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8/17/2016

GUEST BLOG: 5 Promising Practices from High-Performing Schools - Bobby Moore, Battelle for Kids

By: Guest Blogger

essa10.jpgThe Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to identify and provide comprehensive support to improve their lowest-performing schools, but gives them more flexibility to choose what strategies to use to reach that goal. This creates opportunities for states to partner with school leaders, teachers, and parents to pursue innovative ideas for moving education forward for all students. It also presents some challenges, among them:

What strategies have proven successful in accelerating the growth of all students?

For more than a decade, Battelle for Kids has brought together nearly 100 urban, suburban, and rural Ohio school districts to collaborate and innovate around promising practices for student success through the SOAR Learning & Leading Collaborative. We also partnered with the Ohio Department of Education to sponsor regional workshops featuring the promising practices of teachers and leaders in districts that have had great success in closing achievement gaps and improving student growth. And, we surveyed and held discussions with central office staff, principals, and teachers from high-growth buildings and districts in Ohio to help all educators learn what works to accelerate student learning.

Five high-growth strategies emerged from our engagement with these districts that could help schools across the country improve learning opportunities for their students: 

1. Limit goals and initiatives to focus on student learning.

One of the most consistent characteristics of high-performing schools is their ability to cut through the noise and stay focused on the core mission of educating students. While remaining compliant with state and federal requirements, high performing schools continually evaluate what they’re doing and will eliminate or suspend initiatives that are not directly contributing to improved student learning.  

2. Strategically leverage time, talent and resources. 

Rather than viewing time as a never-ending challenge, educators in high-performing schools embrace the challenge of time as an opportunity to optimize their strengths and refine their focus. Their most important questions are: What are our priorities, and how can we use time differently to better focus on our priorities? Effective and purposeful teacher collaboration is also an essential element in high performing schools. These schools also have implemented Multi-Tier Support System/Response to Intervention (MTSS/RTI) with fidelity. High-performing schools squeeze out every possible minute during the school day for high-quality instruction in math and reading, intervention and enrichment time, and teacher collaboration. 

3. Develop a balanced assessment approach. 

Nearly every high-performing school we discovered stressed the importance of developing the capacity of teachers to use formative instructional practices, design sound assessments, and use data from short-cycle/common assessments to understand where students are, where students are headed, and what students must do to get there. A rigorous, balanced assessment system is the only way to understand connections between the curriculum, standards, and how those concepts translate into student learning. Although this work is difficult and challenging, high-performing schools never abandoned their focus on pedagogy. 

4. Use multiple measures to inform improvement.

High-performing schools understand the importance of using multiple measures, including growth measures, to improve teaching and student learning. Sir Ken Robinson says if you focus too much on one set of data, you may miss lots of other strengths, talents, and innovation happening in your district. These schools collect and analyze data from year-end state tests, surveys of teachers, parents, students, and other internal and external stakeholders, as well as data from other districts against which they benchmark their performance. 

5. Empower teachers and develop leaders.

You may have heard that “Culture trumps strategy.” So what is your strategy for developing a great culture? A common theme across high-performing districts and schools is strong leadership at all levels. Empower means to give or delegate power, enable, or permit. High-performing schools empower, coach, and support their teachers. They also establish ambitious goals and hold high expectations for every staff member. By allowing teachers to help create the world in which they work, greater levels of engagement and ownership follow. 

Conclusion

As states and school districts prepare for full implementation of ESSA in the 2017‒2018 school year, these promising practices can serve as a guide to educators across the country for moving education forward and helping all students succeed.

Read Five Strategies for Creating a High-Growth School for more examples and suggested practices from high-performing schools. 

Bobby Moore is a Senior Director of Strategic Engagement at Battelle for Kids. Connect with him on Twitter at @DrBobbyMoore. This post originally appeared on the Battelle for Kids Learning Hub on March 3, 2016.

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9/7/2017

Are You Asking the Right Questions to Drive Continuous Improvement?

