By Kimberly Barnes | November 2, 2021
As the colorful fall leaves suggest, a new season of education has arrived. Although pandemic-related challenges persist, we find hope in new opportunities: new funding, new policies, and new ideas for teaching and learning.
Over the past year, I am proud of how our Region 17 Comprehensive Center staff collaborated with our partners in Idaho and Montana to keep student learning and success on track. We saw heroic education leaders and teachers make exciting pivots that helped students thrive in unique and challenging circumstances. Together, we learned how to address challenges related to virtual learning, students’ mental and behavioral health, equity, college and career readiness, and teacher recruitment and retention. I believe our successes under fire gave us courage and capacity to broaden our vision and transform education.
As we move into a new academic year, our team will continue partnering with state, regional, and local educational agencies to move education forward.
This year we will collaborate with the Idaho State Department of Education on projects that go deeper in high-priority areas.
Conditions for Learning: Behavioral Health and Wellness
Last year, we helped collect recommendations from diverse stakeholders on how to improve behavioral health and wellness services for students. This year, we will create a community of practice for school districts to learn how to offer programs and implement practices that help students develop life skills.
Language and Literacy Facilitator Guide
To support the more than 16,000 English learner students in Idaho, we produced a guide and trainings to equip educators with research-based strategies that help students develop academic content and literacy skills. This year, we will engage literacy coaches in an online professional learning network where they can plan work to increase teachers’ instructional efficacy in language and literacy.
Federal Programs Strategic Planning
Last year, we helped federal program staff members develop plans to document evidence of meeting program objectives. This year, we will jointly develop and implement new monitoring practices for American Rescue Plans, an exciting new federal program that provides considerable funding to districts.
Reading Coach Leadership Academy
In this new project, we will provide literacy-focused professional learning for instructional coaches and established teachers looking to become more effective coaches and peer leaders. Opportunities will include training workshops; learning community "jam" sessions; and book studies in virtual, hybrid, and face-to-face formats.
In Montana, we will continue to support the Office of Public Instruction in achieving its key priorities through several collaborative projects:
Administrative Rules of Montana Chapters
Last year, we supported an evidence-based, inclusive stakeholder engagement process to review and revise state education regulations related to licensure and the accreditation of teacher preparation programs. This year, we will focus on revising regulations related to the accreditation of K–12 schools, with the goal of offering districts and schools more flexibility while maintaining high standards for students’ education.
Montana Hope–Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Learning
In partnership with the Office of Public Instruction, Department of Health and Human Services, Montana University System, and local education agencies, we will continue providing teachers with evidence-based resources to implement the state’s social and emotional learning framework. Resources focus on multi-tiered systems of support, trauma-informed practices, cultural responsiveness, restorative justice practices, and other approaches to social and emotional learning.
Educator Workforce Redesign
This new project aims to address the critical shortage of teachers in Montana by creating a replicable teacher residency framework for training and coaching teacher candidates. Through an analysis of Montana’s educational landscape and a think tank of national experts, we will develop implementation strategies, promote evidence-based practices, and establish support systems.
Regional and National
This year we plan to work more closely with partners in the region and across the country on projects that support students and educators in Idaho and Montana.
Northwest Rural Innovation and Student Engagement Network
This network convenes educators from remote communities in Idaho, Montana, Alaska, and Washington to collaborate in job-alike groups around best practices for student success and teacher efficacy. This year, we plan to build network membership by reaching out to an even broader group of rural teachers and principals.
Cross-State Leadership Group
Twice a month, state superintendents and executive staff members from Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming meet to discuss current initiatives, challenges, and possibilities. This year, we plan to investigate teacher and staff shortages, accessible curriculum materials, and where to find relevant research on topics of mutual interest.
National Comprehensive Center Diversifying the Educator Workforce Workgroup
Formed in July 2020, this group is developing actionable resources and peer-to-peer learning opportunities to help states and districts strengthen and diversify the racial, ethnic, and linguistic makeup of their educator workforces.
National Comprehensive Center Literacy Workgroup
The group is currently finishing a guide on literacy in grades 9–12 and planning events for next year. Moving forward, we will expand our focus beyond literacy to organize professional learning sessions and develop products related to cross-content evidence-based instructional practices. Our goal with the expansion is to connect more state education agency staff members with colleagues across all regions to share practices and leverage the power of this national network.
National Comprehensive Center American Indian and Alaska Native Education Collaborative
We will continue to lead groups in the Circles of Reflection process, which engages state education agency staff members in rich, reflective discussions and strategic planning with Tribal communities and school leaders to create school environments where Native students thrive.
As we transition from autumn to winter, we will move forward and change, exploring new ideas and embracing opportunities to innovate education in our great states. Join us as we redesign and improve teaching and learning for students in Idaho and Montana this school year!