Leading with vision

The Center for Innovation in Education promotes and supports educators working to find new and creative ways to empower students, connect learners with meaningful experiences and supports, and build a system of personalized learning. The organization brings together an experienced team:

gw1GENE WILHOIT, executive director, has led the Council of Chief State School Officers and National Association of State Boards of Education in Washington, D.C., and served as state education commissioner in both Arkansas and Kentucky. He is a well-recognized voice for high expectations, responsive accountability systems, and innovation in student learning experiences and outcomes. Gene’s career began as a teacher, and his work continues to focus on the inspiration and empowerment gained from new knowledge and skills. e-mail Gene


lp1LINDA PITTENGER, chief operating officer, worked as strategic initiative director for the Innovation Lab Network at the Council of Chief State School Officers in Washington, D.C., before returning to Kentucky to launch the Center. Prior to joining CCSSO, Linda was director of Secondary and Virtual Learning at the Kentucky Department of Education, a title that followed years of helping to lead Kentucky’s efforts to wire and connect schools statewide to the Internet and electronic learning opportunities.
e-mail Linda


SarahPictureSARAH LENCH, senior associate for research and partnerships, was formerly the director of policy and innovation at the Educational Policy Improvement Center (EPIC), where she worked with national organizations, state agencies, local districts, and classroom teachers to design and explore new ways of addressing college and career readiness, student agency, systems of assessment, accountability, and digital learning. Prior to EPIC, Sarah worked on several research initiatives looking at arts education policy, programs, and access. e-mail Sarah


CARMEN COLEMAN, teacher and leader outreach, has served as a district superintendent in Danville, Ky., and elementary school supervisor in Lexington, the state’s second-largest school system. Her first job as principal involved opening a new school, which followed years as a successful teacher. As superintendent, Carmen promoted innovation as a statewide education focus, and led her district in providing new options for students in project-based learning, world-language acquisition, performance assessment, and presentations of learning. e-mail Carmen


lh1LESLEE HELLMANN, executive assistant, coordinates all areas of the Center’s work. She spent 27 years on the staff at the Kentucky Department of Education, including senior executive secretary in the Office of Next Generation Learners and co-chairing the Cross-Agency Support Staff Team that streamlined work across the department and initiated its intranet capacity. Prior to her experience in education, Leslee worked as a veterinary technician. e-mail Leslee


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Working to transform learning

computerkidsOur vision is that all learners will be able to find and fulfill their full potential in college, career, and life — becoming engaged citizens ready to succeed in a changing world. We believe that the public good is served by raising the bar of expectations for individual learners, for professional educators, and for the education system itself.

Putting learners and learning at the center of any design system, the Center strives to be a national voice to build consensus around a new, more coherent vision of education and to help states develop and act on robust theories of change. A unique part of the Center’s approach is working in cooperation with state education agencies and local districts on innovation priorities, so that lessons learned can inform state policy.

We maintain a strong focus on bringing together diverse perspectives around complex problems and engaging practitioners with the research community to uncover promising practices and draw new insights.

This site captures the Center’s work as well as our commitment to strong action in key areas where innovation can mean stronger outcomes for students.

“The goals we have established for all of our children to be ready for life’s opportunities and challenges are the right goals for them and for our nation. The ‘schooling’ experience — as it now exists — is out of alignment with the lofty goals we have set. We will reach our aspirations only when we cast aside historic perceptions and practices about how one acquires knowledge and skills.”

— Gene Wilhoit, executive director

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Sharing resources, ideas

wifibusIt was an innovation mindset that created wi-fi buses in the small district in Eminence, Ky. The school had arranged for — and  encouraged — many of its high school students to enroll in dual-credit courses at a college about 40 miles away. To give students an opportunity to earn college credit and stay plugged into academic work, the district found a way to wire a bus with the capacity to allow students to be online while they were also in transit. An interesting step toward anytime, anywhere learning!

The Center is eager to share news, reports, and ideas that show promising ways that educators are working to boldly transform the learning experience for students.

We encourage educators to contribute ideas along with materials we are compiling — and witnessing — in our work at the Center. We hope this section of our site will inspire and help spread the enthusiasm for experiences that take advantage of the amazing opportunities for students to learn, grow, and succeed.

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Seeing the big picture

outdoorlabWe undertake work in direct response to needs coming from the states with whom we work. We engage only where we identify unmet need that the Center is uniquely suited to fulfill. As we pursue work already underway, we continue to solicit feedback from states and partners about what might be on the horizon. The following are examples of areas that have been identified as possible next stages of work. We invite comments and suggestions.

Leading for transformation: People see the critical role of leadership in places where meaningful transformation is taking place. On the other hand, people see places where leadership is dampening innovation and holding back the spread of new ideas. The role of building level leaders is changing rapidly in innovating states and districts but, on the whole, professional leadership standards and development programs are not keeping up. The responsibilities and strengths needed in a leader whose primary role is to manage a traditional school unit are vastly different from those of a leader whose mission is to transform an education system. We believe it is time to bring new thinking to the field of leadership development that is aligned with enlightened approaches to teacher effectiveness as well as accountability for continuous improvement within the profession, generally. The focus of our inquiry is at the building level.

Implications for early childhood education: The work of the Innovation Lab Network focuses on elementary, secondary and transition to postsecondary education. As states wrestle with definitions of college and career readiness and undertake work to operationalize those definitions throughout the education enterprise, states are asking more questions about implications for teaching and learning among children on the younger end of the spectrum. The Center is investigating the potential to link the developmental frameworks of deeper learning skills and dispositions underway now to the field of early childhood education.

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