I was reading an article this morning and I saw an online advertisement that really stuck out to me. It said “Let’s solve 17th place” – and had the United States ranked below countries like Estonia, Slovenia, and Belgium. It didn’t say what we were ranked in 17th place for, but I had seen this factoid bandied about countless times, and I knew it was a reference to our education system. Here is the ad:
These countries have a modern approach to education. Some use data to inform their work, others individualize instruction for each student. Some prioritize a well-rounded curriculum and others have support and training for teachers – but most importantly, many of the high achievers on the list have a modernized school schedule that allows all these basic strategies to actually work. More time alone is not an answer – but only with more time can we effectively utilize other powerful reforms necessary to move the United States up from 17th place.
I was even more surprised when I saw who sponsored this ad. It wasn’t an education reform organization, or a union, or a foundation. It was ExxonMobil. Everyone, myself included, has their own opinions about that industry – but what I found so shocking was how unlikely an organization they were to be advocating for reforming education. ExxonMobil executives have not signed on to the Time to Succeed Coalition, and I don’t know if they will. But it reminded me how diverse – and unlikely – a set of allies we have as signatories to our coalition to expand learning time. Of course we have education leaders, from superintendents to union leaders to charter school leaders to prominent reformers. But we also have major foundation leaders, prominent politicians from both sides of the aisle, and well respected business leaders. And over the last two weeks, innumerable teachers, parents, small business owners, students, and concerned citizens from across the country have signed on as well.
All these people have come together from different backgrounds and perspectives, but we can all agree on one thing: only after we give all our students the time to succeed will our nation be able to succeed.