Monday, August 31, 2009

Professional capacity as infrastructure investment

Competing for the $4 billion in Race to the Top funding will be a great opportunity for Kentucky. As thinking begins on how a big grant could be put to work, I'm looking for investment ideas that can make a permanent difference long after the grant itself ends.

Here's my first brainstorming list:

1. Professional learning communities are the right way to move SB 1 standards into robust classroom practice. Over several years, we ought to be able to graft both the standards and the PLC approach into the "DNA" of how Kentucky schools do their work.

2. Future teachers should start work with a firm foundation in state standards, assessment, and instruction targeted to use the data and meet the statewide goals. RTTT support may be the way to get us the transformation we know is needed.

3. Strong interim assessments can provide teachers and principals with diagnostic data multiple times a year. If RTTT can cover the start-up costs for testing tools that match our new standards, we can develop a test design, a bank of test items, and statewide skill in using the test results--and then use those assets for decades into the future.

4. Infinite Campus offers us better P-12 data that should be linked to early childhood and post-secondary to get the fullest picture of what does and does not work. Those links would allow much richer analysis of student progress, seeing what is and is not working well to meet the new state standards. Again, doing the needed design, hardware, software, and start-up training in the next few years can pay dividends long afterward.

All four ideas aim directly at building teaching quality. The first three are directly about helping educators build their skills and implement the new SB 1 standards. In the fourth idea, the data system ought to provide insight that allows more effective individual professional growth for educators as well as information on school practices and other questions that matter to our statewide learning goals.

There's lots of discussion ahead, with people already hard at work in Frankfort and elsewhere on the vision that should guide our RTTT application. I toss these ideas out as one small piece in what will be a huge conversation in the months ahead.

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