. These issues include STEM education, parent involvement, achievement gaps and school turnaround.