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Chief State School Officers Consider Trade-offs in Tough Times

Karen Hawley Miles and I participated in the 2011 Summer Institute held by the Council of Chief State School Officers. During the ERS session, state chiefs grappled with trade-offs districts typically have to make in tough times and considered how best states can improve education efforts despite budget-pressures. Here are some highlights.

On the state role in transformation:

  • The ideal state role must be targeted based on unique context; using data to drive decisions about the most powerful state support for district transformation is key.
  • States can enable district action by building public knowledge and support around the need to rethink school and district resource use. Enabling districts to create 21st Century learning environments, for example, requires advocating for a new vision of schooling that happens – in the words of Michigan State School Officer Mike Flanagan – “any time, any way, any place, any pace.”
  • At the same time, states must aggressively act to eliminate state-level requirements around inputs (e.g. seat time), while investing to better measure outcomes.
  • And, through both policy and advocacy, states can often act to make more room for districts to drive transformational changes - highlighting “bright spots” of strategies that work, and taking the heat off districts by opening the door to transformational change through state policy.
  • As the primary source of funding for education, states can inform districts on the options they have to rethink spending (including flexibilities they may not know exist).

State Priorities for transformation:
Karen Miles’s presentation, Transformation or Decline: How can states promote restructuring in tough times?, focused on four of the highest priorities for restructuring that states influence:

  1. Restructure one-size fits all teacher compensation and job structure
  2. Rethink standardized class size model to target individual attention
  3. Shift special education spending toward early intervention and targeted individual attention
  4. Optimize existing time to meet student and teacher needs and extend where needed

Her presentation finished with a “game” ERS has created called School Budget Hold’em, where participants worked together on trading off investments and cuts to reach a budget reduction goal. Expect to see a digital version of the game available on-line sometime this fall. The full presentation is available below. Also see our publication Restructuring Resources for High-Performing Schools: A Primer for State Policymakers for more details on the four priorities above.

Karen Miles presentation:


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