Deliverin’ in the Pelican State

We often hear about how the latest and greatest in education reforms are happening down in the bayou.  For the past half-decade, New Orleans has been the place to set up shop if you have an idea to reform a school district, train a better teacher, or close an achievement gap.  You simply aren’t on the reform map if you don’t have a footprint in the Big Easy.

But there is a lot of interesting things happening across Louisiana.  A few years back, Eduflack had the privilege of working with the state department of education, along with educators and business leaders, to strengthen the high school experience, toughen graduation standards, and generally get more Louisiana students career and college ready.  That work, along with similar work done by groups like SREB, is happening across the state.
So it was no surprise to see the latest coming from Louisiana.  In Education Week this week, Louisiana State Supe Paul Pastorek and Sir Michael Barber, the founder of the U.S. Education Delivery Institute, place their flag in the ground to tell us how a “delivery unit” is being used to improve the education system.
I know, the first question is, what the heck is education delivery?  According to the U.S. Education Delivery Institute U.S. Education Delivery Institute, when states are ready to implement a reform agenda, delivery:
is defined as ‘a systematic process for driving progress and delivering results in government and the public sector.’  At the heart of the delivery approach is a set of tools, processes, and a common language for implementation.  Key features include prioritizing clear goals, understanding how services reach various constituents, projecting anticipated progress toward goals, gauging impact through real-time data, and regularly taking stock to intervene when necessary.
Essentially, it is a data-driven GPS for state-based school reform.  Plug in the intended destination (improved literacy rates, boosted high school grad rates, etc.) and the delivery model helps guide you to the destination, while adjusting for the changes you may face on your path.  It isn’t the reform, but it is what keep the reform moving forward.
Barber developed and refined the process “across the pond,” where he headed former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Delivery Unit.  But it is still relatively unknown here in the States.  So in their piece, Pastorek and Barber lay out the five key questions they are often confronted when talking about Delivery in Louisiana (after, of course, that introductory question, of “huh?”)
* What are you trying to do?
* How are you trying to do it?
* How will you know at any given moment whether you are on track?
* If you are not on track to achieve your goal, what are you going to do about it?
* The Delivery Unit should always ask the goal leaders and superintendent, “how can we help?
With 11 states ramping up their Race to the Top reform efforts (yes, DC, I’ll count you in the state pile), with other states moving forward with their reform efforts, despite the enticing carrot RttT offers, and with virtually all states trying to figure out how to keep up with the Joneses during these challenging economic times, the Louisiana Delivery model is an interesting concept.  We spend so much time talking about what we should reform, but so little time, if any, talking about how we get to the intended goal.  Could there be a proven model that can guide states and large school districts in a meaningful, productive way?
Pastorek sure seems to think so.  And EDI reports it is also working with Delaware, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Tennessee.  So we’ve got a bunch of RttT winners, the top state in education standards, and a long-time leader in forward-looking school reform.  These folks may actually be on to something.

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