Director Field Services, WestEd
Under Ruth McKenna’s leadership, WestEd initiated the Local Accountability Professional Development Series (LAPDS) in early 2003 to help school districts meet the tough accountability requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Through LAPDS, McKenna has helped districts throughout the United States blend research-based instructional support with data-management technology to create a customized local assessment and accountability system. District educators, through LAPDS, learn how to accurately guide and track learning — demonstrably using student data to improve their schools.
Annual standardized testing required by many states and by NCLB helps gauge how each school district is doing. LAPDS gives districts the opportunity to monitor how each of their students are doing throughout the year so that instruction can be adjusted accordingly. District educators report that training provided by McKenna and her colleagues has given them a much better understanding of standards-based instruction. By developing an internal capacity to monitor and improve instruction, educators are able to shift their focus from imposed external measures of success or failure to an internal system of improvement.
McKenna’s work has been a key component in WestEd’s successful collaboration with Edusoft. Software such as that developed by Edusoft helps streamline and customize much of the effort of a local accountability system and accelerates and improves the testing-reporting results-adjusting instruction process.
Prior to joining WestEd, McKenna served as Superintendent of New Haven (California) Unified School District, where she led the district to adopt graduation requirements that guaranteed the eligibility of every student to the California State University and University of California systems. Specifically, McKenna helped the district implement the California Content Standards, establish multiple measures for student performance evaluation, open preschool programs at every district elementary school, and establish school-level accountability for students at risk of failure.
Under McKenna’s leadership, the district’s students surged well above the state average in the following areas:
* participation in high school courses required to be admitted to the University of California: 11 percent higher than state average;
* percentage of eighth graders proficient or advanced in Algebra: 14 percent higher than state average;
* participation rate in biology and chemistry courses: 17 percent higher; and
* closed gap between lowest- and highest-performing schools on API 2000-2003: 46-point reduction. In addition, the lowest scoring school on API 2003 was 100 points higher than in 2000.
Earlier, as Associate Superintendent in the New Haven School District, McKenna helped move New Haven to the forefront in technology integration in the classroom and the workplace.
During 1995-1998, McKenna served as Chief Deputy Superintendent for the California Department of Education, where she helped implement strategies for education reform. As part of the Challenge Initiative, McKenna assembled representatives from school districts statewide to draft the first set of academic standards for the state, known as the Challenge Standards.
McKenna founded the New Haven Schools Foundation and led the Citizen's Advisory Committee on Race and Ethnic Relations, which later became a model program in Alameda County, California. She has been a member of both the Board of the Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center and Education Committee of the Alameda County Economic Development Advisory Board. Through the years, she has represented the school district to the Union City Chamber of Commerce.
McKenna received a BA in English from the University of California, Davis, and an MS in human resources from Golden Gate University.