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Press Release

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

CCSSO Launches Project Exploring Innovation in States

Contact:Olympia Meolaolympia.meola@ccsso.org202-336-7071

Washington D.C. (December 9, 2015) -- States are leading efforts to create innovative opportunities in public school classrooms around the country, but what does that innovation look like?

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) today launched the Next State of Learning project to showcase how states are transforming public education by scaling locally led innovations with a strong focus on student outcomes.

Next State of Learning highlights four states - Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire and Wisconsin - that are part of CCSSO's Innovation Lab Network (ILN). Through the ILN, a group of states is taking action to identify, test and implement student-centered approaches to learning that transform the traditional classroom. 

"The work of the states in our Innovation Lab Network is more important than ever," said CCSSO Executive Director Chris Minnich.

"As Congress works to finalize the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, states will have a stable federal policy that not only provides additional flexibility but also space for innovative models. Many of our states now have policies in place to encourage personalizing education for every child while at the same time maintaining a strong focus on outcomes for all kids."

The stories in Next State of Learning are glimpses into the innovative initiatives underway in several ILN states across the country. 

Colorado's Department of Education has learned from, and scaled, successful initiatives stemming from local districts. The St. Vrain school district has worked to build a pipeline of innovation throughout their elementary, middle, and high schools, fueling innovative approaches to STEM education.

"I think there is a very important tension right now between having a way to hold the system accountable for not leaving anybody out and being able to personalize to kids and help ignite what is unique and awesome about each of them," says Gretchen Morgan, the Colorado Department of Education's Associate Commissioner of Innovation, Choice and Engagement.  

Beginning in 2017-2018, in order to graduate from high school, students in Maine will start being assessed by their mastery of content, not just their time spent on a subject.

"This is deep, systems-level change," said Dan Joseph, of Reinventing Schools. "That takes a lot of time and energy on the part of everybody. You can't have distractions where folks are wondering why we're even doing something different."

In New Hampshire, four school districts began a pilot of how to assess students using a blend of locally developed performance tasks and standardized tests. The U.S. Department of Education approved this first-in-the-nation accountability pilot that offers a reduced level of standardized testing together with locally managed assessments. It is now expanding to other districts.

"We needed to look at something new and try to create something new when it came to how we assess student learning," said New Hampshire Deputy Commissioner of Education Paul Leather. 

Wisconsin has cooperative educational service agencies that operate independently and help local districts coordinate services and receive professional development.

"What personalization has done for teachers in an era where they rightly believe that some of their ability to chart their own course has been constrained by testing, is allowed them to make more decisions about what needs to happen with their class and with their students they work with," says Tony Evers, Wisconsin's Superintendent of Public Instruction and CCSSO's Board President. "And that's really important."

The Next State of Learning project will continue to explore work in other states, and can be followed on Twitter at @CCSSO and #CCSSOILN. 


The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.