In our current professional development climate, much is said about long-term, job-embedded training that truly changes a school’s culture and endures. It’s a simple idea, often talked about…not often achieved. Twenty-eight schools in Florida have seen the work it takes and made the commitment.

By Mary Anne Mather, Managing Editor
TERC’s Using Data for Meaningful Change Blog

teachers sitting around table discussing professional insights about data

Teachers meet across schools to share data use insights.

A team of Using Data Facilitators recently completed the training and technical assistance segment of a three-year professional development initiative in Duval County, Jacksonville, Florida. As part of an IES-funded, randomized control study looking at fourth and fifth grade mathematics achievement, 30 elementary schools set out on a journey to learn what it means to be truly data informed. Twenty-eight completed the long-term, job-embedded training that focused on enacting a process for understanding and analyzing data linked directly to student outcomes and classroom practice. The ultimate goal—to build a culture of collaborative data use that informs an ongoing pathway to improvement in any subject area.*

After two and a half years of work, these 28 schools came together on May 16, 2013 at the Schultz Professional Development Center in Jacksonville to showcase their results. (more…)

GUEST BLOGGER: Mary Anne Mather, Using Data Senior Facilitator & Social Media Liaison on Twitter & FaceBook

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Albert Einsteinmagnifying glass trained on the word why in red text

Once a school or grade-level data team has analyzed several data sources to pinpoint a student learning problem, they often feel ready to leap into action and solve it. To ensure that the solution pursued produces the hope-for results, it’s essential to engage in a collaborative process of causal analysis to identify the “root” cause of the problem.

There are many tools that support root cause analysis, one of them is referred to as Why-Why-Why—a question-asking technique used to explore cause and effect relationships. Why-Why-Why helps a group look beyond symptoms to underlying causes by taking the identified problem and asking why it exists at least three times—each time probing more deeply. (more…)

Guest Blogger: Dr. William L. Heller, Using Data Program Director, Teaching Matters*

Summer has arrived, and the last of our current data institutes, like the school year itself, has come to an end. But as the participating data teams leave, Road Sign indicating "The Beginning" with dramatic blue sky and clouds.carrying not a diploma but an action plan, they realize that their work is only just beginning. It is not a graduation; it is a commencement. And the first step in the journey ahead is to introduce the action plan they developed to the principal, administrators, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders in their school communities. This requires another planning document—a strategic communications plan, inviting others to invest in a shared vision for bringing the action plan to reality.

So…what are the elements of a good communications plan that will get others behind the action plan? (more…)

GUEST BLOGGER: Mary Anne Mather, Using Data Facilitator & Social Media Liaison on Twitter & FaceBook

Since the story broke, the media and bloggers have actively covered the details about a recent test-score-fixing fiasco—and the news continues (links provided below). There have been commentaries about who really suffers from a scam of this magnitude (students robbed of remedial opportunities) and who is to blame—their motivations…and their motivators (“…targets were implemented…in such a way that teachers and administrators believed that they had to choose between cheating to meet targets or failing to meet targets and losing their jobs.” Volume 3: Conclusions: Why cheating occurred and cover-up allegations, p. 4). Eraser end of pencil laying on test paper showing bubble answersI’m particularly taken withthe data-made-me do-itexplanation. There’s even talk of legal prosecution. This whole mess feels like a major attraction in a very tawdry sideshow of the school reform circus. And sadly, although the media is focused on one district at the moment, test score and data manipulation is not new news.

Yes, there’s explaining to do, and some one (or many) will need to be held accountable, but wouldn’t it be great if the lion’s share of the energy fueling our collective indignation, disbelief, and need for retribution could be channeled to establishing more positive, long-term improvements to a testing and assessment system that has surely gone awry. I’m not yet so tainted that I can’t believe we (saints and cheaters alike) all really want the same thing: exemplary schools, highly qualified teachers, and well-educated students who are life-long learners ready to succeed in their adult lives.

