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Webinar: State Education Agencies: The Smaller the Better?

posted Apr 16, 2014, 11:32 AM by Matt Kuhn

State Education Agencies: The Smaller the Better?

In the era of Race to the Top, waivers, and waivers of waivers, the role of state education agencies (SEAs) has increased dramatically: taking on school turnarounds, teacher-evaluation systems, and now Common Core implementation. Many argue that SEAs need “more capacity” to do these new jobs successfully. But what if we are asking departments of education not only to do too much but also to do things that they weren't built to do—and probably cannot do well? Should we shrink the SEA and its role and empower other entities to lead state-level reform instead?
Join the Thomas B. Fordham Institute for a discussion on the role of state education agencies and their leaders in the education-reform ecosystem.


This event will be webcast. Visit our website,, at 10:00 a.m. EST on Thursday, April 24, to watch the proceedings live.


Deborah A. Gist
Commissioner, Rhode Island Department of Education

Mark Murphy
Secretary of Education, Delaware Department of Education



Andy Smarick
Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow, Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Partner, Bellwether Education Partners

Title III Directors Meet to Consider State and Regional Strategies to Benefit ELL Students

posted Apr 8, 2014, 7:38 AM by Matt Kuhn

North Central Comprehensive Center (NCCC) brought together Title III directors from Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming at McREL International’s office in Denver on March 20 to explore opportunities for collaborative work across the region and identify needs specific to their individual states. The directors discussed how to develop a cohort of educators across the state that have received training on effective instructional strategies for English Language Learners (ELLs) and are prepared to share their knowledge and skills with general education teachers whose classrooms include ELL students. In addition to serving as professional developers, the cohort can contribute to other state initiatives that may arise. For example, Nebraska’s Title III director shared how a cohort group in her state is now aligning state ELL standards with content standards and writing a state plan, as well as providing professional development statewide. The other state directors had an opportunity to examine four staff development modules developed in Nebraska to focus on student acquisition of the academic language critical to mastering subject-specific concepts and content. In a final discussion, the directors considered the likelihood that academic language instruction is a missing link in the education of other students in their states. The approach promises to have broader application for low achieving students from other backgrounds. NCCC and this group of Title III directors will continue to explore how the structures and strategies Nebraska has used to meet the needs of ELL students might inform the efforts of the other North Central state departments of education. For more information, contact ELL Liaison Jane Hill (303.632.5529).

Pilot of Educator Evaluation Model Gains Momentum in Nebraska

posted Apr 8, 2014, 7:35 AM by Matt Kuhn

Educators in the 17 schools piloting Nebraska’s new teacher and principal evaluation model met on January 31 in Lincoln to share their implementation experiences. Participants discussed with Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) staff and each other their successes and challenges and the lessons they have learned, including data use and analysis. By examining the best practices of their colleagues, participants increased their knowledge of specific implementation strategies, and NDE staff gained useful information to apply as they continue supporting the pilot program. NCCC will continue to assist NDE in developing the educator evaluation system by helping establish processes for collaboration and coordination in the pilot stage and facilitating transition to statewide implementation. Services may focus on (a) the development and delivery of professional development for school and district staff (b) the establishment of standard operating procedures for statewide implementation of the evaluation model. For more information, contact Nebraska State Liaison Catherine Johnson (303.459.5036).

Planning Begins for the First Annual North Dakota Indian Education Summit

posted Apr 8, 2014, 7:34 AM by Matt Kuhn

The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (ND DPI) and the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission (NDIAC), with support from NCCC, are sponsoring the first annual North Dakota Indian Education Summit, to be held July 22 at the State Capitol in Bismarck. The goal of this event is creating a new and ongoing mechanism for disseminating information about Native American educational issues and emerging promising practices. This first summit will focus on integrating language and culture into curriculum and feature a keynote speaker, several breakout sessions, and a luncheon session. Drawing on lessons learned from helping South Dakota plan its annual Indian Education Summit, NCCC will serve as a partner to ND DPI staff in developing a uniquely North Dakota event, including helping design break-out sessions, identify keynote speakers, and address general planning issues. For more information, contact North Dakota State Liaison Heather Hoak (303.632.5512).

South Dakota Data Review Process Provides Feedback to Priority and Focus Schools

posted Apr 8, 2014, 7:31 AM by Matt Kuhn   [ updated Apr 8, 2014, 10:24 AM ]

With NCCC support and facilitation, the South Dakota Department of Education (SD DOE) held its second Statewide System of Recognition, Accountability, and Support (SSRAS) Data Review meeting on January 22-23 in Pierre. The purpose of Data Review meetings is for SD DOE to provide feedback to Priority and Focus Schools in order to inform their continuous school improvement planning. These schools provide their school turnaround plans and information on their goals and objectives, including student data, to the state three times per year (in October, January, and May). On Day 1 of the SSRAS Data Review, SD DOE staff work in School Support Teams (SSTs) of three to examine and provide specific, timely feedback on each school’s plan and accompanying data. On the second day, SST members meet with the Priority and Focus School coaches (sponsored by the SD DOE) to review the feedback, discuss successes and challenges their schools have had, and brainstorm and share ideas for addressing challenges. The SSRAS Data Review process is a critical component of South Dakota’s ESEA Flexibility Waiver, as it provides SD DOE with the information needed to continually refine its system of support for Priority and Focus Schools. State department staff find the sessions useful as they gain insights into what is happening in the schools. In addition to helping plan and conduct Data Review meetings, NCCC’s assistance to SD DOE in its waiver implementation process includes building on systems that help operationalize support for Priority and Focus Schools. NCCC services include co facilitating meetings, helping revise and develop materials used in the SSRAS Data Review process, and partnering to plan meetings and further enhance utilization of the South Dakota LEAP (Indistar) system. For more information, contact South Dakota State Liaison Heather Hoak (303.632.5512).

