Wisconsin agency aims to transform education’s core

A call to action

Among its many points, CESA No. 1’s Board of Control Resolution notes that “regional cooperation and action are the keys to both educational transformation and economic development,” the board’s “member school districts over the past several years have seen diminished resources resulting in a severely reduced capacity to provide educational services using the current delivery model,” and that “all of these conditions have resulted in a crisis requiring systemic change in our districts’ financial condition, operational systems, overall public policy, as well as educational and instructional strategies.”

The resolution and resulting initiative will be led by CESA No. 1’s Center for Education Innovation and Regional Economic Development.

In particular, the initiative will focus on developing policies and implementation strategies that address member districts’ efforts to develop and implement policy recommendations that will help students compete in the 21st century, transform overall operation systems, and implement data-based decision making focused on results.

The white paper contrasts examples of typical current educational practices with examples of transformative practices, such as:

• Moving from age-based cohorts to learning or progress-based groupings.

• Changing classrooms with randomly assigned age mates into small, collaborative, flexible learning groups.

• Dropping standardized solutions in favor of customized learning plans and processes.

• Transforming largely face-to-face, teacher-directed instruction into electronic, digitally blended instructional approaches.

• Phasing out largely print-based instructional resources and implementing digital, highly customizable textbooks and online instructional and learning resources.

“School superintendents in Southeastern Wisconsin believe that there is no choice but to innovate and transform today’s schools if we are to meet the expectations society holds for the education of Wisconsin youth,” the white paper states.

The superintendents and CESA No. 1 Control Board developed a comprehensive list of policy recommendations, including:

• Develop or adopt learning standards for the State of Wisconsin that are future-focused, rigorous, comprehensive, and reflect the needs of next-generation learners.

• Establish Innovation Zones throughout the state to encourage and support innovation by offering opportunities to implement what is known from current and emerging research to significantly improve education, support accelerated learning, and develop models that can be tested and documented for replication, growth to scale over time, and long-term sustainability.

• Provide flexibility and targeted incentives to school districts within the Innovation Zones to design and implement transformative teaching and learning approaches.

• Support the expansion of transformative practices by (1) allowing full funding for public school choice students accepted in Innovation Zone schools; (2) creating legislation to allow districts to build comprehensive, flexible compensation plans for staff that align with state-of-the-art, research-based, and proven models; and (3) requiring Wisconsin educator preparation institutions to provide training in next-generation learning, including elective strategies and interventions to meet the needs of all learners.

The Control Board also established the CESA No. 1 Institute, which, beginning July 1, will sustain and enable the transformation efforts of member districts within the region.

In addition to launching the institute, CESA No. 1 superintendents will conduct surveys of innovative practices already occurring in the region. They also are working with the state’s public instruction department, CCSSO, and the Stupski Foundation to establish an innovation lab network.

Innovation Zones

Part of CESA No. 1’s plan includes establishing Innovation Zones, which Gavigan said are “focused, open-sourced, collaborative networks of schools, educators, communities, higher education, and other community business partners.”

Innovation Zones will establish sustainable and scalable quality education and innovation, all of which will be research-based. The zones will be piloted in specific geographical regions with an ultimate goal of being replicated for other schools outside of that geographic area.

Laura Ascione

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