Innovations Aimed at Boosting Student Academic Achievement
By Pam Goins, Director, CSG’s Center for Innovation and Transformation in Education
Kentucky took a leap of faith in 2012 by enacting a bill related to education innovation and transformation—one that allows local school districts to put the student at the center of instruction.
House Bill 37, sponsored by former Rep. Carl Rollins, now chief executive of the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority and the Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation, allows for districts of innovation, which is a local school district that is exempt from certain administrative regulations and statutory provisions. By definition, innovation means a new or creative alternative to existing instructional and administrative practices intended to improve student learning and performance.
“The objective of House Bill 37 is to allow our public school teachers and administrators to try new and innovative approaches to improve instruction that will result in improved academic achievement,” Rollins said in a press release.
The bill requires the Kentucky Department of Education to create a rigorous application system for districts. Those approved to be districts of innovation will be able to implement ideas that current statutes and regulations deny.
“The ultimate benefit of the legislation will be to encourage other districts to duplicate successful strategies tested in the districts of innovation,” Rollins said.
School districts must establish goals and performance targets focused on areas such as reducing achievement gaps, increasing student learning through the implementation of high, rigorous standards, increasing the number of students who are college- and career-ready and offering more curriculum choices and student learning opportunities. The plan must show community, educator, parental and local board support and be approved by the Kentucky Board of Education.
Kristal Doolin, a Corbin, Ky., middle school teacher and Kentucky’s 2013 Teacher of the Year, notes the benefits of flexibility with her students.
“As we strive to meet the needs of our students in a competitive global society, it has become obvious that if ‘necessity is the mother of invention,’ flexibility is the mother of innovation,” she said. “I could not achieve what I do both professionally and with my students without the freedom to adapt that is afforded to me by my state and district.”
Doolin will speak Sept. 21 during The Council of State Governments 2013 National Conference in the Education Public Policy Committee session, “Education Reform and Transformation: Fact or Fiction?” Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, Maine Superintendent of Instruction Donald Siviski, and 2013 Kansas Teacher of the Year Dyane Smokorowski of Andover (Kansas) Public Schools will join Doolin on the panel.
“From making curriculum decisions to implementing concepts like blended learning, it makes all the difference,” Doolin said.
Other states are beginning this work by targeting state policies that may be hampering reform at the local level. New Jersey refers to its work as “liberating educators from restrictive statutory mandates.”
Early in his administration, Gov. Chris Christie called for a deliberate and critical review of the state’s education system. In 2011, he issued Executive Order 58, which established the Education Transformation Task Force; the task force released its recommendations in late 2012.
The task force undertook a comprehensive policy audit by reviewing more than 3,000 pages of statutes and regulations that govern education. Members made 46 specific recommendations to change statutes and 428 revisions to state regulations.
In Connecticut, public school leaders teamed up to redesign their educational system. Their report, NextEd: Transforming Connecticut’s Education System, outlined five necessary actions for successful transformation and offered 10 recommendations to overhaul education.