By: Jo Hannah Ward

9-7-17-Purple-Rings.pngHumans have an innate desire to learn and improve. We work to improve our health through nutrition and exercise. We also might set a schedule or use tools and apps to collect data and track our progress on our smart phones. We focus on changing our behavior (exercise and nutrition) to impact our data (the number of steps to help improve our cardiovascular system and our weight). Sometimes we join a gym, engage in group activities or obtain a coach. Along the way, we also ask ourselves and others in our lives questions that might lead to greater improvement: “What did I do to lose a pound this week?” or “How can I find time to walk in the evenings?” As we work toward our goals, we are continuously evaluating our personal data and engaging with others in ways that help us reach our goals. Continuous improvement in schools is very similar.

Just as we each have personal goals for which we continuously strive, Ohio’s education system has goals. Our focus for education is that all students begin school ready for kindergarten, actively engage in learning and graduate prepared for college and careers. Each district and school is working toward those goals and toward ensuring all student groups have equal access to high-quality instruction. Schools and districts that want higher achievement for all students should continuously plan for improvement.

The Ohio Improvement Process (OIP) is the process by which Ohio’s schools and districts examine their data and continually respond to it with plans for improvement. Although Ohio’s most challenged schools use the Ohio Improvement Process, all schools and districts can use the process as a means of continuous improvement. The following items are seven key elements of the Ohio Improvement Process:

  1. Aligns vision, mission and philosophy. Every step of the continuous improvement planning process should always consider the vision, mission and philosophy or beliefs of the district and community school. The questions should be, “Do the strategies, actions and resource allocations support our vision, mission, beliefs and goals?” and “Are our behaviors and decisions congruent with our vision, mission, beliefs and goals?”
  2. Is continuous and recursive. Districts fully committed to high performance do not view continuous improvement as a process that occurs in addition to what they do. Continuous improvement is the core work at every level of the organization and, by nature, repeats itself.
  3. Relies on quality data interpretation. An effective planning process is based on the ability of the district, schools and classrooms to use data to name critical problems, develop a focused plan, check progress of the plan and evaluate the plan’s impact.
  4. Is collaborative and collegial. Every plan gets its strength from the people who are committed to it. Engaging the community in understanding the plan will make it stronger and help others become invested in making it work. Make sure the plan reflects the joint thinking and planning of collaborative teams that include businesses, community members, students and families who support plan development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
  5. Ensures communication with those who are affected by the success of the district or community school at each stage. Districts and community schools may have the same needs that their communities or school buildings have. Gathering their feedback may help the planning team better understand the situation. Multiple opportunities for communication and feedback should be included throughout the process.
  6. Produces one focused, integrated plan that directs all district or community school work and resources. Districts and community schools have had many plans (for example, technology, professional development, Title 1, Title 2, special education, career and technical education) for many reasons (basis of funding applications or federal or state requirements). Multiple plans diminish the district’s or community school’s ability to respond to the most critical needs. By developing a single, focused plan that responds to the most critical needs, the district or community school will prioritize resources to achieve lasting success.
  7. Sets high expectations for changes to student performance and adult practices. The purpose of having a thoughtful planning process is to produce a plan that will change student and adult behaviors. This leads to improved instructional practice and student performance.

More than 400 districts and thousands of schools across Ohio engage in the Ohio Improvement Process. The Ohio Improvement Process is now 10 years old (Happy Birthday OIP). The Department has improved and updated the process through a continuous feedback loop, illustrated in the graphic at the beginning of this article.

For the 10-year anniversary, we have the biggest update coming your way soon! We have simplified the four stages and five steps in our current model into a single model. In the model, we move between steps in a not-so-linear fashion. Here is a sneak peek at the new look of the upgraded model:

OIP-New-Model-1.png

For comparison, here is the current model:

Old OIP Model

You will notice in the new model that supporting implementation is key along every turn. Please stay tuned — in the near future, we will release updated Ohio Improvement Process resources, tools and visuals. 

Jo Hannah Ward is director of the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the Ohio Department of Education, where she helps Ohio’s most challenged schools and districts improve outcomes for their students. You can learn more about Jo Hannah by clicking here.