Wyoming Districts Exploring Formative Assessment

posted Apr 8, 2014, 7:23 AM by Matt Kuhn

In early 2013, the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) convened a steering committee of educators to explore ways in which WDE might support the development of common district-level assessments aligned with the Wyoming Content and Performance Standards. Such assessments would be available for districts to use in their locally developed District Assessment Systems, which specify performance measures that serve as requirements for high school graduation. The committee was particularly interested in how districts could be supported in using assessments formatively as students progressed through the grades toward graduation. As the year progressed, the committee’s charge turned to a more immediate task: the development of state guidelines for districts to use in designing their District Assessment Systems. However, the interest of some committee members in formative assessment has persisted. In fall 2014, an associate superintendent from Johnson County District #1 will provide professional development to educators in Kaycee using a formative assessment program produced by NCCC and the Assessment and Accountability Comprehensive Center. The program consists of seven modules that help teachers develop an understanding of the formative assessment process, the benefits to student learning, and strategies for refining professional practice through individual and small-group teacher learning communities (TLCs). NCCC staff and WDE staff in the Standards, Learning, and Accountability Division will support and attend the Kaycee training, to see the formative assessment program in action and assess its potential for broader dissemination in the state. Materials from the program can be viewed on the NCCC website at formative-assessment. For more information, contact Sue Mutchler, Wyoming State Liaison (303.459.5099).

Chadron Public School District to Appear in a Documentary on Individualized Learning

posted Apr 8, 2014, 7:20 AM by Matt Kuhn

The Chadron Public School District has been selected to appear in a 30-minute documentary on individualized learning that will air on The State of Education in Nebraska Series NET2 World, on June 19 at 8:00 p.m. CDT. The film is being produced by Nebraska Loves Public Schools, a team of filmmakers funded by the Sherwood Foundation to showcase positive stories about public schools in the state. Chadron was recommended by the Nebraska Department of Education as a district that is successfully implementing individualized learning. All videos can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and For more information, contact Nebraska State Liaison Catherine Johnson (303.459.5036).

North Dakota Builds a New Principal Evaluation System

posted Jan 24, 2014, 9:26 AM by Matt Kuhn

In late 2011, the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (ND DPI) began redesigning its principal and teacher evaluation system to develop more uniform standards and guidelines for the local evaluation of educator performance. The department convened a stakeholder group, the Teacher and Principal Evaluation and Support System (TPESS) committee, to develop the guidelines. During this time, NCCC provided technical assistance as the committee studied relevant research-based information and reviewed evaluation models from other states. Now TPESS is focusing on the principal evaluation system. NCCC is providing information resources and helping guide group decision-making as the committee develops tools needed to prepare schools and districts to implement this system, including (a) an equivalency rubric (to demonstrate the adequacy of a proposed principal evaluation model against state requirements) and (b) a model principal evaluation rubric. NCCC also is collaborating with the Central Regional Education Laboratory (REL) and the Great Teachers and Leaders Content Center (GTL), which helps ND DPI leverage resources from two other federally-funded national networks (the Comprehensive Content Center network and the REL network). Contact Heather Hoak at or 303.632.5512 for more information.

Nebraska Department of Education establishes Data Analysis Cadre

posted Jan 24, 2014, 9:25 AM by Matt Kuhn

For the past several months, NCCC has worked closely with the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) to help establish a Data Analysis Cadre to build new research capabilities within the department’s Data, Research, and Evaluation (DRE) team. The purpose of the cadre is to work with the state’s education research community--which includes experts from state universities, education service units, and school districts--to accomplish activities supported by a three-year Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) grant from the National Center for Education Statistics. The NCCC has helped NDE staff develop a blueprint to guide the formation of the cadre, determine work priorities, and begin to develop strategies for (a) meeting research and evaluation needs, (b) coordinating the research community’s involvement, and (c) disseminating research findings to the department of education and to the statewide research community. This past fall, NCCC provided technical assistance to cadre staff and their colleagues in the Curriculum and Instruction division as the two groups began to collaboratively train, oversee, and collect data from a set of schools that have been selected to pilot the state’s new Teacher/Principal Evaluation Models. Piloting will take place in 2014. For more information, contact Cathi Johnson at or 303.459.5036.

New Nebraska State Education Commissioner Chosen

posted Jan 14, 2014, 2:42 PM by Matt Kuhn

The Nebraska State School Board opted for Dr. Matthew Blomstedt’s emphasis on successfully negotiating with policymakers and other education groups, his knowledge of the state’s financing system and understanding of the differences in urban and rural education. See for the whole story.

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