Connecting The Dots - Why Redefining Ready! Matters to Wisconsin Schools

By Laura Schmidt, School District of New Berlin, Strategic Advisor to the Superintendent

The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) launched a nationwide Redefining Ready! Campaign to expand the predictors of postsecondary success used in local and/or state accountability systems.  These predictors are based on proven research related to the factors that positively influence postsecondary success.  Many are not necessarily new; however, the campaign is gaining traction.  Fourteen states, including Wisconsin, are now represented on the AASA Redefining Ready! Advisory Committee.  The AASA is expanding their reach even further by forming a cohort of 40-50 districts nationwide that want to get more involved. So why should this matter to Wisconsin schools?

At a State level, we have a disconnect between our current accountability system and the more holistic view of ‘College and Career Ready’ many districts believe is important for their students’ future success.  The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) recently published a report called Destination Known that explores this in more detail.  State accountability is complicated and implementing changes that might be perceived as ‘high-stakes’ needs to be approached with care.  However, we know how powerful data can be for influencing continuous improvement.  The focus on standardized test scores in state accountability is understandable but inadvertently sends a message that it is the only thing that matters.

In addition, the revised Education for Employment legislation (PI.26) requirements (which includes Academic and Career Planning) goes into effect this school year.  Districts across the State have been working towards this deadline for some time.  However, left unchecked, this mandate could have minimal impact on the quality of student learning experiences.  Mandates often fall short of having true impact because those charged with the implementation may simply not understand or believe there is a benefit to the students and communities they serve. 

Education for Employment legislation, while important, did not provide any direct funding to K12 for the implementation and appears to have underestimated the cultural change that would be necessary to implement it with fidelity.  Many of the components do not have a common definition, which can create confusion amongst stakeholders.  Career and Technical Education (CTE) is a major component of Education for Employment legislation; however, there are no sustainable State funding streams to support it.  Please refer to the Public Policy Forum’s recent analysis of CTE in Metro Milwaukee, Building Bridges, published last month for more information.

This is where local Boards of Education and educational leaders are called upon to do the heavy lifting within their school and extended communities.  First and foremost, they have to determine if the objectives of this legislation fit into their “Vision for their Graduate”.  Specifically to 1) prepare students for success in future employment; 2) ensure technical literacy; 3) promote lifelong learning; 4) promote good citizenship; 5) foster strong relationships between K12, Institutes of Higher Education (IHE), business and industry, etc.; and 6) to establish a role for public education in the economic development of the State of Wisconsin.  If so, then there is common ground to build off of despite the disconnect in State accountability and/or funding.

In the School District of New Berlin (SDNB), we did find common ground with our Vision of Our Graduate.  Superintendent Joe Garza introduced the District’s Education for Employment plan to the Board of Education in the fall of 2016 with the following statement:  “The School District of New Berlin is committed to developing a passion for lifelong learning. We do this by ensuring that every student sees the relevance in what they are learning to their personal, academic, social and career goals. Students who are engaged are more likely to pursue rigorous learning experiences that challenge their understanding and develop their unique talents in ways that would otherwise not be possible. It is our collective work to ensure all students graduate as informed consumers of postsecondary education/training to encourage completion of a postsecondary credential with value in the labor market. We are committed to our role in fueling innovation and job creation while supporting the projected workforce needs in the 21st Century Innovation Economy for the benefit of our students, our region, and the State of Wisconsin.”

The SDNB Board of Education approved a 3-year “College and Career Readiness” initiative, which was in alignment with the shared objectives of Education for Employment legislation (PI.26).  However, we had to dig a little deeper to reframe the legislation to make it meaningful for our school and extended community.  We had to decide if we were going to ‘strive for compliance’ or ‘strive to provide a powerful and connected learning environment’.  We chose the latter with a leap of faith that the change would positively impact other more traditional College and Career Readiness indicators.  So far, that assumption has held true.  But the key to this work is the adoption of a balanced scorecard that takes a broader view of all of the factors that support a student’s likelihood of postsecondary success in whatever path they choose after high school:  university, community/technical college, registered apprenticeship, military, etc. 

The School District of New Berlin is proud to represent the State of WI on the AASA Redefining Ready! Advisory Committee and the cohort that is starting next month.  The Redefining Ready! Campaign does not provide a silver bullet.  There is work to be done to make it work for each district and each state overall.  However, it provides a starting point.  It provides a framework to increase the credibility and importance of the work districts are doing as they strive to develop, implement, and monitor their education for employment plans in Wisconsin.  It provides a framework to think of their students’ progress more broadly while keeping an eye on the high-stakes assessments that are now a part of our educational landscape.  Lastly, it provides a framework for districts to communicate with parents and their community in a manner that reinforces that students are so much more than a score. 

Please refer to the Redefining Ready! Website for more information about the campaign, sign a personal endorsement, and/or apply to be part of the upcoming Redefining Ready! Cohort.  Plan to attend our pre-convention session at the WASDA/AWSA Quality Educator Convention in Madison on June 21st.  We will be featuring case studies from a variety of Wisconsin districts that have taken steps to implement the Redefining Ready! Benchmarksand will conduct a workshop to provide your team the opportunity to develop a plan of your own to take back to your district.  You may also want to refer to our College and Career Readiness resources and the SDNB “ALL IN” flyer on our website.  Please feel free to contact me via email at [email protected] with any questions prior to or following the convention. 


Laura Schmidt will be presenting on this subject at the upcoming Quality Educators ConventionCome and hear more about this topic and register today!

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