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  • Writer's pictureArmstrong Williams

Schools Can Work: Four Trailblazing States Offer A Blueprint for Excellence

In the vast tapestry of American education, certain states stand out with benchmarks that others can only aspire to reach. As we navigate the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century, it’s worth pausing to reflect on what these trailblazing states are doing right. Their success stories aren’t just individual achievements; they offer a collective roadmap for the nation.

Massachusetts, often dubbed an “educational powerhouse,” consistently tops national assessments. But what’s their secret sauce? For starters, the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks don’t just set standards; they aim for the stars. The state believes in challenging its students and pushing them to reach their zenith. But it’s not just about the students: Behind every successful student is an empowered teacher. By investing heavily in professional development, Massachusetts ensures that its educators are equipped to guide their charges. And let’s not forget the youngest ones. Massachusetts has been a vocal advocate for early childhood education, pouring resources into pre-K programs.

When we talk about education, we cannot ignore equity, and Minnesota stands as a testament to this. The state has a clear strategy: direct resources where they’re needed the most. Schools with a higher concentration of underprivileged students aren’t left in the lurch. And it’s not just about funding. Minnesota celebrates its diversity, enriching its curriculum with culturally relevant content. It’s a state that believes in reflecting the broad spectrum of its student population in its lessons.

New Jersey’s vision for education is holistic. It’s not just about academics — it’s also about creating well-rounded individuals. The state’s funding model is a master class in fairness. Whether a school is in an affluent suburb or a challenging neighborhood, New Jersey ensures it has what it needs. Academic achievements are celebrated, but the state’s policymakers understand that emotional well-being of students is equally crucial. Robust mental health programs are a staple in New Jersey schools.

In the digital age, any discourse on education is incomplete without mentioning technology. Washington has been a frontrunner in this domain. The state’s curriculum is future-ready, designed for the tech-savvy student. But what about the teachers? Washington ensures they’re not left behind. Comprehensive training programs familiarize educators with the latest tech and show how they can use it to enhance their teaching.

The achievements of these four states are commendable. But they’re more than just success stories; they’re a clarion call to other states. The message is clear: Every child, no matter where they’re from, deserves the best education we can provide. Emulating these trailblazers can bridge educational disparities, drive economic progress, and foster a more enlightened society.

Students autograph a Green Monster scoreboard plate during the Fenway Park Learning Lab Kick-Off on May 4, 2023 in Boston. Massachusetts is one of four states that emphasize excellence in education.Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

It’s essential to understand that the impact of a strong education system goes beyond the confines of the classroom. States that prioritize education see results in various facets of society. For example, studies show there’s a direct correlation between access to a quality education and reduced crime rates. People who are equipped with knowledge and skills are more likely to find gainful employment and less likely to engage in unlawful activities. 

Moreover, education fosters critical thinking, creating a populace that’s not just employable but also more informed, discerning and resistant to misinformation. In an era where fake news is rampant, the importance of this cannot be understated.

In the global arena, the U.S. competes against countries that invest heavily in education because they understand its long-term benefits. Finland and Singapore, for example, with their innovative teaching methodologies and emphasis on holistic education, are setting standards. For the U.S. to maintain its position as a global leader, it’s imperative to look inward, at states such as Massachusetts and Washington, and outward, to learn from international best practices. The fusion of domestic success stories with global insights can create a world-class education system.

Four states have charted a path in America and the rest of the nation should take note and embark on the journey toward educational excellence. Our children deserve nothing but the best.

Armstrong Williams is owner and manager of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year.

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