K-12 Momentum | March 2024

Women sitting smiling


PISA scores are down, NAEP scores are down, and pandemic learning loss is everywhere. With this cascade of bad news, it is easy to feel powerless. It is also easy to attach to a false narrative that nothing works. I knew education would be hard, I find myself saying, but this hard? Really?

Let me offer you a tonic for the education headline blues. A new report on international education from RISE, Focus to Flourish: Five Actions to Accelerate Progress in Learning (report, brochure, and video), provides clear advice on where education leaders should focus efforts in the months and years ahead. Lant Pritchett, an American professor at Oxford, and an international team of researchers in multiple countries have completed a decade-long effort to understand why some countries, such as Vietnam, have seen growth in student learning when other countries have faltered.

Why did some countries succeed? Based on the evidence they amassed, over 400 pieces of work, RISE proposes five key systemic actions to spur improvements in student learning:

  • Commit to universal, early foundational learning.
  • Measure learning regularly, reliably, and relevantly.
  • Align systems around learning commitments.
  • Support teaching.
  • Adapt what you adopt as you implement.

The report builds on Lant’s prior work in international development. Pritchett has long focused on systemic change and enactment. In different fields, he explored Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA), a close sibling of Continuous Improvement: break problems into root causes, identify entry points, search for possible solutions, take action, reflect upon what you have learned, adapt and then act again. Pritchett’s book, Building State Capability, and accompanying toolkit, are indispensable tools to support this type of systemic change.

If you have the chance, spend some time on the RISE and Building Capability websites. They are independently full of great research and inspiration from other social sectors. But more importantly, read together, they sketch out a meaningful path toward action in education. The “what” and the “how.”

Above all else, RISE provides a very viable path and the promise that we can build the system students deserve if we commit to the steps to get there and express those commitments in a set of clear, tangible priorities. Despite the challenges ahead, we have a roadmap that can and will make systems better.

In partnership,

Bob Hughes
Director, K-12 Education

Quick takes

March Mathness: Have You Joined the Fun?

Sure, watching basketball games all month long is fun. But have you ever thought about which policies or practices are the most transformative for students and teachers in tournament style? Our partners at the Collaborative for Student Success are bringing these questions to the court and flagging the ideas education leaders need to keep top of mind. Learn more here.

Data Science Across the Globe

A new report from Data Science 4 Everyone highlights country-by-country comparisons on efforts to advance K-12 data science and literacy education. Beyond Borders 2024: Primary and Secondary Data Science Education Around the World shows how countries around the world are training teachers in data literacy, updating curriculum, launching training programs, and working to prioritize data science in schools. Check out Ed Week’s take and read the full report here.

New Report: The Decline of Learning and Earning Potential

The COVID Generation's Future: NAEP Declines Will Impact Student Earnings, Economic Competitiveness is a new report from the National Assessment Governing Board summarizing two research papers from leading economists on the potential impacts of 8th grade math declines on our country’s economic future. Read more here.

Report: Math Teachers’ Efforts Can Really Add Up

“The role of a math teacher is more significant than even they may fully realize.” We agree with Julia Kaufman, senior policy researcher at RAND. In a new take from the American Mathematics Educator Study (AMES), RAND highlights findings from the report showing the role math teachers play in determining future math success and career opportunities. Read more here.