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9/13/2017

Superintendent's Blog: Busting the Myth - Toward Educational Success for Low-income Students

By: Paolo DeMaria

ThinkstockPhotos-587513796.jpgI still run into people who buy in to the myth that low-income students can’t achieve academically at the same level as other students. I’m so discouraged and sad when this happens — because it is fundamentally wrong. What’s worse is that this myth gets a boost every time someone runs a correlation between levels of poverty and academic achievement and doesn’t take the time to explain what it means.

This week, the state will issue school and district report cards reflecting the 2016-2017 school year. The release of report cards is an important annual occurrence that gives Ohioans an opportunity to gauge how well schools are doing relative to academic standards established by the state as measured through the state’s system of standardized tests. Ohioans should understand that the report cards are only one gauge of the quality of our schools and that many aspects of the outcomes achieved by students are not reflected on the report cards. A more complete picture of what happens in schools can be gained by visiting them and talking with teachers, administrators, parents and students. (On this year’s report cards, for districts that have chosen to do so, we are including links to district profiles that allow users to see more information about accomplishments and achievements that go beyond report card measures.)

Each year, at the time the report cards are released, the misleading and incorrect assertion is made that the only thing that state tests measure is students’ socio-economic circumstances. Number crunchers will engage in the annual ritual of running a correlation between district performance and the percentage of economically disadvantaged students and boldly pronounce, with a sweeping statement, that schools with higher concentrations of economically disadvantaged students do worse on state tests.

For example, one report[1] released after last year’s report cards contained a graph (shown at the end of this post) that took data for 1.6 million students being educated by about 100,000 teachers in more than 3,000 buildings in more than 600 districts and reduced them to seven data points. These seven data points plot the average performance of districts within an average of district percentages of low-income students within seven specified ranges of the state’s Performance Index measure. The report then concluded that “the graph clearly shows the strong negative relationship between PI score and economic disadvantagement.”

There is no doubt that poverty impacts children’s knowledge acquisition and skill development in profound and significant ways. Poverty is related to housing instability, homelessness, food insecurity, adverse health issues, traumatic event experiences, brain development and much more. All these issues create challenges to students’ success in school. Many high-poverty students start kindergarten not ready to learn and often stay behind as they advance from grade to grade. The persistent achievement gaps have implications for these children’s lives, as well as their communities, our state and our nation.

If, rather than looking at seven data points, we look at every school, and even every student, we see reasons for hope. We can find schools that have a better handle on how to help students overcome the challenges of poverty and reach success. We see low-income students who achieve at the advanced and accelerated levels. We see the possibilities of what could be rather than being confined by what is.

Consider the graph below developed using 2015-2016 school year data. It has more than 3,200 data points. Each one represents one school building. Why is it different from the previously discussed graph? Because it shows details. It shows that what is going on in Ohio’s schools shouldn’t be reduced to seven data points. Clearly, there are school buildings that have high percentages of economically disadvantaged students that, in fact, have higher performance indices (see the red circled area). This graph gives us the evidence to believe that, in fact, it is possible to help low-income students achieve success and that possibility exists to bust any correlation that might exist.

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Click graph to enlarge.

Are there enough of these successful schools? Of course not. But by knowing they exist, believing that others can achieve the same outcomes and applying our skills at understanding the dynamics of schools and transformation, we can make progress. Solid research and analysis (see my favorites listed below) shed some light on what it takes. It’s about excellent leadership; high standards and expectations; quality curriculum and instructional practices; a culture of collaboration and excellence among staff; school climate that is focused on learning; supports for students; parent and community engagement and partnerships; and a commitment to continuous improvement. Notably, it isn’t about top-down mandates or significant additional financial resources. The right combination of reform strategies for each school has to emerge from the collective work of the staff in the school with input from the local community in order to ensure the necessary buy-in and increase the likelihood of success.

This kind of customized school improvement is hard work. No two schools are alike, and the specific mix of strategies will be different for every school. Fortunately, there is renewed energy around taking on the challenge of improving educational outcomes for low-income students. The Ohio Department of Education and the State Board of Education are committed to this work. By all of us joining together with the shared belief that we can make a difference, and with the knowledge that committed school teams can identify and implement evidence-based solutions that will work, we can make a real difference for thousands of students and for our future. 

Ohio Education Policy Institute, FY16 Local Report Card Initial Analysis

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Click graph to enlarge.

