As June comes to a close, the first school year on the job is also coming to a close. During May and June of 2009, I was engaged in the interview process for the Commissioner of Education post. During the interview process, I talked to a number of superintendents and other stakeholders in Kentucky. I heard a lot of pride in the accomplishments of schools and school districts. I also heard about the exciting challenges ahead with the implementation of Senate Bill 1 (SB 1).
As I asked questions about priorities for the commissioner, there were two things that surfaced – improve communication and help build district capacity of school districts to implement SB 1 and improve student learning.
Early in my tenure, KDE worked to implement specific customer satisfaction requirements for communication. These requirements include a response time of 24 hours or less, an accurate response and a professional attitude. To monitor these requirements, we implemented an online survey and encouraged all who contacted KDE to complete the survey.
We reported the results of the survey every quarter to all major offices in KDE, and offices compared their results against other offices and addressed areas for improvement. At the end of the first year, we have now established our baseline for our customer requirement performance. The results are as follows:
X Timely response
Yes – 87% No – 10% NR (no response) – 3%
X Response addressed need
Yes – 90% No – 7% NR – 3%
X Any concerns about accuracy
Yes – 12% No – 84% NR – 4%
X Response handled professionally
Yes – 93% No – 4% NR – 3%
As commissioner, I want to recognize our KDE staff for excellent work; however, I do know we can continue to improve in certain areas. Moving forward, we will work to improve the accuracy area and seek to have all requirements exceed 90 percent. We also will benchmark our results against those of comparable organizations. We will provide training and support for each part of KDE on how to improve customer service.
As part of our communication plan, I also met with each regional education cooperative at least twice this year. (KDE liaisons attend every cooperative meeting.) I have visited more than 60 school districts and more than 90 schools to hear firsthand about the challenges facing educators. I average at least three speeches or meetings with stakeholder groups every week to focus on collaboration and improvement. Advisory councils for school boards, parents, superintendents, principals, teachers, closing achievement gaps, special education, gifted and talented, and accountability are meeting on a regular basis to communicate with and inform decisions of KDE and the Kentucky Board of Education. Of course, we have also implemented Monday and Friday consolidated e-mails, this weekly blog, Twitter blasts and Facebook accounts to help improve communication.
The other area for KDE was to implement policies and procedures to build district capacity. In our work with deployment of SB 1 around the Common Core Standards in language arts and mathematics, that is exactly the approach we are using. We are building capacity of higher education institutions, school board members, school superintendents, building administrators, central office instructional leaders and teacher leaders. We also are working closely with the Prichard Committee to create a comprehensive communication plan for parents and the business community. We have had a number of other states and national organizations looking at our deployment model for the Common Core Standards for possible replication. This speaks well to the great KDE team and education partners we have in Kentucky.
If readers have suggestions on how to continue to improve communication and build district capacity please let us know. While these are difficult economic times, we must continue to improve all levels of education through improved communication and collaboration. I am honored to be working with great people all across Kentucky who are focused on helping all children succeed.