Using a Standards-Centered Framework to Implement ESSA

The following are some take-aways from a recent NASBE webinar I participated in - led by Robert Hull, Director of NASBE's Center for College, Career, and Civic Readiness.

State Boards of Education (SBEs) have been reviewing and revising learning standards ever since the publication of "A Nation at Risk" in 1983. It's not enough to adopt standards; SBEs must create a standards-based system in which all policies are aligned with the learning standards.

Learning standards put the student in the center and standards become the "hub of all other components in the system. NASBE identifies six broad areas of policy around the learning standards:
  1. Expectations
  2. Curriculum
  3. Materials
  4. Measures of Effectiveness
  5. Accountability System
  6. Professional Learning
Each SBE lies within a unique context, not shared in exactly the same governance model, or authority, with regard to Power of Policy in their state, but all have the Power of the Question and the Power to Convene.
  • The Power of the Question is the power to ask the right Qs of the right people
  • The Power to Convene is the power to bring the right people together
  • The Power of Policy is the power to set policy
When a SBE has all three, then they have the Power of Collective Voice.

Learning standards define what students need to know and be able to do. All policies not only need to align with learning standards, but do so with fidelity and coherence among the six categories:
  1. Expectations: for students, teachers, schools
    1. Students: i.e., expectations at each grade/level and academic area; grading; matriculation
    2. Teachers: preparation; certification; licensure; evaluations
    3. Schools: Principal/Administrator preparation; professional learning standards; evaluation; certifications and licensure.
  2. Curriculum: All policies that govern the organization of learning (scope and sequence); they are very broad levels of authority that ensure standards are aligned to curriculum. Standards establish the end product while curriculum is the means to that end.
  3. Materials: including software, supplements; textbooks, all instructional resources available to teachers and students.
  4. Measures of Effectiveness: Student assessment; evidence of performance of students, schools, and districts. Policies governing the Department and Board effectiveness. Some systems go beyond summative assessments to include interim, benchmark, and formative processes. All must be aligned with learning standards to be effective.
  5. Accountability System: The state accountability system for federal compliance. (Under "waivers", school system support, rewards, educator effectiveness are guaranteed alignment with some policies). Also - separate school accreditation models are separate from federal accountability requirements. Are there policies that govern public reporting of Board or state-level leadership effectiveness? If so, must be aligned.
  6. Professional Learning: Requirements; mentoring programs; professional licensing and certification requirements for renewal; professional growth for improved student learning.
Standards-Based Learning Framework provides a basis for Strategic Planning and for policy development based on student learning.

Strategic Planning (SP) is an outward process of alignment and coherence; a way of planning, leading, and living as a Board. The process institutionalizes the concept of continuous improvement of the system of districts, of schools, and of the Board itself.

Decision Making (DM) process is the obverse of strategic planning (SP):
  • SP begins with learning standards and moves toward actions to improve student achievement
  • DM points back to learning standards, examining how each choice will serve the core mission
(Robert Hull gave the example of MA BESE's 2010 "Conditions for School Effectiveness" - a tool to identify research-based practices that all schools, especially the most struggling schools, require to effectively meet the learning needs of all students. It defines conditions and how they look when implemented purposefully and with fidelity. Also, ultimately, provides conditions for state receivership).

The "hub" never changes - it's always about the learning standards - it's always about learning.

State examples as seen through the lens of a standards-based system were provided from Maryland and Delaware: 
  • Maryland, with regard to their work for K-12 computer science education. 
  • Delaware builds on current strategic goals and initiatives, existing structures, and partnership.
In aligning standards, there are options - look at all of the state's policies and determine:
  • policies that are aligned (good, keep 'em)
  • policies that are not aligned:
    • decided which policies to revise so that they become aligned
    • decide which policies to archive
NASBE has published Policy Updates to guide SBEs.