Friday, October 29, 2010

A Bold Step for Next-Generation Learning

Over the weekend of October 22-24, I had the privilege of joining in a gathering of education leaders from six states who participated in what I believe is the most important discussion about education that has ever occurred.

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) has been engaged in an intensive effort to chart a course to transform the public education system. To bring this vision to reality, CCSSO formed an alliance with the Stupski Foundation to launch the Partnership for Next Generation Learning (PNxGL).

In late 2009, CCSSO issued an invitation to all its members to join the partnership through the PNxGL Innovation Lab Network. Of the state education agencies (SEAs) that stepped forward to be part of this bold effort, six – Kentucky, Maine, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin and West Virginia -- demonstrated both readiness and capacity to establish Innovation Labs comprised of the SEA, districts, schools and partners-within their state.

Through the PNxGL, state and local education leaders, CCSSO, the Stupski Foundation and other key partners will transform current systems of schooling to a new design for public education. This ambitious effort will shift practice and policy at the local, state and federal levels through a shared vision and collective action.

The discussion during the weekend of October 22-24 included officials from six Kentucky school districts and was about changing the way we think about the education system and designing new structures to ensure that ALL children are engaged in their learning. This was not a discussion about new programs or the latest fad, but focused instead on change from the “school business” to the “people development business.”

Representatives from the Boyle County, Danville Independent, Daviess County, Jessamine County, Kenton County and Madison County school districts participated in the discussion. These districts will serve as pilots for the PNxGL Innovation Lab Network.

At the heart of our interaction was the fact that the structure of our current education system does not support learning for all children. In order to guarantee success for all children, the kinds of incremental school improvement strategies we have employed for the last 20 years must be replaced by a more fundamental and systemic change. We must create new experiences of learning that involve students and teachers in significantly different ways — ways that lead naturally to high performance by all.

This work is of the highest priority for the Kentucky Department of Education. I pledge that we will do our best to provide the support the superintendents, staff and communities need to make this systemic change. The agency’s role will be to remove whatever barriers exist in policy and in structure so that the districts can develop the learning outcomes of the future and create new ways to gauge students’ progress and fresh ways of facilitating learning.

My hope is that the pilot districts’ work will inform the work of other school districts in the state. This is a bold step in our quest to move Kentucky’s educational system forward and ensure that all students graduate from high school and are ready for college or careers.

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