Friday, February 12, 2010

Kentucky leaders talk while other states act to address failing schools

Gov. Steve Beshear created The Transforming Education in Kentucky Task Force - a 33-member group of teachers, superintendents, legislators, business leaders, education advocates and others. Members were appointed in October 2009 but it was 3-1/2 months before the group’s first meeting – on Feb. 2, 2010!

Urgency is absent in the task force’s guidance – which doesn’t include achieving dramatic student achievement gains within a short time.

Unless something is drastically different, this task force will use up a lot of time, be accountable for nothing and watch from the sidelines as real action takes place elsewhere.

For example, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts and New York are participating in a public-private partnership to create scalable and sustainable strategies for turning around clusters of their lowest-performing schools.

They are committing to reform failing schools by empowering people but also holding them accountable to achieve dramatic student achievement gains within two years.

The new "Zone schools remain inside the district, and are able to tap into the scale efficiencies of many central office services. However, Zone schools also give school level leaders the freedom to make staffing, scheduling, curriculum and related decisions, in return for being held accountable for dramatic student achievement gains within two years."

The Zone approach puts kids first and facilitates flexibility for real reform. People are signing up to be accountable for dramatic improvements with a sense that time is of the essence. Wow.

Kentucky education leaders could still just be talking about the same old things two years from now. Maybe Kentucky really doesn’t have leadership with the courage to make a difference in failing schools because of Kentucky’ very effective lobbying pressure and entrenched operational constraints.

Without change there is no change. Kentucky kids continue to lose as adults play their big people, self-serving power games.

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