An Innovation Zone is Key to Continuous Improvement

An Innovation Zone is Key to Continuous Improvement
July 19, 2017 core_admin
A multi-ethnic group of elementary school children in science class.

by Julie White

Continuous improvement is essential in school improvement and accountability. That’s why the CORE Districts propose that California’s new accountability system include an Innovation Zone.

The goal is to uphold local control and accountability in the new state system by allowing any interested local educational agency to choose to participate. Districts that volunteer would be held accountable for all the state’s accountability measures, plus measures that the state and local educational agencies agree should be tested and measured for future inclusion in the state’s accountability system.

Currently, there are 50 urban, rural and suburban school districts sharing state and locally-generated data in our network on academic growth, high school readiness, student social-emotional learning and school culture/climate that could consider being partners in California’s Innovation Zone.

Linda Darling Hammond, president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute, is an expert on continuous improvement in education. She says the Innovation Zone would allow the state to benefit from local learning, keeping continuous improvement front and center in California’s new accountability system.

“It could help California develop a learning system that helps evaluate local innovations, pilot projects and policy experiments as a means of informing initiatives across the state and making wiser decisions at the state and local levels,” she said.

Marshall (Mike) Smith formerly served as U.S. Under Secretary of Education and is one of the nation’s most respected education policymakers. He supports the creation of an Innovation Zone in California’s ESSA plan so local educators become active agents in improving their own work.

He said, “In a culture of improvement, everyone is expected to continually audit themselves, and locally-generated data and innovation must be encouraged.”

Dave Gordon, superintendent of the Sacramento County Office of Education, has extensive experience leading and assisting local school systems, and he agrees that the state would be wise to foster local innovations.

“In building out a multiple measures accountability system over time, the state should encourage local agencies to design measures that can be incorporated into the state system to enhance its reach and power,” he said. “An Innovation Zone supported by the state would be viewed very positively by the districts we work with.”

California can continue to be a national leader on education policy by establishing an Innovation Zone that allows local education agencies to partner with the state to improve our new school accountability system over time.