Outcomes as a Tool to Provoke Systems Change

David W. Hornbeck

Education Adviser, Baltimore, Md.

I wish to begin this brief paper with three observations. First, the condition of children is deteriorating. The relationship of that fact to the nation's economic prowess and to our ability to function as a democracy when the wealth gap is widening is increasing the stakes attached to success in our human service systems. As a result, the pressure from many quarters to provide greater productivity is growing rapidly.

Second, the citizenry, according to every poll, appears to be willing to pay a larger bill. But only if it results in improvement. The public does not believe that business as usual will do the job. A paradigm shift must occur. To use education to illustrate, the greatest proportion of the students with whom the system fails most miserably are in our cities. We have a poor record in the states with respect to fiscal equity much less fiscal adequacy for cities. Reapportionment based on the census will generally weaken the political power of cities, not strengthen it. Thus, more than ever before, greater resources will depend on our convincing legislators at the state and federal level that new increases will be significantly more productive than previous increases. An outcome-based system can provide that assurance since it embodies real consequence associated with the achievement of results.

Third, because the paradigm recommended below shifts responsibility and authority closer to the students (clients, patients, participants), there is less incentive to wait for someone at a central level to tell the staff at the grass-roots level what to do. Therefore, the proportion of people in the system seeking successful solutions can increase dramatically. The incentives and disincentives are rearrayed so that teachers, social workers, and health professionals in local neighborhoods are less constrained and are



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Effective Services for Young Children: Report of a Workshop Outcomes as a Tool to Provoke Systems Change David W. Hornbeck Education Adviser, Baltimore, Md. I wish to begin this brief paper with three observations. First, the condition of children is deteriorating. The relationship of that fact to the nation's economic prowess and to our ability to function as a democracy when the wealth gap is widening is increasing the stakes attached to success in our human service systems. As a result, the pressure from many quarters to provide greater productivity is growing rapidly. Second, the citizenry, according to every poll, appears to be willing to pay a larger bill. But only if it results in improvement. The public does not believe that business as usual will do the job. A paradigm shift must occur. To use education to illustrate, the greatest proportion of the students with whom the system fails most miserably are in our cities. We have a poor record in the states with respect to fiscal equity much less fiscal adequacy for cities. Reapportionment based on the census will generally weaken the political power of cities, not strengthen it. Thus, more than ever before, greater resources will depend on our convincing legislators at the state and federal level that new increases will be significantly more productive than previous increases. An outcome-based system can provide that assurance since it embodies real consequence associated with the achievement of results. Third, because the paradigm recommended below shifts responsibility and authority closer to the students (clients, patients, participants), there is less incentive to wait for someone at a central level to tell the staff at the grass-roots level what to do. Therefore, the proportion of people in the system seeking successful solutions can increase dramatically. The incentives and disincentives are rearrayed so that teachers, social workers, and health professionals in local neighborhoods are less constrained and are

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Effective Services for Young Children: Report of a Workshop expected to find solutions and produce. In education, for example, that means answers and effort not from just 50 state superintendents and 16,000 local superintendents but from 90,000 principals and 2,000,000 teachers as well. That is a hugh increase in professional wisdom targeted by the selected outcomes resulting in consequences. In the pages that follow, although the generic principles are applicable to all human service systems, I shall use education as the vehicle to illustrate several points since it is the system I know best. Moreover, in several places, I illustrate points with recommendations from legislation recently passed in Kentucky, the only place of which I am aware that has embraced an aggressive outcome-based initiative related to a human service system. Within public education, the primary question governing the system is, "Did you do what they told you to do?" Sometimes it is asked directly of school staff. More often it is reflected in the forms that all levels of government ask the levels below to fill out. It is embedded in the culture of public schooling, reflected, for example, in the observation of too many teachers overheard to say, "I taught them; they just didn't learn it." The right question is "Did it work?" Trying hard must no longer suffice as a standard of performance. Results must control practice. Can the student(s) read and comprehend? Can the class "do" science at the level expected? Have the students attained foreign language proficiency? And so on. Increasingly, we are seeing such an outcome orientation emerging in public education. The national goals and underlying objectives adopted by the President and the governors last winter emphasize that. The President's Education Advisory Committee is moving toward a national examination. The National Education Goals Panel chaired by Governor Romer of Colorado is to issue an annual report card on the states. The Congress is seriously considering at least one bill that would establish a similar report card panel. The Business Roundtable, comprised of the nation's 200 largest corporations has made a 10-year commitment to a partnership with each of the 50 states to change the process and product of education. The centerpiece of their public policy agenda is an outcome-based strategy. Kentucky has already legislated an aggressive outcome strategy. Other states are presently considering such an approach. A comprehensive outcomes-based strategy is essential to provoke the degree of systems change necessary to yield the results we desire. There are at least seven essential features of an outcomes based approach. First, one must examine the underlying assumptions that provide the lens through which one will identify the outcomes to be achieved. In education, two are crucial. The first is the assumption that all children can learn at very significantly higher levels. Expectation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The second assumption is that we know how to teach successfully children from all backgrounds to those significantly higher levels.

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Effective Services for Young Children: Report of a Workshop The second essential feature is to identify the outcomes one expects the system to produce with all students (clients, patients, participants). If low expectation outcomes are identified, that will inevitably define the results; if high expectation outcomes are identified, students, staff and the community will more likely achieve them. In Kentucky, 10 outcomes areas were picked: Communication and math skills; Students' ability to apply core concepts and principles from mathematics, the sciences, the arts, the humanities, social studies, and practical living studies; Self-sufficiency (physical and mental fitness, creativity, ethical decision making); Citizenship (team member, service, values, other cultures); Thinking and problem solving; Connecting and integrating knowledge; Dropout reduction; Attendance increase; Healthier students; and Postgraduation success. Each of these areas is being defined in terms of indicators so that their attainment can be measured. The third essential feature of an outcomes-based system is that one must have assessment strategies that are as rich as the outcomes one wishes to achieve. Outcomes that cannot be or are not measured will soon become irrelevant. If high expectation outcomes such as knowledge application, thinking, problem solving and knowledge integration are to be emphasized assessment strategies such as performance based assessment, essays, portfolios, and student projects will become more prominent. The fourth essential feature is that there must be consequence attached to a system's success or failure in achieving results with its students (clients, patients, participants). Incentives and disincentives related to performance by schools should become routine. The reward and penalties must be designed to ensure that those the system is to serve are helped and not harmed. Parts of the system that fail should be helped to improve, not simply punished. Success must be carefully defined to avoid unintended negative consequences. In Kentucky, with certain very good results a school staff could receive as much as 40 percent of annual salary as a bonus. At the other extreme, staff in a school that is losing substantial ground with it students could have tenure suspended, resulting in dismissal. Unsuccessful schools are eligible for school improvement funds, technical assistance, special access to staff development, and research-based instructional activi-

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Effective Services for Young Children: Report of a Workshop ties. In Kentucky, the school is the unit of measurement; "success" reflects student performance on the outcomes outlined above; a school's performance is measured only against itself. The fifth essential feature of an outcomes-based system is that those who are closest to the student (client, patient, participant) who are held accountable for achieving the outcomes must have the power to decide what strategies will be used to accomplish the objectives. In Kentucky, school staffs augmented by parents will select personnel, make budget decisions, select curriculum and instructional materials, decide on the school schedule, assign teachers and students within the school, and adopt the disciplinary code. In a variety of ways the central office and the school board also play an important role in these decisions, but school-based personnel are not merely consulted; they have real authority. The sixth essential feature is that those who must achieve the outcomes and be held accountable in a high stakes way must be educated to have the capacity to do so. In education that means significant changes in both preservice and in-service training. The seventh essential feature of an outcomes-based system is that certain enabling conditions must exist if significantly high results are to achieved with all students (clients, patients, participants). High-expectation outcomes cannot occur without defining them, but they will not occur by that act alone. The enabling conditions in Kentucky include: prekindergarten for all disadvantaged students; a family resource center in every elementary school with 20 percent or more poor children; ungraded primary schools; a $200 million technology initiative; the fiscal capacity for one-third of the children to go to school the equivalent of year round. What I have described is an outcomes-based system. I would argue that all seven features are essential. If one is removed, 86 percent of the effort does not remain; 0 percent remains. I have used education in general and Kentucky in particular to illustrate the points. However, I believe the essential features are generic and applicable to human service systems other than education as well. The generic features in summary are: (a) assumptions; (b) outcome definition; (c) adequate assessment; (d) rewards and penalties; (e) site-based decision making; (f) staff development; (g) enabling conditions. Clearly, it will require a change in thinking and structures (as is required in education too) but the health and social service systems should be equally susceptible to change provoked by the same features.