Paolo DeMaria is superintendent of public instruction of Ohio, where he works to support an education system of nearly 3,600 public schools and more than 1.6 million students.


List of Favorite Resources:

Baroody, Karen, Rho, Lois and Huberlie, Ali. Back from the Brink: How a Bold Vision and a Focus on Resources Can Drive System Improvement. Education Resource Strategies. April 2015. https://www.erstrategies.org/cms/files/2862--lawrence-case-study-back-from-the-brink.pdf

Berger, Ron. An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students. Heinemann: Portsmouth, NH. 2003.

Bryk, Anthony S. et. al. Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better. Harvard Education Press: Cambridge, MA. 2015.

Elmore, Richard. School Reform from the Inside Out: Policy, Practice, and Performance. Harvard Education Press: Cambridge, MA. 2004.

Hagelskamp, Carolin and DiStasi, Christopher. Failure is Not an Option: How Principals, Teachers, Students and Parents from Ohio’s High-Achieving, High-Poverty Schools Explain Their Success. Public Agenda. 2012. https://www.publicagenda.org/files/FailureIsNotAnOption_PublicAgenda_2012.pdf

Levin, Ben. How to Change 5000 Schools: A Practical and Positive Approach for Leading Change at Every Level. Harvard Education Press: Cambridge, MA. 2008.

Meyer, Peter. Needles in a Haystack: Lessons from Ohio’s high-performing urban high schools. Thomas Fordham Institute. December 2012. http://edex.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/publication/pdfs/NeedlesHighSchoolEdition_6_0.pdf

Suffren, Quentin and Wallace, Theodore. Needles in a Haystack: Lessons from Ohio’s high performing, high-need urban schools. Thomas Fordham Institute. May 2010. http://edex.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/publication/pdfs/Needles_Full_Report_10.pdf


[1] Fleeter, Howard. FY16 Local Report Card Initial Analysis. Ohio Education Policy Institute (OEPI). Sept. 20, 2016.

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9/19/2017

How Stakeholders Impacted Ohio’s ESSA Application

By: Chris Woolard

Recently, the State Board of Education unanimously approved Ohio’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) consolidated plan application and the Ohio Department of Education submitted it to the U.S. Department of Education. It will have four months to review, comment and possibly ask for additional information. Many observers had thought that the feds would take a hands-off approach to state applications, but early indications suggest that is not the case. Based on feedback that other states have received, the federal peer review process has been technical and critical, and reviewers have been stringently interpreting the ESSA law.

It is important to point out that the ESSA application is a technical document, with several prescriptive and complicated technical requirements. The ESSA “state consolidated plan” is the application that all states must complete in order to receive hundreds of millions of federal dollars in education support. The vast majority of this money is then sent to schools and districts, with a focus on supporting disadvantaged students, activities such as English language arts and math supports, after-school programs, teacher professional development, additional resources for homeless students and a host of other programs. At its heart, ESSA is a bill about equity that truly embraces ensuring success for “every student.” Once approved by the U.S. Department of Education, Ohio is tasked with implementing the technical requirements of the federal law.

It has been more than 18 months since Congress passed the law, and now that Ohio submitted our plan, it is a good time to reflect on how stakeholders played a major role in contributing to Ohio’s ESSA submission.

Ohio originally planned to submit our application for the first deadline in April 2017 and hosted a plethora of statewide stakeholder opportunities. After 10 regional meetings with 1,500 participants, 11 webinars with 3,100 participants, an online survey that received 11,200 responses and the initial posting of the draft, stakeholders asked for more time to dig into discussion on the draft. In response to this request, Ohio delayed its submission and conducted a thorough review of the draft with the State Board of Education and major education associations.

