Interested Kentucky school districts will be able to begin applying for new Districts of Innovation status by early January. Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and David Cook, director of Innovation and Partner Engagement for the state education department, outlined the process to about 100 local and state education leaders Friday afternoon in Louisville.
Holliday said the process, authorized by a law passed by 2012 General Assembly, should not be thought of “as business as usual.”
“Don’t bother applying if all you want to do is move the deck chairs around on the Titanic,” Holliday said. “Innovation is not a program or professional development, having kids use computers to access content or moving from a regular schedule to a trimester schedule.
“We don’t want you just thinking outside the box – we want you not even thinking about the box,” he added. “Not everybody is going to be successful. You’re going to learn from your failures.”
Holliday and Cook detailed six criteria for approval, which must be given by the state. They are personalized learning, world-class knowledge and skills, student voice, performance-based learning, district support systems and anytime, anywhere learning.
While Holliday noted that teacher voice is built into the process, because the law requires 70 percent of teachers to approve a proposal, he also said the plans must have students telling why this would make a difference.
Districts will be given a Self-assessment and Readiness for Innovation document. Cook advised, “Take that document, sit down with your leadership team and board of education, and as accurately as you can, determine, ‘Are we really ready to do innovation at the highest level?’”
The Innovation status allows districts and from one school to as many as all schools in the district to be exempt for five years from most state regulations and statutes directly pertaining to student academics. The program begins with the 2013-14 school year.
“A School of Innovation plan submitted to the department that only talks about one particular initiative is less likely to be seen as valuable as a school with a whole-reform plan,” Cook explained.
The Districts of Innovation plan was unveiled at the Kentucky Leads the Nation Summit, a two-day conference on school innovation led by the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative.