All my life, I have lived via campaigns, be they political, social, or communicative in nature. Every campaign, though unique in many ways, has the same fundamental objectives: to motivate, to inspire action in others, and to facilitate implementation that achieves desired change. I have managed political campaigns, run in 11 election campaigns, and led transformative education initiatives, and each sought to change an existing system or create a new one.
Improving education for all students has been a major part of every campaign I have run. Decades ago, a high school classmate’s statement that, “Education is the only passport from poverty” seared indelibly in my mind. Today his words ring even more true.
On a personal note, there is nothing that highlights the necessity for urgency like receiving your first Social Security check. While recently experiencing this senior citizen rite of passage, I realized I have one more campaign left to run. My last campaign will be not for elected office—such running is better left to others. My major push will be for 3 and 30; working over the next three years to galvanize pre-K-12 leaders to make, then implement, the crucial decisions that will genuinely improve student learning outcomes for the class of 2030.
The child beginning third grade in the fall will walk across the high school commencement stage as part of the class of 2030. If the past decade is any indication, we will not be able to predict much of what this class will experience during this learning period; what they need to know, how they learn, and how they are measured is changing rapidly. The breadth of recorded human knowledge has doubled at least twice since they were born and will double at least twice more before their high school graduation. With the rapid development of artificial intelligence and technology, the jobs that may interest them today could well be gone tomorrow, replaced by positions yet unknown.
At the same time these students are working their way through elementary school, their existing school system faces major decisions in the next three years that will affect this generation and the one to follow. Already, every decision maker in education is confronting the challenges presented by ever-rising standards, greater demands on teachers, limited budgets, and explosively progressing technology, not to mention the federal requirement that every school district develop a plan for improving its lowest-performing schools. The next three years of decisions and resulting implementation— or lack thereof,—will determine the future of the class of 2030.
So like every candidate, I am launching my “3 and 30 campaign.” By focusing our thinking on a foreseeable goal—the success of the class of 2030—we can, through planning and implementation over the next three years, create the conditions that result in widespread changes across the sprawling expanse of the education system. And make no mistake: education is a vast system of systems, comprised of 14,000 school districts, 50 states and the District of Columbia, and the federal government. To avoid being overwhelmed by all of the moving parts, this initiative’s primary focus is on the individual school district that directs, administers, and supports the educational process for 105,000 public schools with 52 million students in the pre K-12 elementary and secondary systems.
3 and 30 is about systemic change. Many individual schools and districts have become lighthouses for showing how to make positive differences in students’ learning, and they offer valuable lessons to all of us. With bold leadership, commitment, and innovation, they demonstrate the power of effective teaching and learning, even in the face of deep rooted poverty and other daunting obstacles. Yet these scattered lighthouses illuminate what can be in a limited area; they do not light the entire coast; what is necessary now is to bring these individual lessons-learned to systems that can affect millions of students.
We already know much of what needs to be done. In the last decade alone, great strides have been made in the science of learning, technology development, teaching practices and quality, the personalization of the learning experience, and the effective differentiation between what works and what does not.
Educators, students, parents, elected policymakers, business and community leaders, philanthropists, and many others all play a role. While 3 and 30 is first and foremost about the students, in this Information Age society, education is what determines our quality of life, both individually and as a nation.
This is both my last and most important campaign. As such, I want to lend my capabilities to your efforts and skills so that we might have the maximum impact. With all of us focused on the right decisions and implementation over the next three years in our schools, districts, and states, we can achieve exceptional education improvements for the class of 2030, and all those to follow.