CESA 10 has a long history of providing quality services to 29 districts in west central Wisconsin. CESA 10 is geographically significant, covering nearly 5,000 square miles. Services in the area of curriculum and instruction, special education, educational technology, business services and facilities support the work of nearly 4,000 school employees, Board members and more than 36,000 students.
CESA 10’s service departments, which include Instructional Services, Educational Technology, Special Education, Business Services and Facilities Management, support schools through the delivery of high-quality professional development and training, access to resources and cost-effective instructional and operational strategies. CESA 10 continues to lead in the area of educational technology and its distance learning networks are among the most robust in the Midwest. The agency also continues to provide facilities and energy management services that help schools run as safely and efficiently as possible.
A Changing Landscape
Few people can recall a time when the number and complexity of state and federal initiatives was as significant as today. For nearly a decade, school funding in Wisconsin—and in the nation—has been declining. Simultaneously, there has also been an increase in the volume of public and political scrutiny of public education. Parents, citizens, lawmakers and educators recognize that the skills students need to develop in order to be successful in the global 21st century economy requires that schools improve the process of teaching and learning.
Over the past two years, the Wisconsin legislature passed a series of laws that affect public schools. These laws have established new accountability systems, affected personnel decisions at the local level and impacted the agency’s service contracts. A few of the more significant changes are listed below:
- By 2014-15, every school must adopt teacher, principal and superintendent evaluations. By law, the “system will evaluate teachers and principals on multiple measures of educator practice as well as multiple measures of student growth (not attainment) that rewards, rather than punishes, teachers and principals for taking on challenging assignments.” (Governor’s report titled Education Reform 2012)
- The new school accountability system (now referred to as the “school report card”) defines that schools would be evaluated on multiple measures of growth and proficiency. The new school report card was released publicly in October 2012 so that every student, parent, and community can get a clear view of how their schools are doing.
- Act 10 (2011) changed the landscape for public education in Wisconsin, as it effectively eliminated collective bargaining for public employees—which includes educators.
Second, several specific priorities have been established for schools as a result of state or federal requirements. These include the requirement that districts implement the Common Core State Standards, new assessment and data systems and comprehensive Response-to-Intervention systems.
Examples of excellence in the areas of curriculum, instruction, assessment, professional development, programs, services and community support currently exist within CESA 10 schools; however, in analyzing available data and working with educators and stakeholders, all students are not achieving their fullest potential. Achievement discrepancies between students on state and local assessments and the increasing necessity for intervention programs demonstrate a need for improvement.
Rural districts face these challenges uniquely, as a result of poverty, geographic and technological isolation and limited resources. The rural challenges currently being faced by CESA 10 schools are listed below:
- Rural schools are, by definition, set up to work separately and therefore not as efficiently.
- Rural schools have difficulty recruiting and retaining teachers and administrators.
- Professional development and opportunities for collaboration across districts are limited.
- Rural districts and communities also struggle to provide access to many of the resources that enhance the learning environment such as museums, libraries and universities.
- Rural districts have difficulty establishing the highest-quality and personally engaging curricular environments.
According to the Wisconsin Taxpayer Magazine, while approximately 60% of Wisconsin’s school districts are rural (and more than 40% of Wisconsin’s students attend a rural school), they are represented by less than 20% of the state’s legislature. As a result, rural schools are not equally represented in state and federal policy discussions intended to facilitate education reform and the unique challenges experienced by rural schools are often overlooked.
The Need for a Vision
As demonstrated by its history, CESA 10 is committed to serving educators and students-despite the challenges that exist. In fact, educational service agencies such as CESA 10 are ideally positioned to assist schools and educators by harnessing the power of collaboration. However, facing these challenges and those yet to be identified in this time of constant change requires a clear vision, plan and commitment to continuous improvement.
While CESA 10 has a mission statement, ensuring that statement is reflective of current organizational values and beliefs is critical. Every decision—from staffing and personnel to services and fees—requires a framework on which to base decisions. In addition, the process and procedures used to determine new programs and services must be undergirded by a solid and unified commitment to the same objective. Therefore, the materials and process that follow are intended as a road map for the vision and strategic planning process at CESA 10.