US Education Policy

Opportunity to Learn, Responsibility to Lead

September 14, 2022  • Education and Society Program

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Education policy has become polarized, threatening to erode historically broad support across political lines. At the same time our students and our public education system are facing some of the greatest challenges of a generation, including historic declines in student achievement and mental health, polarizing culture wars, plummeting public confidence, and a policy framework that no longer holds the political middle.

From January through July 2022, a bipartisan and diverse group of state policymakers – state legislators, state commissioners of education, state board members, and governors’ policy advisors – came together under the auspices of the Aspen Institute to reflect on their visions and values, examine research evidence, and articulate what ought to be true regarding student opportunities in our public schools. The product of that work is Opportunity to Learn, Responsibility to Lead — a set of principles to undergird a new, positive, bipartisan agenda for improving public education. These principles cover essential elements of the student experience, the learning conditions schools are responsible for, and the unique role of state leadership in making opportunities real.

Even as they have deeply held differences regarding political philosophy and preferred policies, these state leaders are united in their support of public education as a bedrock of community, a bulwark of democracy, and an engine of economic mobility. This is the kind of solutions-driven leadership America is starving for, and nowhere is it more important than on improving public education and advancing an opportunity agenda for all students.

On September 19, 2022 The Aspen Institute Education and Society Program held a public webinar that brought together a distinguished panel of state policymakers to discuss new bipartisan Opportunity to Learn Principles (OTL Principles) for state leadership in education.

Panelists included:

  • Linda Darling-Hammond, President, California State Board of Education; professor emeritus, Stanford University; founder and President, Learning Policy Institute.
  • Angélica Infante-Green, Commissioner of Education, State of Rhode Island; former deputy commissioner in the New York State Education Department; former CEO of English-Language Learner services in New York City Department of Education.
  • Amy Sinclair, Majority Whip and Senate Education Committee Chair, Iowa State Senate; former County Commissioner, Wayne County, Iowa.

Each panelist spoke to their experience in developing the OTL Principles and their plans to apply the principles in their policy leadership going forward, followed by Q&A. Watch the video below to learn more about advancing an opportunity-to-learn agenda. The full video of the public webinar is available to view below.