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Students were the real winners in 2015

• Patricia Levesque

I hope your holiday was as joyous as mine. It is that time when we celebrate the blessing of family and, in particular, children.

There is so much joy in watching children unwrap and explore their gifts. But for me, the most precious gift is one I work on giving them every day—an engaged and inquisitive mind that they open every morning and use to explore the world around them.

The foundation for that must be laid early and, for many children, the window of opportunity closes quickly because not all have the advantages of my son and daughter.

This is why we are here, doing what we do. We are working to give all kids, no matter their circumstances, the capacity for earned success.

It is hard work.

We have had many memorable years here at the Foundation. But I would be hard pressed to come up with one that had more challenges and successes than 2015.

Most states have fully moved to higher academic standards and more rigorous assessments that measure the in-depth knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary for success in college and careers. Many also are setting passing scores on their assessments that reflect true proficiency in the tested subjects, a goal of our “Why Proficiency Matters’’ campaign.

End of the Year quote imageAlso in 2015, we saw Nevada approve the nation’s first universal school choice program. All parents will have the option of using state dollars that would have been spent on their children in a public school for alternatives such as private school, tutors and therapies for students with disabilities.

Nevada’s Education Savings Account (ESA) program is empowering Glynis Gallegos to move her fifth-grade son from a school where he was struggling and enroll in a math and science academy that offered longer classroom hours, mandatory summer school, a strong curriculum and high expectations. He is making tremendous progress. Mother and son have much to celebrate this holiday season.

Other targeted ESA programs have been approved in Florida, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee.

The Foundation has developed an expertise in ESA policy development and implementation, and we will use that knowledge to continue promoting the program in other states.

Our Digital Learning Now initiative is promoting the use of technology to provide students access to courses not otherwise offered by their schools. Course Access offers students more learning options—allowing students to explore areas that excite them and to determine their own path in life.

For example, at Ascension Public Schools in Louisiana, students Stormi Honeycut and Darryl Baker will leave high school as certified welders, setting them up to enter a high-paying, in-demand profession upon graduation.

We tend to think of education reform as policies written in legislation and rules and enacted by elected officials and appointed boards. Rather, we should think of reform as a profound game changer in the lives of individual children, a gift that allows them to maximize their potential and explore meaningful futures.

There is much to do, and we are doing it with an efficient, effective team that constantly responds to new initiatives and challenges with knowledge, experience and great passion.

And so I would like to end the year by thanking you for your support in 2015 and asking for your continued support in 2016. Every year we expect more and demand more from ourselves, and that commitment speaks for itself in the results we achieve.

About the author

Patricia Levesque @levesquepat

Patricia is the Chief Executive Officer for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. She served as Governor Jeb Bush’s deputy chief of staff for education, enterprise solutions for government, minority procurement, and business and professional regulation. Previously, Patricia served six years in the Florida Legislature in the Speakers Office and as staff director over education policy. Contact Patricia at