After the first draft of the application was published, stakeholders expressed concerns about many issues that were not addressed in the draft template. Many of the high-level concerns that were expressed were issues that are not specifically required to be addressed in the ESSA template. For example, stakeholders were very clear that testing concerns were on the mind of educators. Since then, the state superintendent convened an advisory group to make recommendations, and the General Assembly has removed the requirement for the fourth and sixth grade social studies tests. Likewise, many educators expressed concerns about the educator evaluation system. ESSA removed the requirement for teacher evaluations linked to student growth, so it is now a state decision on how to define effective teaching. The Educator Standards Board was convened and made a series of recommendations to improve the evaluation system. Both the testing and evaluation system concerns were brought to the Department’s attention — however, neither were directly related to the ESSA application. Stakeholders have since provided, and will continue to provide, major input on these issues that are Ohio policies — not ESSA policies. The work continues, even though it is not directly reflected in the ESSA application.

Outside of these larger issues, stakeholders played a major role in developing the technical details of the ESSA plan. Stakeholders don’t agree on all issues, and on many topics, the Department received competing feedback on all sides of a related issue. The Department’s role was to synthesize the feedback received, align it with Ohio-built policies that are already in law and build a plan that meets the federal requirements.

There were several ESSA flexibilities that stakeholders strongly supported. For example, ESSA provides flexibility for advanced eighth grade students who are taking algebra I in middle school to take the corresponding algebra I test rather than also taking the eighth grade test — thus double testing. Ohio has been a national leader in this based on a previous waiver, and nearly one-third of eighth graders are enrolled in algebra I. Not only that, Ohio previously received an expanded waiver to allow this same flexibility with other end-of-course exams (English language arts I, biology, etc.). This represents a major reduction in the number of tests taken, and Ohio is proposing to continue with this policy.

Many stakeholders have expressed concerns that school report cards are too focused only on state test results. While ESSA continues to have rigid requirements on using information from state tests to ensure that all students are succeeding, it does provide additional flexibilities that paint a larger picture about what is happening in schools. Ohio is proposing using chronic absenteeism (some districts already are doing great work) as the ESSA-required measure of school quality and student success, while piloting school climate surveys and other measures that may be included on future report cards when technically feasible and data are available. Many school administrators asked for the opportunity to share more about the good things happening across their districts in a structured way through the report cards. Several districts have quality profiles that describe accomplishments and other important details (see example). Ohio is addressing this feedback and, in fact, will include links on the upcoming report cards for district profiles and narratives.

Another major change in ESSA is the federal government walking away from prescriptive models on how to improve our most struggling schools. Instead, districts and schools will have much more discretion in designing local, evidence-based improvement plans based on the needs of their students. During the feedback process, stakeholders asked for more information and details on this process to ensure their ability to have local plans and produce locally driven evidence of strategies. Additionally, the Department has committed to developing a local engagement toolkit to assist schools and districts in collaborating with their communities to determine priorities for Title funds and setting goals for continuous improvement.

These are just a few examples, but throughout the ESSA template, there are areas where stakeholders directly impacted the application, including phasing in the N-size adjustment, using parent surveys to improve the report cards, focusing on connecting 21st century grants to local school improvement processes, exempting English learners from accountability measures during their first two years, exploring military readiness as a college and career readiness measure, updating and refining several report card measures (Value-Added, Gap Closing, high school indicators), and providing support for disadvantaged students to participate in advanced coursework such as Advanced Placement courses.

The Department is encouraged by the thousands of Ohioans who dedicated their time and expertise to improving our plan for supporting districts, schools and students across the Buckeye state. So…a giant THANK YOU to all the educators and stakeholders who have provided feedback in this process. The process doesn’t end here though. The main work of ESSA occurs with the development and implementation of local improvement plans. Stakeholder engagement also will be a crucial element of those local plans.

Chris Woolard is senior executive director for Accountability and Continuous Improvement for the Ohio Department of Education. You can learn more about Chris by clicking here.

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10/12/2017

Forgetting About Friendship: Making the Best of Your Teacher Teams

By: Virginia Ressa

GettyImages-504875442.jpgImprovement efforts, like the Ohio Improvement Process (OIP), have advocated for a move away from teachers working autonomously toward participating in teacher-based teams. The goal of teaming is to provide a forum for teachers to share ideas, collaborate, learn from each other and, ultimately, better meet the needs of students and improve student achievement. However, just like putting four middle school students in a group does not necessarily result in collaborative learning, assigning teachers to a team does not always result in effective collaboration.

