In order to stimulate the creativity of our leaders to transform and modernize Ohio’s educational system, Governor John Kasich has proposed a $300 million dollar Straight A Fund that aims to provide the resources necessary to facilitate widespread change and innovation. The Fund, as introduced, is open to city, local, exempted village, and joint vocational school districts, educational service centers, charter schools, STEM schools, individual school buildings, education consortia, institutions of higher education, and private entities for projects that aim to boost academic outcomes for students and/or increase efficiency in operations. One overarching feature of the fund is that applicants must demonstrate that their projects are sustainable.
The fund will be overseen by a governing board, and advised by a committee, both appointed by the Governor and Ohio General Assembly. The success of the grants will be measured by the state’s accountability system that focuses on student outcomes, and there is an understanding that results won’t necessarily come in the first or second year. What’s also remarkable about the bill is what’s missing—a lot of rules and regulations that might impede innovation. Should this extraordinary piece of legislation make it unscathed through the House and Senate, it appropriates $100 million for fiscal year 2014, and $200 million for fiscal year 2015 from the Lottery Profits Education Fund.
The full text of HB 59 as Introduced is located at http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=125_HB_59.
TESTIMONY OF LISA DUTY, PH.D.
SENIOR DIRECTOR OF INNOVATION, KNOWLEDGEWORKS
In Support of the Straight A Fund
HOUSE FINANCE AND APPROPRIATION SUB-COMMITTEE ON PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION
MARCH 1, 2013
Chairman Hayes, ranking member Lundy, and members of the House Finance and Appropriations Sub-Committee on Primary and Secondary Education, my name is Lisa Duty and I am the Senior Director of Innovation at KnowledgeWorks. KnowledgeWorks is a nonprofit social enterprise headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, that works nationwide to create education innovation and expand educational opportunity. A few highlights from our history of innovation in Ohio includes:
- Development of the Ohio College Access Network: First-ever college access network in the nation
- Ohio High School Transformation Initiative: Largest-scale urban initiative of its kind in Ohio’s history
- Creation of the Early College High School Network: Low-income, first generation college-going students earn Associates Degrees while earning high school diplomas
- Development of several New Tech Network schools across Ohio: Empowering learners with 1:1 technology and project-based learning
More recently our attention has been focused on the creation of a new learning model with the leading-edge Reynoldsburg City Schools, and one of the fastest growing education technology startups in the country, Education Elements. Together we are developing a model that combines blended learning and community engagement to create an entire learning ecosystem around students. In this new model, students can pursue mastery at their own pace, through seamless integration of learning in school and community—and where teaching staff and community instructors work together and drive their work using data.
This is precisely the kind of innovation the state could encourage at scale with the proposed Straight A Fund.
We have advocated for the establishment of this fund over several years. First, as members of the Ohio Grantmakers Forum, dating back to the Strickland administration, and more recently in discussions with Governor Kasich’s Ohio Digital Learning Task Force. Today we believe that blended learning is the transformative educational innovation of our time. While the Straight A Fund can and should support non-instructional innovation and efficiencies, some of its most exciting potential lies with its ability to ignite high quality blended learning across Ohio.
Engage the brightest of thought leaders on the governing board and advisory committee, and don’t limit appointments to within our borders.
Our state’s economic growth depends on our capacity to educate. Straight A investments in research and development can play an important role in the penetration of social and market-based innovations in a complex, ossified education system that needs the combined talents of educators, entrepreneurs, researchers, business, non-profits and communities. Recruit the best in the state and nation, including those who have been successful making next-generation investments, to help lead the fund.
Stick with the plan to issue this innovation challenge to everyone.
When the government said it would put a man on the moon, it didn’t prescribe the specific technologies or vendors required to get there, nor did it exclude them. Government agencies, private industry and citizens across many kinds of organizations all set to work to achieve the mission. Let’s do this for education. Rather than creating stringent rules about who can and cannot apply, what is required or prohibited, we need to focus on big challenges that will benefit our students—and come together to overcome hurdles.
Don’t create carve-outs for certain kinds of schools, projects or applicants.
Even blended learning innovations should compete with all others. Fund the boldest of ideas with true potential to break open the system. Just one rule: Keep it student-centric.
Support would-be innovators by helping to build their capacity to innovate.
Resist the urge to fund proposals, and instead, fund big ideas. If applicants have to hire a grant writer to compete, we’re not going to get anywhere new, anytime soon. The Fund should work with multiple parties to host how-to-design forums and encourage networking on an on-going basis.
Insist on transformation, refuse to fund improvement.
Improvement does not change how things are done or what is done. Improvement is about incrementally making better what is. Real change comes from innovation that creates new standards of practice or replaces old ones, significantly altering what people do and how they think about their work. Don’t restrain experimentation because “we can’t be absolutely sure it will work.” Understand that innovation is built on trial-and-error learning. Trust that we have the talent and the tenacity necessary to be successful.
Thank you for your time.