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Speaking Out

P-16: It's Going to Rock Your World

In my state, Nebraska, it has been around nearly a decade—since 1999. Over this time it has created a steering committee, hired a coordinator and staff, and established five regional councils. It has held annual state-wide meetings. It is led by the offices of the president of the university, the state commissioner of public education, and the president of a private education fund. It has established a budget of over a quarter of a million dollars. It identifies nine dues-paying sponsoring organizations, six supporting organizations, and seven supporting state agencies. It has surfaced in the legislature in the form of resolutions requiring the state Post-secondary Coordinating Commission to report on progress in higher education toward attainment of the educational priorities it has established for the state. What is it?

It is the Nebraska P-16 Initiative. Visit and you are there. In all likelihood you are also there in your own state. There are now 41 states with formal P-16 structures of some variation.

You have never heard of P-16 or your specific P-16? I became aware of mine in 2003, but it seemed a distant thing, something to do with K-12 education reform; peripheral to higher education, not a part of my academic world. How wrong I was. P-16 is a nationwide movement that means to transform public education as we know it.

It is funded, formal, and formidable—and it is here now, driven by a desire for economic and educational renewal, which it hopes to accomplish by the reinvention of education from Pre-K through graduate school.

This “seamless pipeline” will include a pre-K to 20 longitudinal data system; an alignment of a common “core” curriculum; expansion and integration of concurrent enrollment and dual credit; the integration of governance and budget structures for all educational levels; and more top-down “guidelines” to direct and assess everything we do. When Bob Dylan sang that the times-they-are-a-changin,’ some were wary, some confused, but many—the younger ones—smiled in anticipation.

This is the challenge of P-16 for all of us in higher education. Understand and then engage. Find out about P-16. Understand it as a community and a process, and then, through your union local, your faculty senate, your network of friends and colleagues, show up, speak up, act up, and make P-16 our—the nation’s educators’—educational reform.

Roger Davis is president of the University of Nebraska at Kearney Education Association and the Nebraska State Education Association Higher Education Academy. He can be reached at

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