Friday, November 6, 2009

Kentucky’s Educational Cooperatives

Kentucky has a great network of regional education cooperatives. I have visited seven of the eight within the first few months of my new job and have the final visit scheduled for early December.

These cooperatives are established with the support of local superintendents to address purchasing, professional development, special education, business operations and other school district functions in a cooperative manner, which ends up being more effective and efficient than individual districts could manage. Many of the cooperatives also partner with colleges and universities to provide support for schools and districts. Also, a number of the cooperatives have federal grants that are substantial methods to help districts implement special programs for students.

I met this week with the directors of the cooperatives to discuss how we could partner to roll out Senate Bill 1 and federal Race to the Top initiatives. Our collaborative efforts would focus on cooperatives bringing teacher teams together to help the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) with key processes around standards and assessments required by Senate Bill 1 and Race to the Top. Also, cooperatives could assist KDE by partnering with regional universities to provide support for teacher, principal and superintendent effectiveness. In other words, cooperatives, through regional collaboration, could help provide professional development and support for teachers, principals and superintendents as we deploy the initiatives for Senate Bill 1 and Race to the Top. Finally, the cooperatives would be of great assistance in helping KDE address the number of schools and districts that may need assistance in improving student learning.

Our conversation ended with cooperative directors going back to their local superintendents and discussing the proposal that we find effective and efficient ways to partner to get the work done. Last week, I highlighted what a terrific partnership we have with the colleges and universities across Kentucky. I feel equally positive about the terrific leadership of our cooperatives. Given the challenging budget years we are facing, it is essential that we look to delivery models that reduce travel and provide support to build local district and school capacity. Frankfort cannot be the location for the solutions. The solutions happen when Frankfort collaborates with the great partners across the commonwealth.

P.S. -- In my blog last week, I neglected to include the University of Louisville (UofL) as one of our great partners. During a recent visit to Atkinson Elementary in the Jefferson County school district, I saw first-hand what a commitment UofL President Jim Ramsey, Dean Blake Haselton and the School of Education are making to support learning not only for children in the school, but also those students in the teacher preparation program.

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