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Securing Our Nation’s Future: The Urgent Need for Education Reform (K-12 Policy) is a Course

Securing Our Nation’s Future: The Urgent Need for Education Reform (K-12 Policy)



Full course description


Of the many national security challenges facing the United States, could America’s greatest risk to a secure and prosperous future be located within its own borders? A failing American educational system threatens U.S. national security in several ways; including economic growth, competitiveness, and physical safety, according to the Council on Foreign Relations’ report, “U.S. Education and National Security.” In this self-paced course, participants will hear from national leaders and experts about these threats and why there is an urgent need for education reform.

Each module offers both video and written core content that will take no longer than an hour to complete. Additional resources are available in each module for those that want to take a deeper dive into specific topic areas. A digital badge and a certificate will be provided for course completion.

Course Objectives:

  • Recognize and explain the causes of the current US education crisis, its’ impact on National Security, and the urgent need for reform.
  • Communicate a clear understanding of why heightened accountability, standards, and meaningful assessments are critical education reform initiatives.
  • Gain perspectives on solutions that can be adopted at the state level to strengthen education.

Topics Covered Include:

  • Module One: Introduction to the Education Crisis in the US
  • Module Two: The State of American Education and Ongoing Reform
  • Module Three: Key Reform Efforts, Part I
  • Module Four: Key Reform Efforts, Part II
  • Module Five: Conclusion

Technology Requirements:

You can access the course content via a computer, laptop, and/or mobile devices (e.g., iPad, iPhone, Android phones and tablets, etc.). For mobile devices, go to the apps store (Apple or Android) to download Canvas apps.


Joel Klein, Co-Chair, U.S. Education Reform and National Security Independent Task Force: Joel Klein Co-Chaired, along with Secretary Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Education Reform and National Security Independent Task Force for the Council of Foreign Relations. Joel currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Amplify. Prior to Amplify, Joel was chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, where he oversaw a system of 1.1 million students and 136,000 employees.

Patricia Levesque, CEO, Foundation for Excellence in Education: Patricia is the Chief Executive Officer for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. She served as Governor Jeb Bush’s deputy chief of staff for education, enterprise solutions for government, minority procurement, and business and professional regulation. Previously, Patricia served six years in the Florida Legislature in the Speakers Office and as staff director over education policy.

Dr. John B. King Jr., Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education: Dr. John King formerly served as New York State Education Commissioner and has recently accepted the position of Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. King is a strong voice for education reform, and he was a driving force in New York’s successful Race to the Top application. A former high school teacher and middle school principal, Dr. King earned a doctorate in education and a master’s degree from Teachers College, Columbia University; a law degree from Yale Law School; and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University.

Derrell Bradford, Executive Director, NYCAN: Prior to assuming the position of Executive Director at NYCAN, Derrell was the executive director at Better Education for Kids, a 501c4 organization supporting bipartisan education reforms in New Jersey. Previously Derrell spent nine years with New Jersey’s Excellent Education for Everyone as its executive director and director of communications. He also served on Governor Christie’s Educator Effectiveness Task Force, which gave recommendations on a new, statewide evaluation system for teachers and leaders. This policy is currently being implemented across the state. He also serves on several boards, including Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City, We Can Do Better New Jersey and St. Anthony High School in Jersey City.

Ralph Smith, Managing Director, Campaign for Grade-Level Reading: As Managing Director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, Ralph Smith pursues a mission that has been a personal passion throughout his many-faceted career: improving academic outcomes, and with them the life chances, of children from low-income homes. Senior Vice President of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Ralph has served on the senior leadership team of the Foundation since 1994. Prior to his time at the Foundation, je also served as Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer for the School District of Philadelphia, and as a senior advisor to former Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode on children and family policy. As the founding director of both the National Center on Fathers and Families and the Philadelphia Children’s Network, Ralph helped launch and lead what is now known as the Responsible Fatherhood movement.

John White, State Superintendent of Education, Louisiana: John White began his career in education as an English teacher at William L. Dickinson High School in Jersey City, New Jersey. He then went to work for Teach for America (TFA) in New Jersey, where he coached and mentored new TFA recruits before becoming Executive Director of TFA-Chicago two years later. In 2006, John White was asked by New York City Chancellor Joel Klein to serve as Deputy Chancellor of Talent, Labor and Innovation, leading negotiations for the city with the United Federation of Teachers, implementing a citywide teacher effectiveness system, and negotiating New York State's bid for Race to the Top (R2T).  Prior to being named Deputy Chancellor, White served as Chief Executive Officer for NYC's Portfolio Division, leading the city's efforts to turn around more than 100 failing schools and start 500 new charter and district schools. White became Superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District in May 2011 and was named State Superintendent of education in January of 2012.

