This isn’t some question from a Jay Leno segment, where the late-night comedian walks around Hollywood asking a passerby rudimentary questions like “Who is the vice president?” and “What year did the United States gain independence?” So there’s no cause for embarrassment if you don’t know. However, it turns out chief state school officers are increasingly responsible for our children’s education.
Over the past several decades, reformers and policymakers have paid a lot of attention to what good schools look like, but less attention has been given to how states and districts can help failing schools. In the wake of high-profile initiatives such as the No Child Left Behind Act and the Race to the Top competition, there’s been a massive increase in the responsibilities placed on states to drive K-12 education policy. As a result, once-tiny state education departments and their leaders have been thrust into the spotlight and charged with a wide array of key tasks, from developing accountability systems to turning around low-performing schools.This article was originally published in Education Week.