Friday, April 25, 2014

A systems approach to education reform

Kentucky is on the verge of what may be one of the most historic accomplishments that the Kentucky Board of Education has ever undertaken.  

At the board’s recent meeting, members approved the regulation governing the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System. This regulation implements the recommendations from the Teacher and Principal Effectiveness System steering committees that have been hard at work for several years. 

Also during meeting, Chief of Staff Tommy Floyd provided an update on the implementation of the superintendent effectiveness system. Tommy was supported by superintendents from Floyd and Kenton County.

A collective Professional Growth and Effectiveness System – for teachers, principals and superintendents – all slightly different, yet all aligned and with a common goal – continuous improvement toward becoming the most effective educators to prepare all of our students for success.

So why is this such a big deal? As readers may know, I am an advocate of systems thinking; my leadership derives from the work of Edwards Deming.  Systems thinking on the surface makes a lot of sense – think of it like an orchestra, a network of interdependent components work together to accomplish the aim of the system  for instance the performance of a symphony. As is the case with music, the implementation of systems thinking is very complex and requires many years of training and support. I have been fortunate that through the Baldrige National Quality Award, I have received such training and support on how to implement systems-based reform efforts in education. 

In Kentucky, we have been moving slowly but surely on our systems reform agenda. Our work began with the passage of Senate Bill 1 in 2009. This bill was very much a “systems” bill in that it addressed key elements of the education system in Kentucky – standards, assessment, accountability, teacher professional development, and a balanced approach to a world class education. Kentucky has moved forward and has led the nation in the implementation of standards, assessments, and accountability.

The final piece of the system was the human resource piece which addresses the capacity and the capability of all Kentucky educators to implement the standards, assessments, and accountability components so that all students reach their full potential and graduate from high school ready for college and careers. Based on the terrific leadership and hard work of our teacher, principal and superintendent effectiveness committees, the Kentucky Board of Education has adopted key processes to address the human resource piece of systems thinking. The board focused on effectiveness rather than evaluation. 

Through the regulations adopted, Kentucky educators will concentrate on the alignment of standards, assessment, accountability, balanced curriculum, and professional growth.  What the state values as outcomes for children will now be the focus of effectiveness discussions from the board room to the classroom. A few years down the road, if Kentucky stays committed to the system developed, we will see significant growth in student success. We have already seen significant success in graduation rates and college/career-readiness rates.

I have heard of educators leaving other states due to their disillusionment with the education reform efforts. I hope Kentucky educators recognize how important their role is and will be in advancing education reform efforts that make sense to improve the education system for ALL children and educators. I tip my hat to all of the tremendous work that Kentucky educators have done and will continue to do to this end.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Creating a world-class system of technical centers

What do you envision when someone says career and technical education?  Unfortunately too many people harken back to days gone by of a “shop” with kids who couldn’t cut it in regular academic classes and were destined for low-paying jobs.  While that may or may not have been an accurate account in the past, today it could not be further from the truth. 

Not only does career and technical education (CTE) demand a strong foundation in academics, but often leads to higher paying jobs that are in greater demand than those held by college graduates with a bachelor’s degree. And CTE isn’t just for one group of students. In 2012-13, almost 70 percent of Kentucky high school students participated in career and technical education.

The goal of Kentucky K-12 public education is to prepare students for life after high school which means readying students for college and/or career.  To achieve that goal, there must be viable alternative pathways. 

In 2010, Governor Beshear created the Transforming Education in Kentucky Task Force. This group worked to develop recommendations and how to build on the great work of KERA and Senate Bill 1 (2009).  One of the key recommendations was to merge the two existing career and technical programs in Kentucky and create a world-class system of career and technical education. Governor Beshear followed up with an Executive Order that moved the state-operated career and technical centers from the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet to the Department of Education. In 2013, the General Assembly passed legislation in support of the Executive Order and created a Career and Technical Education Advisory Committee that includes state and local center teachers and administrators, higher education, and business leaders. 

As we began the work of the advisory committee, one of the first actions was to obtain the services of the Southern Region Education Board (SREB) to conduct a study and make recommendations on how to move from two systems of career and technical education to one world-class system of technical centers. 

