There's skepticism about how much the states will really tackle from the commission's vast agenda outlined in its 2006 report, "Tough Choices or Tough Times." It calls for restructuring school systems to save money and redirecting those savings toward elements such as universal prekindergarten and higher teacher salaries. But "it's significant that three states are willing to try some of these ideas," says Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy in Washington, which advocates for public education. "It shows that the discussion about reform is being broadened beyond the current test-driven accountability system," represented by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
NCLB's focus on closing achievement gaps was supported by business coalitions but has been criticized for coming up short. The commission's 2006 report adds a focus on "getting our best and brightest to achieve at very high levels, to be the drivers of new ideas and entrepreneurial approaches," says Patrick McGuinn, a political science professor at Drew University in Madison, N.J. Balancing resources between these two goals is a longstanding problem, he says.