The international strategy for 2012–16 affirms the U.S. Education Department’s commitment to preparing today’s youth for a globalized world, and to engaging with the international community to improve education. It reflects ongoing work in implementing international education programs, participating in international benchmarking activities, and working closely with other countries and multilateral organizations to engage in strategic dialogue.
Sharing practices on excellence
At the same time, it reflects a deliberate shift to a systematic and integrated approach to international engagement based on the goals and objectives of the strategy. The strategy, which the Department has already begun to implement, will be used to guide the Department’s activities and allocation of resources to reflect the highest priority and most strategic topics, parts of the world, and activities.
One of the key objectives in the strategy is to enhance federal, state and local education policies by applying lessons learned from other countries to drive excellence and innovation in the U.S. and abroad. Sharing policies and practices with other high-performing countries about how to improve teaching and learning, and applying these lessons in the United States where appropriate, is a critical element in the Department of Education’s efforts to facilitate a world-class education for all.
To that end, the Department supports “benchmarking” U.S. students’ performance against that of students in other countries. The goal of this research is to identify areas of strength and deficiency, and then use this information to guide our learning.
Powerful learning for policy
Benchmarking U.S performance against other countries is just the first step. The Department is delving more deeply into what works in other countries and learning more about innovative practices and how they could be applied in the United States. The International Summit on the Teaching Profession, which Secretary Duncan cohosted with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and Education International (EI) in 2011 and 2012, is one example of powerful learning through international dialogue.
Three Teacher’s Summits make a tradition. In 2011, Secretary Duncan conceived of and cohosted with the OECD and EI (the federation of international teachers unions) the first International Summit on the Teaching Profession. This gathering was designed to enable education ministers and national union leaders from countries with high-performing and rapidly improving education systems (based on the results of PISA 2009) to come together to share practices.
A direct outcome of the 2011 summit was or the US policy the Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching (RESPECT) initiative to empower states and districts that commit to pursuing bold reforms at every stage of the teaching profession.
Next year: Amsterdam
The second summit, also cohosted by Secretary Duncan, was held in 2012 and focused on how to prepare teachers and develop school leaders. A direct outcome of the 2012 summit was the shared vision statement, Transforming the Teaching Profession, developed and signed by Secretary Duncan, the presidents of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, and five other U.S. education leaders.
The third summit will be held in the Netherlands in March of 2013, for the first time outside the USA. This new international community of practice has now become an annual event to foster top level knowledge exchange and to put crucial and inspiring new concepts and policy-themes on the agenda of the teaching profession and nations who focus on education for the future. You can read an introductory article on this from ScienceGuide.nl here.