This week, Dr. Gene Bottoms of the SREB presented the report to the Career and Technical Education Advisory Committee and the Kentucky Board of Education. The report includes four major recommendations.
1.  Develop one system of technical centers with equitable and 
      adequate funding for all centers. This recommendation 
      will require additional study and research in regard to 
      adequate funding for assessment and accountability, career 
      pathway programs of study, facilities, equipment, suppliers, 
      industry certification examinations, salaries and staffing, 
      and staff development.
2.  One system of accountability and support for all technical centers. 
      This recommendation will require significant work with vision 
      setting, goal setting, and continuous improvement plans in all

3.  One system of world-class centers. This recommendation requires 
      us to think differently about state verses local centers. We need 
      to think about a new governance structure and delivery model 
      like Delaware, Massachusetts, and other states. The new model 
      could look like regional technical centers that offer full-day 
      education that merges academic and technical programs. 
      This recommendation will require site visits to states where 
      this delivery model is working well.
4.  One system of technical centers in partnership with
and industry. This recommendation will require 
      significant collaboration between business and industry, 
      postsecondary, feeder high schools, and technical centers.

Next steps include:
•   The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) will fund the study 
     to determine equitable and adequate funding. 
•   The Office of Career and Technical Education (OCTE) will take 
     the recommendations from the SREB report and move toward a 
     work plan to implement the recommendations. Stakeholders 
     across the state will be involved in reviewing the
from the SREB report and providing
     feedback to OCTE on how 
best to implement the
     recommendations from the report. 

•   KDE will support travel to other states that have strong regional 
     centers to discover best practices. 
•   With funds allocated in the recently passed FY15-16 budget, 
     KDE will work with five counties to develop a possible model 
     for a regional center 
•   Funding provided for additional CTE positions will go toward 
     restoring positions in technical centers based on the 
     recommendations from the report.

Kentucky has long experienced success with career and technical education. The SREB report will continue that success. Career and technical education is a critical component of our K-12 education system and is critical to our success in helping every student reach college- and career-readiness. 

We will provide regular updates to the Kentucky Board of Education and the Career and Technical Education Advisory Committee on our progress with implementation of the SREB report.

Friday, April 4, 2014

United We Stand, Divided We Fail

The words United We Stand, Divided We Fall are emblazoned on the Kentucky state seal, displayed on the state flag and in 1942 were adopted as the Commonwealth’s motto. While biblical in origin, this simple, yet inspiring phrase first appeared in modern times in the revolutionary war ballad The Liberty Song. Nearly 250 years later, with respect to John Dickinson, I’d like to adapt his lyric for our use – United We Stand for Education, Divided We Fail Our Children. This axiom sums up the coalescence we have realized in P-12 education in the Commonwealth in recent months.

In September 2013, the Kentucky Department of Education convened all state superintendents in Frankfort to discuss key education issues. At the top of the agenda was the development of key priorities for the FY15-16 state budget. Superintendents supported restoration of SEEK funds, Flex Focus funds, and funds for increased bandwidth and technology devices. The top three priorities were endorsed by the Kentucky Board of Education.  Meanwhile, numerous education groups came together as the Kentucky Education Action Team. 

Today, we see the fruition of those efforts in the state budget adopted by the General Assembly earlier this week. A few of the highlights reflect what can happen when educators stand together. Never before have we seen the level of cohesive commitment from all education, business, parent groups and even students for restoring funding to SEEK, Flex Focus and technology. 

As a result of our united voice:
•  Educators will see a pay raise of 1 percent in 2015 and 2 percent in
    2016 (the first pay raise in six years).

•  Educators will see an increase in extended school services to help
    provide additional time and support for children who are not
    achieving at the expected levels. 

•  Educators will see restoration of professional dollars to help
    implement more rigorous standards and teacher/principal
    effectiveness systems. 

•  Educators will see increases in funds to ensure our schools are safe
    for teachers and children. 

•  For the first time in the last six years, educators will have funding
    to purchase textbooks and instructional resources. 

In our biennial TELL Kentucky Working Conditions Survey, teachers told us there was a critical need for more bandwidth and additional technology devices. This budget will provide additional resources to support those needs. 

In total, K-12 education received a $141 million increase in FY2015 and a $228 million increase in FY2016 over FY2014 funding levels. With our unified voice, we were able to gain additional funds for education during a time that the state was not gaining any significant revenue enhancements. This is strong evidence that when our adapted motto – United We Stand for Education  actually happens, great things can happen.

Educators should take time to thank members of the General Assembly for their efforts in making K-12 education a top priority in the state budget. Additionally, educators should thank Governor Beshear and his staff for their tireless efforts in promoting restoration of funds for education.

As we move forward in the 2014-15 school year, I strongly encourage educators to remain united. 

There will be efforts to divide us based on the anti-Kentucky Core Academic Standards group. There will be push back on the implementation of the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System. There will be debate as the Kentucky Board of Education begins to review and modify the Unbridled Learning Accountability System. 

It is critical that we continue to work together and united to help more students reach college and career readiness. We may not agree on every detail, however, we know that a united front is much more successful than one that is divided. 

United We Stand for Education, Divided We Fail Our Children.