April, 2019
Jamie Lewis Keith, Partner, EducationCounsel LLC, with an insert by Alexandra Schimmer, Associate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, The Ohio State University

This article provides guidance to institutions of higher education on “how to do diversity right”-navigating effectively and with fidelity to 40 years of legal precedent through today’s challenging legal and policy landscape.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides states with several opportunities to advance social and emotional learning and development, positive learning conditions, and whole child supports in schools and districts.  This brief outlines these opportunities and highlights examples of how states are leveraging them in their ESSA state plans.

On January 16, 2019, the College Board’s Access and Diversity Collaborative hosted a webinar titled “Federal Non-Discrimination Law: Implications for Higher Education Financial Aid and Scholarship Policies and Programs.” This webinar, conducted by Art Coleman and Jamie Lewis Keith of EducationCounsel, focuses on  issues of federal non-discrimination law, including Title VI, relevant to scholarships and financial aid.  Incorporating federal court admission decisions associated with student diversity, as well as USED non-discrimination policies and OCR case resolutions involving claims of discrimination in aid, the webinar provides insight into and ideas about strategies and action steps that can help achieve institutional goals associated with diversity, while also mitigating legal risk.  A full recording of the webinar is here.

The 2018 election cycle resulted in new governors in 20 states and two territories.  This change will have further ripple effects as new governors in many states appoint new chief state school officers, state board of education members, and other state education leaders. If properly understood and leveraged, each new governor’s transition period provides a critical window of opportunity to promote education equity, opportunity, and outcomes.

This brief produced by the National Governors Association (NGA) and EducationCounsel provides guidance to new governors and state education teams on how to think about this critical transition period, how to best advance education priorities, and how partners can provide support.  Based on lessons learned from prior gubernatorial, state, and national education transitions, NGA and EducationCounsel have identified ten opportunities for action that each governor and others should consider – from election to inauguration and in the first 100 days – to get the most out of the state transition period in terms of advancing education equity, quality, and outcomes.  By investing the time, energy, and resources necessary to attend to these opportunities, the transition team and those seeking to support it will be on solid footing to do the difficult but essential work of pursuing an equitable and rigorous education for every student.


May 24, 2018

Secretary Riley reflects on successful strategies to transform schools in rural communities. Read more.


A recent 2018 consensus study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine titled, Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (Academies Report), reported that sexual and gender harassment remain widespread and prevalent, and have negative outcomes for women, as well as others (albeit at lesser rates):

  • Greater than 50 percent of women faculty and 20-50 percent of women students encounter or experience sexually harassing conduct in academic science, engineering, and medicine (Academies Report 65) and women with multiple societal identities targeted for bias experience harassment at even greater rates (p. 44-46).

Recognizing sexual harassment as a barrier to excellence, the newly launched Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment in STEMM is a collective act of leadership and accountability—53 societies strong and counting—to advance inclusion and success of all talent in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medical (STEMM) fields. Collective efforts on this scale don’t happen often (the full press release can be read here).

In the 1940s, Russia developed a prototype of a new military advancement called the Antonov A-40. It was an ambitious, seemingly innovative leap forward that would provide battlefield support and overwhelming, agile deployment. It was also, quite literally, a flying tank. For reasons that seem obvious in retrospect—weight and inefficient transportation chief among them—it was not functional in practice and thankfully never produced at wide scale. However, the lessons learned regarding its design ultimately provided beneficial advances to future military developments.

Federal lawmakers would be wise to heed the lesson that all ideas—particularly those with billions of dollars at stake—should not be rushed into wide-scale production. Many of them seem eager to open the $130 billion per year of taxpayer funding to new ways of providing higher education instruction without any assurance that these programs provide quality outcomes to their students. It’s still too early to tell if these innovative models will turn out to be the Antonov A-40 or the (significantly more effective) Chinook helicopter of higher education, but it’s not hard to see the potential damage—for both taxpayers and students—of going into “mass production” at this early stage, without assuring that the quality, design, and outcomes of such innovative programs are well understood.

Because Congress and the Trump Administration have signaled enthusiasm to opening Federal student aid to shorter term and other nontraditional providers, it is critical to develop quality assurance models that can meet the needs of these new learning delivery methods. It isn’t clear that accreditors—the traditional arbiters of quality more focused on inputs such as course catalogs than on outcomes like employment, earnings, and aptitude—are the right fit for newer learning models that focus more on building a skill set for adults looking to gain an additional certification for their next job. The bad news is that currently, there is no consensus and little evidence for what such a quality assurance regime would look like. The good news is that a little-known Federal experiment known as EQUIP—Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships—is in the early stages of making Federal funding available to test whether such quality assurance providers could serve as a backstop for ensuring students are getting a superior education in exchange for their taxpayer-funded Federal grants and loans. The time is ripe to enable such innovation, to evaluate whether these quality assurance models can ensure that both taxpayer and student investments would be sufficiently protected.


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