I weigh in with Diane Ravitch on this one, (more…)

GUEST BLOGGER: Mary Anne Mather, Using Data Facilitator & Social Media Liaison on Twitter & FaceBook

Shimmering water view Falmouth, Massachusetts

A beautiful morning walk in Falmouth, Massachusetts

A recent weekend wedding celebration on Cape Cod brought together a stirring mix of sapphire shimmering ocean, stunning bride (who I had the joy of watching transform over the years from little girl to accomplished young woman), and satisfying conversation with long-time friends—an enjoyable mix of hilarity, nostalgia, and sometimes serious discourse.

During several early-morning walks with friends connected through our work as educators, the more serious discourse returned time and again to an impassioned discussion about teacher evaluation. This conversation was prompted in particular by a June 4 Washington Post article, Maryland Teacher Evaluation Redesign Bogs Down. We were somewhat stunned to learn two pieces of data: 1) Almost a year ago, Maryland won a $250 million federal grant to build a “transparent and fair” teacher and principal evaluation model that would tie their success to student test scores and learning, and 2) The state is seeking a year’s extension to fully execute the evaluation system it has yet to develop.

“Two-hundred fifty million,” my friend mused. “They could hire 250 people and pay them a million dollars each. With that kind of brain trust you’d think something could be developed in a year.” We laughed, but think about it. (more…)

GUEST BLOGGER: Jennifer Unger Director, The GroupWorks, Grafton, MA. Jennifer is a senior facilitator for TERC’s Using Data.

As a facilitator of learning, one of the great conundrums I see participants grappling with is the growing realizationhand waving magic wand that I, as the facilitator of their learning, may not be a magician, and that they must actually use the tools, resources and processes that I provide in order to initiate the changes that they desire. It is simply not enough to attend a working session and leave saying, “Been there-done that.”

Now I know this for a fact because I do it all the time—whether I am attending a Michael Fullan workshop or reading a really great book (most recently, Mike Schmoker’s FOCUS). Somehow, there is that deep, abiding belief that just engaging with their ideas will change me. While it may be a first miniscule beginning step, alas, I know that it will not change me any more than watching tons of exercise videos will help me lose weight. Change is something that I must DO and, as Ghandi said, BE

Which leads me to the Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) that was introduced to me by my colleagues Susan Loucks-Horsley and Susan Mundry, and, its sister, the Innovation Configuration. Two of the foundational underlying assumptions of these models/frameworks are that change takes time and that change is a process, not an event. (more…)

An observation at a restaurant last night reinforced a challenge schools are experiencing that’s become increasingly prominent in the past few weeks in the field. While waiting for a take-out order, a bus boy was readying the buffet service table for the evening’s crowd.  He loaded the plate server with a fresh stack of clean china and stooped down to grab the electric plug from the floor where he felt around for the extension cord and made the connection. He then stood and placed his outstretched palm  (yes, the same one that groped around the floor) on the top plate to push them down into the warming well. He walked away pleased that all was in readiness for the night’s service.  I suspect that no patron partaking of the wonderful buffet would be suspicious of that top plate.

But it brought home a challenge that many of our schools are facing and one described so well by Mike Schmocker in his latest book Focus – the competition of competing tasks associated with school improvement.  My thoughts – We’re so good at adding initiatives and keeping all of the balls in the air, doing an excellent job in each separate endeavor but, without being good at stepping back to see how they all work together. How do we keep the plates clean while at the same time getting all of the cords plugged in? Mike’s urging – Focus on just a few important elements (and he highlights what these should be).

Here’s a tip – this is one of the primary roles for administrators both district and building – you must create and provide a coherent plan with explicit road maps for connecting various initiatives – from the state’s new 21st Century Learning plan,  to meeting the state’s school improvement documentation requirements,  to implementing instruction in cross-cutting, core learning standards. Are all initiatives serving the ultimate goal of improving student learning for all or just innovations that seemed promising?  But not connected? Not prioritized?