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Press release

Thursday, February 02, 2017

CCSSO and the Aspen Institute Release Commitments for Advancing Educational Equity in States

Contact:Olympia Meolaolympia.meola@ccsso.org202-336-7071

Washington, D.C. (February. 2, 2017) -- The Aspen Institute Education & Society Program and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) released Leading for Equity: Opportunities for State Education Chiefs, a series of commitments to help state education chiefs take action to achieve educational equity in their states.

The commitments provide a holistic approach to achieving equity for all students in a state, from prioritizing equity in the state strategic plan to investing in our youngest learners.

"Ensuring all kids have the resources and supports they need to be successful in life is the most difficult and most important work underway in our state education systems," said Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO. "Chiefs are committed to asking the complicated questions and having the tough conversations to deliver the best for all of our students."

"Every student deserves the educational opportunities and resources necessary to unlock a prosperous future," said Danielle Gonzales, assistant director for policy with the Aspen Institute Education & Society Program. "Achieving that goal requires state leaders to take stock of the greatest gaps in their education systems, work with stakeholders to set the vision for an equitable education, and create the conditions to deliver on that vision for all students."

The paper was informed by state chiefs, district leaders, equity advocates, researchers, and teachers and caps Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers' term as CCSSO board president, during which he engaged the nation's chiefs around the pressing need for greater action on equity.

"Across the nation, kids of color, kids with disabilities, those learning English, and those from economic disadvantage face challenges that their peers do not. And unfortunately, some of those challenges are a result of policies and practices we have influence or control over. As leaders of state education agencies, we have a moral imperative to help remove any barriers that stand in the way of a student's success," said Tony Evers, Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction and Past President of the CCSSO Board of Directors. "I am confident that the resources we have developed will help education leaders achieve that goal. I am proud of the work my fellow state chiefs have poured into this issue and would like to thank both CCSSO and the Aspen Institute Education and & Program for their assistance. My hope is that we can capitalize on the momentum we have built to close opportunity gaps for all kids."

"State education leaders have an opportunity to show their commitment to educational equity by having an open conversation about what a more equitable system looks like," said Sanford Johnson, deputy director for Mississippi First. "If we can move that conversation away from a zero-sum game to a more collaborative model, we'll make strides to ensure greater access to early childhood education, high quality schools with rigorous standards, well-trained teachers, and adequate resources so that every child is set on a path for lifetime success."

"Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, states have greater responsibility for addressing issues of equity," said Martin West, Associate Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "This report has research-based ideas for carrying out that responsibility in ways that benefit all students. I hope every state education leader will carefully consider its recommendations."

As state chiefs move forward in this work, they are encouraged to identify the most pressing gaps and greatest opportunities in their state and create an action plan that addresses these commitments first. The commitments outlined in Leading for Equity are as follows:

  1. Prioritize equity: set and communicate equity vision and targets
  2. Start from within: focus on the State Education Agency
  3. Measure what matters: create accountability for equity
  4. Go local: engage Local Education Agencies and provide tailored and differentiated support
  5. Follow the money: allocate resources to achieve fiscal equity
  6. Start early: invest in the youngest learners
  7. Engage more deeply: monitor equitable implementation of standards and assessments
  8. Value people: focus on teachers and leaders
  9. Improve conditions for learning: focus on school culture, climate, and social-emotional development
  10. Empower student options: ensure families have access to high quality educational options that align to community needs

To help state chiefs put their commitments into action, CCSSO and the Aspen Institute Education & Society Program have created a Resource Appendix with research, tools, and resources related to each of the commitments.


The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.

About Aspen Education & Society Program
The Aspen Education & Society Program improves public education by inspiring, informing, and influencing education leaders across policy with practice, with an emphasis on achieving equity for traditionally underserved students. For more information, visit