By Matt Repka, Policy Analyst
In late October, the State Board attended the iNACOL Symposium in Palm Springs, California.
iNACOL, short for the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, is a D.C.-area organization that advocates for online, competency-based, and personalized learning opportunities for students. Since 2017, the organization has expanded to focus more broadly on personalized learning and promote policies that advance student-centered experiences.
On the first day, we attended pre-conference workshops, an opening keynote, and a surprise: iNACOL itself would be undergoing a surprise rebrand—effective immediately. Now known as the Aurora Institute, the organization formerly known as iNACOL would continue to focus on innovation and the transformation of education systems, but under a new banner that reflects its expanded, not-just-online-learning focus.
Over the next two days, my colleagues and I had the opportunity to sit in on keynote addresses, conference breakout sessions, and workshops with incredible people from all over the country (and beyond). But we were also there to lead two sessions of our own: one workshop on empowering student voice in policy discussions led by SBOE policy analyst Alex Jue and one on stakeholder engagement in education and the work of the State Board’s task forces.
In “Elevating the Hidden Voices of a Community: Equity and Authentic Stakeholder Engagement,” we had the opportunity to break down some of the work the State Board has accomplished in the District over the past two years with respect to community voice and stakeholder engagement around state-level education policy.
In a role-playing exercise, we assigned titles and schools to each of our attendees and asked them to consider the ramifications of a new school rating systems, the changes they would like to see implemented in their schools, and the barriers they might face. We ended the presentation with a discussion of the real work that the State Board has done on high school graduation requirements and implementing the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, bringing community voices into the discussion and working closely with state and local-level education officials to ensure residents are included in the policymaking process.
All of us at SBOE are proud of the work we’ve been able to do on behalf of District residents over the past few years, and I’m thankful that we were given the opportunity to share it with educators and policymakers from all over the country last month. I hope to have the chance to return next year, when the Aurora Institute Symposium will take place in San Antonio, Texas.