I worked on a team of five dedicated middle school teachers. We met once a week during a common planning period. What did we do with all that time? It’s hard to say. Some days we focused on one student, inviting a parent or guardian to join us. We talked a bit about students’ work. For instance, who was and wasn’t doing homework, who was falling behind, who needed a phone call home or to see the guidance counselor. We planned field trips, dances and other special events. We shared stories and laughed about the crazy things students do in middle school.

More important is what we didn’t do. We didn’t bring our lesson plans to the table for feedback. We didn’t plan collaborative, interdisciplinary lessons. We didn’t share assessment data to determine student needs. We didn’t talk about instruction or about trying to improve our instructional practices.

Since my tenure in middle school, I have learned a lot about the value of working in teams to analyze practice and collaborate on finding solutions. As teachers, we know that using evidence of student learning can help us plan instruction that meets the needs of students. However, we often shy away from, even avoid, discussing assessment data and instruction with our colleagues. I know this isn’t true of every team of teachers, but it is a barrier for many.

Why is it so hard for us to share our data and solicit feedback from colleagues? During my research on teacher-based teams, I read quite a few reports that suggested some very thoughtful factors contributing to this barrier. I think you’ll quickly recognize some of these:

  1. Lack of trust: “What if a team member tells my principal about a mistake I made?”
  2. Fear of criticism: “What if the team thinks my lesson plan is really bad?”
  3. Fear of failing: “My students might not score as well on the assessment as students in other teachers’ classes.”
  4. Desire to work autonomously: “I’d rather just work by myself — I have my own style.” 

These are all valid concerns and could undoubtedly get in the way of collaboration. Experts suggest many solutions. School leaders could conduct trust-building activities and provide more training, or teams could utilize discussion protocols to keep conversations positive. There are a plethora of team-building solutions. Go ahead and do a Google search for “building collaborative teams.” I got more than 3 million results. In other words, we are not at a loss for solutions. Though it is hard to find a solution before you’ve clearly defined the root causes of the “problem.” Why do we distrust each other? Why do we fear criticism and critique? Does it really matter whose students perform better?

Through my research, I found that one of the reasons we struggle with collaboration actually is very simple: We want to retain their relationships and friendships and fear that having critical discussions about instructional practices will be too contentious and possibly endanger those relationships. We don’t all teach the same, and when we discuss instruction, especially lessons plans we have personally created, critical dialog is likely to offend someone. I might offend the department chairperson who makes key decisions about scheduling and distributes resources. I might offend my friend who teaches next door to me. Then there is the first-year teacher who I want to encourage and not discourage. Part of working in schools is creating and maintaining relationships, but we often avoid critical discussions of pedagogy, assessment and student achievement to preserve those relationships.

The glitch is, when teams avoid conflict, they miss out on the benefits of cognitive conflict and the learning it produces. Researchers have found that in their efforts to maintain harmony and “get along,” teams avoid any real discussion of differing opinions or divergent thinking (De Lima, 2001). Unfortunately, without dissent and divergent thinking, we suppress creativity and innovation.

Let’s go back to Google. This time try Google Scholar and search for “forgetting about friendship” (use the quotation marks). As you will see, researchers have been looking at the role of friendship in professional learning communities and teacher-based teams. It turns out, I think a little ironically, that our efforts to maintain harmony and create friendships are actually getting in the way of collaboration and learning. In order for practice to change and reforms to take hold, we need to go beyond comfortable conversations and get used to difficult conversations that challenge practice. Conflict and debate are inherent to social interaction and promote change; teacher teams are no different (De Lima, 2001). 

Video.PNG
The Teaching Channel provides video resources for teachers including this one showing an effective teacher team in action.

Virginia Ressa is an education program specialist at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on helping schools and educators meet the needs of diverse learners through professional learning. You can learn more about Virginia by clicking here.


References

De Lima, J. A. (2001). Forgetting about friendship: Using conflict in teacher communities as a catalyst for school change. Journal of Educational Change, 2(2), 97-122. 

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11/16/2017

Curiouser and Curiouser: How Well Are You Using Your Data?

