Activating the Community to Support Education Innovation - Digital Promise

Activating the Community to Support Education Innovation

September 5, 2017 | By and

Kettle Moraine School District (KMSD), a member of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools, is a suburban district in Wisconsin leading some of the most advanced competency-based education (CBE) efforts in the country.

KMSD knows that innovation and change, however, are not sustainable without systemic buy-in at all levels. Superintendent Pat Deklotz and Assistant Superintendent Theresa Ewald have worked with their team to create a culture that empowers teachers and students to be thoughtful critics and advocates of their own learning and to explain and advocate for their experiences with the community.

Implementing reforms in a district, like eliminating grade levels in Kettle Moraine Middle School, is not a feasible task without community understanding. In talking through the challenges, Deklotz recently remarked, “The public listens to teachers before anyone else.” Acting on this observation, she created opportunities for her teachers to speak to the board of education on their experiences and the benefits of CBE, which resonated with the community.

These presentations are authentic and unscripted, and teachers are willing to speak positively on behalf of the district’s transformation because of the thoughtful support they receive. Deklotz and her team are committed to setting up teachers with the resources they need to be successful, providing extensive and differentiated professional development opportunities through the district’s micro-credentialing system. Teachers have access to opportunities and resources that guide the effective implementation of CBE in their classrooms and have an intimate understanding of its power.

Students have also been powerful advocates of CBE in KMSD. Deklotz said, “Students telling the story about how their personalized plan has helped them plan for the future and how they think about school has more impact on the board and community than data.” Student advocacy reinforced Kettle Moraine’s implementation of CBE and expanded opportunities around personalized learning. For example, students lobbied for things like more internet access by using social media to post personalized learning videos on YouTube.

In addition to empowering its stakeholders, Kettle Moraine has invested time in resources in telling the story of their competency-based education to an external audience. The district works with students to write articles for journals, give student-led school tours, and create short videos that are being shared increasingly on social media. These resources help engage parents and update them on district news and future district-wide plans. She further mentioned that “people love to be celebrated.” By telling their personalized learning stories, students were able to share their successes with district leaders and promote community support for CBE.

Through supporting teachers, students, and the community, KMSD has promoted its district-wide transformation towards CBE and highlighted the unique stories that make it possible. Deklotz stressed, “Public schools belong to the public. You must represent the desires of the public and give them a vision and process that allows them to see a preferred state.”

To learn more, check out a webinar with more information here. To learn more about Kettle Moraine and other districts at various stages in the competency-based implementation process, check out the League’s CBE toolkit and video series.

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