Highlights from the Innovation Lab Network: Transforming Systems Through Policy, Practice and Structure

On Tuesday, April 1, 2014 the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) and Council of Chief State School Officials (CCSSO) co-hosted the first installment of a three-part webinar series on innovative educational practices titled “CCSSO Innovation Lab Network: Transforming Systems Through Policy Practice and Structure.”

Beth Colby, Senior Program Associate at CCSSO, outlined the history of the Innovation Lab Network (ILN) and its goal of encouraging system-level change by scaling locally-led innovation to widespread implementation, both within and throughout states, by generating enabling conditions through policy and implementation. Colby then detailed the ILN’s design principles for a new education system, ‘Six Critical Attributes,’ which would adequately meet the needs of new generation learners. These six attributes include world-class knowledge and skills, performance-based learning, personalized learning, comprehensive systems of learning supports, anytime/everywhere opportunities, and student agency.

David Cook, Director of Innovation and Partner Engagement at the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), discussed Kentucky’s initial role in the ILN and the subsequent sharing of its principles throughout the state. With the hope that all the school districts in Kentucky would interpret the Six Critical Attributes in a similar way, KDE identified what innovation does and doesn’t mean to the state. They defined innovation as:

  • Creating new learning systems (rather than modifying existing systems) that involve students and teachers in significantly different ways and lead to increased student learning and engagement.
  • Defining new outcomes for learning.
  • Facilitating learning in new ways.
  • Addressing at least one of the Six Critical Attributes.

To compliment this definitional work, Kentucky also addressed policy concerns by passing Kentucky House Bill 37 in 2012. This legislation was passed in an effort to improve student learning by providing Kentucky public school districts the opportunity to apply to the Kentucky Board of Education to be exempt from certain administrative regulations and statutory provisions, as well as waiving local board policy such as calendars, governance, funding, and certification.

Buddy Berry, Superintendent at Eminence Independent Schools in Kentucky, focused his presentation on the district’s success and their attention to personalized learning. EIS follows the structure of School on F.I.R.E, also known as the Framework of Innovation for Reinventing Education.  Through this framework, they highlight four aspects of the ILN’s Six Critical Attributes to form an outline of student success.

  • Mastery Model for College and Career Readiness is the belief that every student should graduate high school having completed all K-12 standards so that they are college and career ready. This is regulated through structures such as standards based reporting, master schedule redesign, and personalized progression.
  • Student Agency focuses on finding out how students learn best and catering instruction through methods such as interest based lessons, student voice surveys, and student led classes. Also, EIS encourages students to voice their opinion on their school’s direction -through a student voting member on each school’s site-based council, which Kentucky law originally created to bring a voice to parents and teachers.
  • Next Generation Skills are a set of standards that were created specifically for all EIS students grades K-12 and focuses on communication, organization, and technology skills. A partnership with Apple Business and a cafeteria that doubles as a next generation collaboration lab are two ways schools are changing how students learn.
  • Surprise and Delight encourages schools to make learning as fun and interesting as possible, through methods like the Fun Theorem and E-magineers, so that students remain engaged and excited about education.

Dr. Theresa Gennerman, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services at the Kettle Moraine School District (KMSD) in Wisconsin, outlined how her district is focused on moving from being educator driven to becoming learner driven through five steps:  motivation, engagement, efficacy, ownership, and independence.  Though the district is in the top ten percent of school districts in the country for achievement, the students are not as engaged as school officials would like. To encourage students to become more excited and involved in their education, public charter high schools in KMSD are implementing unique ways to help students expand their knowledge in international studies, fine arts, and health sciences. Kettle Moraine School District students have the option to apply to the public charter high school that is the most attractive to them. Students are able to expand their education through different opportunities such as internships abroad, field research, fine arts studies, studio days and workshops, immersive medical learning, and aid from adjunct staff in the medical field. KMSD also provides an Advanced Manufacturing Certificate Diploma, which students can earn by spending half of their final two years at Kettle Moraine High School working with a manufacturing company. Through school policies like this and more, KMSD students are graduating from high school more prepared for their postsecondary careers.

To access full Webinar content and information click here.

The second and third webinars in this series occurred on April 2, 2014 and April 10, 2014, respectively. Summary blog posts are forthcoming.

Garet Fryar is a policy research assistant at the American Youth Policy Forum. 

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