Priority 1 — Standards and Assessment
English Learner Collaborative
The WCC’s English Learner Collaborative is a regional community of practice for state departments of education and invited Local Education Agency (LEA) members in to address collectively the common issues, challenges and opportunities involved in meeting the needs of English learners. Partnering with REL West’s EL Alliance at WestEd, the Collaborative provides opportunities for member states to engage in state and regional research, to discuss results, and to explore the implications for policy and practice.
As a result of this work, participants deepen understanding of the regional and state-specific strengths and challenges in effectively serving the needs of English Learners; increase knowledge of best practices for English learners during an era of highly rigorous standards and assessments; explore the use of EL data and national and regional research to inform policy and practice; plan for strengthened State Education Agency (SEA) support to Local Education Agencies (LEAs).
Priority 2 — Highly Effective Teachers and Leaders
Educator Effectiveness Collaborative
Prompted by national initiatives, in the spring of 2010 the Southwest states (Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Utah) each passed legislation on educator effectiveness that set specific requirements and timelines for new statewide systems of teacher and principal evaluation and support using student achievement/growth as a significant indicator of effectiveness. The WCC has sponsored quarterly or bi-annual meetings for the last four years, providing expertise, research, and resources on timely topics of key concern to strengthen understanding and inform policy and practice.
Over the four years, the states have taken educator evaluation from policy to practice. States each developed a state framework adopted by their respective state boards of education, developed and piloted a state model, made adjustments to the model based on pilot findings, and trained and assisted districts in the local design, development and implementation of educator evaluation systems.
Priority 3 — District and School Improvement
Turnaround Leadership Consortium
Seeking to establish a systemic approach to change, SEAs joined together with the WCC in 2010 to establish the Southwest Turnaround Leadership Consortium in partnership with the University of Virginia Partnership for Leaders in Education. The purpose of the Consortium is to work collaboratively as a region to deepen understanding of turnaround work, build the internal capacity necessary to support and sustain effective school turnarounds, develop a pipeline of leaders in each state specifically trained to turn around low-performing schools, and align efforts at all levels of the system – state, district, and school.
To date, 134 school principals have participated with their district and state department leadership with significant improvement in most schools after the two year program. Each state is now developing its own state turnaround leadership initiative based on the principles and practices learned in the program.
Priority 5 — College and Career Readiness
College and Career Readiness Collaborative
The WCC formed the College and Career Readiness Collaborative to leverage knowledge and expertise across states, address shared challenges collectively, and better prepare students for postsecondary studies and workforce entry. State education agency leaders working in the areas of career and technical education, comprehensive school counseling, college and career readiness, and dropout prevention established cross-agency secondary leadership teams. These teams compose this regional community of practice.
Current efforts focus on the implementation of individualized learning plans. Members are working with the Center for College and Career Readiness and Success to develop a best-practices compendium that includes learning plan implementation strategies, accountability indicators, monitoring systems, and improvement processes. Additional joint projects focus on career literacy, rigorous pathways, competency-based graduation requirements, interventions and supports for unique populations, and longitudinal academic and career advisement systems that include electronic portfolios.
Priority 8 — Organizational Management
SEA Executive Leadership
This project was developed in collaboration with the University of Virginia, Partnership for Leaders in Education (UVA-PLE) at the Darden School of Business, with input from State Education Agency (SEA) leaders in the west. The goal is to provide professional opportunities for SEA leaders that will successfully support their efforts to lead reform initiatives in their respective states. SEA executive teams and their chief state school officers meet regularly throughout the year. The sessions are designed specifically for SEAs to address their own organizational management issues in leading statewide initiatives with discussions and case studies led by UVA Darden faculty. Through both individual team time and whole-group discussions, SEA executive teams have opportunities to share efforts, address challenges, and learn from one another.
In these sessions, SEA chief state school officers and their executive teams from Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah have addressed reorganization efforts, communication strategies and talent management development as well as the implications of federal and state statute and policies.