By: Jo Hannah Ward

GettyImages-538174030-1.jpg

“Curiouser and curiouser!” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

We should all strive to use curiosity and inquiry to propel our work forward. Imagine for a moment that I shared with you the exact piece of information you need to improve something. Imagine I cup this in my hands, I respectfully bow and gently place the knowledge in your hands.

If I were to do this, when you open your hands, you find this note: 

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
― Leo Tolstoy

To change ourselves in such a way that we, in turn, improve others, most of us would start with some data. We probably would invest the most time looking at four types of data: achievement or student performance, perception, program and demographic.

However, the question remains — are we using that data well?

Many of you may be familiar with the publication Moving Your Numbers. It follows the journey of five districts from around the country. These districts share their stories of using assessment and accountability data to impact a positive change. What did we learn from these examples? Although the districts instituted different organizational structures, each implemented a set of key practices that were essential. These practices include:

  1. Using data well;
  2. Focusing on goals;
  3. Selecting and implementing shared instructional practices;
  4. Implementing deeply;
  5. Monitoring and providing feedback and support;
  6. Inquiring and learning.

Wooster City School District was one of the five districts showcased in Moving your Numbers. One of the areas of advice from Wooster is to “use relevant data to focus critical conversations about need and progress and make sure that team members from across the district are working with district-wide data, not just data from the schools they represent.”

When I talk about data I mean more than just the “big” data, like the report card. Data use has the greatest impact when building and teacher teams use data to look at student performance and adult instructional practices and when data use is ongoing.

In Move Your Numbers, the conversations that teams had about data moved from just looking at the data to deeper discussions. They began to analyze the quality of adult practices and eventually organized data in a more meaningful manner that supported the district. The district became a learning organization with the ability to continuously grow and improve.

Data helps us ground our strategic processes and plans around a common set of goals. These goals are based on evidence from data rather than a feeling based on a single experience.

The responsibility to use data well applies to the entire education system, including the state, regional support systems, communities, districts and buildings. At the state level, we are thinking about how our individual offices can better share our data and merge our approaches to supporting schools. As a result, the Department is updating several systems and tools. The biggest effort currently underway is the consolidation of a needs assessment tool (the Decision Framework), a district and building planning tool, a budget tool and an implementation tool. This will help districts and buildings accurately track progress as they implement specific plans and strategies.

Additionally, we are intentionally aligning the work of regional support systems. This includes creating shared tools for regional providers and a consistent process to follow. Our consistent process is the Ohio Improvement Process (OIP). The OIP is designed to establish a common, shared leadership system throughout a district and in buildings and teacher-based teams. It involves the use of continuous communication and good decision-making. The OIP supports strategies that improve teacher effectiveness.   

The systems of support that I have been referencing include regional state support teams and educational service centers. Educational service centers provide a combination of services to districts and schools to build skills and empower teachers to use instructional strategies that lead to student growth. This includes systems structure around the OIP process, instructional support and student supports. State support teams provide support to districts and schools to engage in inclusive continuous and sustainable improvement to meet IDEA State Performance Plan performance indicators and the state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Now that you know that change begins by looking at yourself, you want to get started, right? You want access to a self-assessment tool to determine what you already have in place and what you need improve. The Moving Your Numbers District Self-Assessment Guide is the tool you want to use and can be found here. This is an interactive tool, and you must have JavaScript enabled in your Adobe Reader to take full advantage of the interactive PDF.

This guide was developed at the University of Dayton School of Education and Allied Professions Grant Center by Dr. Deborah Telfer, with support from Allison Glasgow. The Moving Your Numbers Advisory Work Group also provided input on the guide.

Improvement work takes effort and changes in adult perceptions, behavior and beliefs. I believe you have the effort and energy to focus on adult change, as we all move forward to continuously improve.

REFERENCES:

“Moving your Numbers”: Telfer, D.M., & Glasgow, A. (2012). District self-assessment guide for moving our numbers: Using assessment and accountability to increase performance for students with disabilities as part of district-wide improvement. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes

Jo Hannah Ward is director of the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the Ohio Department of Education, where she helps Ohio’s most challenged schools and districts improve outcomes for their students. You can learn more about Jo Hannah by clicking here.

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Last Modified: 6/1/2016 4:16:44 PM