Kate Walsh, President, National Council on Teacher Quality: Kate Walsh has served as the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) since 2002. Before coming to NCTQ, she worked for The Abell Foundation in Baltimore, the Baltimore City Public Schools, and the Core Knowledge Foundation. Among her accomplishments, she started and ran a boarding school in Kenya, East Africa to educate at-risk boys from Baltimore and also developed one of the nation's premier programs in mathematics and science for middle and secondary public school students, a program that has yielded numerous Intel Talent Search winners. A long-time resident of Baltimore, she also started the first alternative certification program for teachers in Maryland, a project which led to her strong interest in teacher quality.

Kevin Huffman, Former Commissioner of Education, Tennessee:Kevin Huffman served as Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education from 2011-2014. Huffman has spent nearly two decades working with public education systems as a teacher, lawyer, non-profit executive and non-profit board member. Huffman began his education career as a first and second grade bilingual teacher in the Houston Independent School District. As a lawyer at the Washington D.C. law firm of Hogan & Hartson, Huffman represented school districts, state departments of education and universities, working on policy and litigation matters including challenges to state finance systems, desegregation litigation and special education hearings and trials. Huffman joined the senior management of Teach For America in 2000, serving as the general counsel, the senior vice president of growth strategy and development, and the executive vice president of public affairs during more than a decade with the organization. Huffman has also served on the advisory boards of KIPP-Denver, Explore Schools Inc., College Summit, and the National Science Resources Center.

Jon Schnur, Executive Chairman, America Achieves: Jon Schnur is Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of America Achieves. Jon also co-founded New Leaders for New Schools,  a national non-profit organization ensuring high academic achievement for every student. He also advises philanthropists seeking to improve education, including Michael Bloomberg and Bloomberg Philanthropies. Jon served as a senior advisor to President Obama’s presidential transition team and to U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan. He has also served as President Clinton’s White House Associate Director for Educational Policy, Senior Policy Advisor on Education to Vice President Gore, and special assistant to U.S. Secretary of Education Dick Riley.

Gray Tollison, State Senator, Mississippi: Since 1996, Gray has served as a State Senator in the Mississippi legislature.  In January 2012, Gray was appointed Chairman of the Senate Education Committee by Lt. Governor Tate Reeves.  During his leadership of the Education Committee, Chairman Tollison spearheaded education reforms, such as A-F School Grading, the Literacy-Based Promotion Act, and enacting Mississippi’s first charter school law.  From 2004 until 2012, Tollison served as Chairman of the Judiciary, Division “B” Committee under the leadership of Lt. Governor Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck.  He is also a past Chairman of the Constitution Committee.

Manny Diaz, Jr., State Representative, Florida: Representative Diaz has been a member of the Florida House of Representatives since 2012. Over the last 15 years, Representative Diaz has been highly involved in Education, first serving as a Teacher and Coach at Miami Springs Senior High and Hialeah Miami Lakes Senior High. He has since served in a leadership capacity as an Assistant Principal at Hialeah Miami Lakes Senior High for seven years. Representative Diaz graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources/Education from St. Thomas University, a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern and completed the prestigious Harvard Graduate School of Education Principal’s Summer Institute in 2006.

Greg Hughes, Speaker of the House, Utah: Representative Hughes was first elected to the Utah Legislature in 2002. Soon after his arrival, Greg was elected chairman of the Conservative caucus. In 2010, his colleagues elected him to serve in House Leadership and he currently serves as speaker of the Utah House of Representatives. Greg has spent his time in the legislature fighting for our veterans and National Guard, lower taxes and public education reform. Greg is an innovative leader pursuing new ideas that drive change for all students. He is a strong champion for school choice and a student-centered education system that better serves Utah families. Outside of his Legislative service, Greg is active in the community, with positions on the boards of Summit Academy Charter School, United Way of Salt Lake and Lone Peak Hospital.

Kathy Visser, Parent and Advocate, Arizona: Kathy Visser is a former teacher and parental advocate for choice in education. She lives in Arizona with her family.

Lynden Simmons, Student, Florida: Lynden Simmons is a Florida’ High School Student and a recipient of the Florida Tax-Credit Scholarship. Lynden and his family live in the Miami area.


Joel Klein

Co-Chair, U.S. Education Reform and National Security Independent Task Force


Patricia Levesque

CEO, Foundation for Excellence in Education




Dr. John B. King Jr.

Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education



Derrell Bradford

Executive Director, NYCAN





Ralph Smith

Managing Director, Campaign for Grade-Level Reading




John White

State Superintendent of Education, Louisiana



Kate Walsh

President, National Council on Teacher Quality





Kevin Huffman

Former Commissioner of Education, Tennessee



Jon Schnur

Executive Chairman, America Achieves





Gray Tollison

State Senator, Mississippi





Manny Diaz, Jr.

State Representative, Florida





Greg Hughes

Speaker of the House, Utah





Kathy Visser

Parent and Advocate, Arizona




Lynden Simmons

Student, Florida

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