A systems approach to education reform

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Education Commissioner Terry Holliday
Education Commissioner Terry Holliday

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.

 

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