When senior Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) leaders connected with teachers in 2011 to assess how implementation of key reforms was going, they quickly learned that they needed to improve the implementation reform process. In particular, teachers said LDE needed to do a better job of aligning tools and resources it created or collected to advance the implementation of the college-and career-ready standards and its new state evaluation system, COMPASS. As a result, LDE leaders developed a deliberate theory of action that empowers teachers, principals and other administrators to be involved at every aspect of initiative design. This would ensure the full integration of standards, COMPASS, assessments, accountability and educator support.
Listening wasn’t enough. They reorganized its agency to put teachers at the forefront. To help integrate materials that support COMPASS and standards implementation, LDE enlisted over 4,000 educators—at least one from each school in the state—to serve on the Teacher Leader Cadre. An inner circle of 100 teacher leaders from the cadre help LDE create all policies and materials. Teacher leaders shared standards-aligned instructional strategies and showcased best practices with school colleagues. They also created videos that showed educators how to connect instruction with standards and COMPASS; for example, the videos demonstrated how teachers and their evaluators should conduct pre-and post-observations by including VoiceOver commentary about how standards and COMPASS connect.
LDE has also established internal governance and decision-making structures that enable integration. The Department’s chief of staff continued to host a standing weekly meeting for all assistant superintendents and executive directors who are focused on instructional initiatives and work that affects teachers and principals. This Academic Strategy Group includes the assistant superintendents for talent, academic content and curriculum, high schools, student supports, network teams, special education, early childhood and school accountability. Each member of the Academic Strategy Group commits to collaboration. They acknowledge that it takes a different approach to work, but they put in the effort to ensure that every initiative rolled out from any individual office has gone through extensive feedback from everyone else in that group, in some form or fashion. Through these efforts, integration has become the expectation in Louisiana.