Next Generation School Districts

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Reposted from the Center on Reinventing Public Education:

Every sector of the U.S. economy is working on ways to deliver services in a more customized manner. If all goes well, education is headed in the same direction. Personalized learning and globally benchmarked academic standards (a.k.a. Common Core) are the focus of most major school districts and charter school networks. Educators and parents know students must be better prepared to think deeply about complex problems and to have skills that are relevant for jobs that haven’t yet been created. Promising school models are showing what’s possible, but innovation in the classroom only takes you so far. Twenty-first century learning practices demand twenty-first century systems.

This paper goes deep into the question of which system policies are most likely to get in the way of implementing personalized learning at scale. We work outward from the school to define the new capacities and functions districts need to develop. We make the case that districts are currently unwittingly hostile to school-level innovation. For that to change, they must aggressively work to change the incentives, policies, and structures so that they encourage and free up schools to innovate.

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Read the paper here. [PDF]

How Secure are Your School Data Management Systems?

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Reposted from the New York Times:

Protection of student data is gaining attention as schools across the country are increasingly introducing learning sites and apps that may collect information about a student’s every keystroke. The idea is to personalize lessons by amassing and analyzing reams of data about each student’s actions, tailoring academic material to individual learning levels and preferences. “For many younger companies, the focus has been more on building the product out and less on guaranteeing a level of comprehensive privacy and security protection commensurate with the sensitive information associated with education,” said Jonathan Mayer, a lawyer and computer science graduate student at Stanford University. “It seems to be a recurring theme.”

To help schools evaluate companies’ security practices, the Consortium for School Networking, a national association of school district chief technology officers, published a list of security questions last year for schools to ask before they sign purchase agreements with technology vendors. “It is a huge challenge because there hasn’t been the time and attention and investment placed in security that school districts need,” said Keith R. Krueger, the group’s chief executive.

Although a federal privacy law places some limits on how schools, and the vendors to which they outsource school functions, handle students’ official educational records, these experts say the protections do not extend to many of the free learning sites and apps that teachers download and use independently in their classrooms. In an effort to bolster confidence in their products, more than 100 learning companies recently signed on to a voluntary industry pledge on student privacy. The signers agree, among other commitments, to “maintain a comprehensive security program that is reasonably designed to protect the security, privacy, confidentiality and integrity of student personal information against risks — such as unauthorized access or use.”

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Integrating Student Growth into Teacher Evaluations: Adopting and Implementing the Right Measures for Your District

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Reposted from Hanover Research on LinkedIn:

Amidst the changing backdrop of education reform, the role of the teacher is constantly evolving. As such, the evaluation systems upon which these teachers are measured are under examination. The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) advocates that effective teaching be rooted in academic results for students, and recent reports show that the nation is adopting this mindset quickly. Five years ago, 35 states did not require teacher evaluations to include student learning measures. Today, only six states have yet to add the measure as a future policy.

Since 2007, researchers in education policy have moved toward growth models to assess teacher and program effectiveness because “these statistical tools present a more complete picture of school performance.”

The value-added model (VAM) and the use of student learning objectives (SLOs) have emerged as proven analytical frameworks to measure student growth. The decision to implement one of these types of alternative measures for assessing teacher effectiveness varies based on district needs and data capabilities, finds a NCEE report profiling early-adopting districts. Districts using alternative assessment-based VAMs choose to take advantage of existing assessments, while those using SLOs select them as a teacher-guided method of assessing student growth.

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Thoughtfully Using Data In District Decision-Making

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Reposted from Hanover Research:

Research shows that most data management systems for education function as either student information systems (which focus on the collection, organization, and management of student data) or learning management systems (which are used for planning, delivering and managing, tracking, and reporting learner events, programs, records, and training content). While in the past, districts have found basic student information systems sufficient to serve reporting and administrative purposes, in the current era of increased accountability, districts increasingly use student data to improve instruction and guide decision making. As such, leaders must adequately plan for data use, selectively choose data sets, and adequately train all data users.

Because districts increasingly collect student data to serve a variety of purposes, leaders may find the data collected for reporting purposes to be insufficient for guiding decisions on the district, school, and classroom levels. As research shows that there is often “a fundamental misalignment between the types of data that districts deem to be imperative for student achievement and the types of data that are being requested by the state for federal accountability purposes,” Closing the Gap suggests that districts choosing to collect additional categories of data consider restraints on data collection and the district’s ability to store and analyze data.

Research recommends districts develop a “data collection and use plan” for each type of data the district intends to evaluate. The data collection and use plan should include a description of the data, the source where the data is stored prior to the implementation of the new data collection system, the data extraction method and frequency of extraction, the “data owner” or “point of contact” responsible for that type of data, the groups that will use the data, and intended uses for the data once it has been collected. During the planning process, district leaders may also take careful steps to ensure stakeholders throughout all levels of the district have the tools and support to effectively use data.”

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I Truly Don’t Think There is Anything You Can Do to Retain Me in Your District…

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Reposted from All Things Education:

“Olivia wrote the following in response to DCPS’s question on the Declaration of Intent to Not Return Form for Resigning or Retiring Teachers: ‘What could we have done to retain you in the district?’

I truly don’t think that there is anything that you could have done to retain me in the district. Our educational philosophies do not align, specifically what those philosophies look like in action, not necessarily how they are written and presented. Although it would seem that your will and proclaimed dedication to educating all students and improving struggling schools are aligned to my own beliefs; stating your beliefs and acting on them can be extremely different.

In my opinion and based on five years of experience in a struggling school (which I believe you now call a “40-40” school), the actions that you have imposed that are supposed to be helping to educate all students and improve the education of underprivileged students are backfiring. I know some of your test scores are going up, but that means so little when morale decreases and discontent from the community, teachers and students increase. Additionally, student behavior continues to worsen as their teachers are “impacted out”, the students are over-tested and the constant change in leadership causes students to lose faith in anyone sticking around long enough to invest in their successes. Your standards are higher while our resources are lower and the teachers are less effective because of constant turnover and poor training programs (Yes, I am referring to Teach for America and DC Teaching Fellows).”

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Do We Really Want Gutsy Leaders?

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Reposted from Dr. Cook’s Blog:

“I was recently sent the Hechinger Report article titled, “Wanted: More Gutsy Leaders to Drive Schools Into a Digital Age.” I found the article well-written, inspiring, and very necessary! There were some really good challenges embedded in the article. Unfortunately, as I thought about all of the aspiring educational administrators who are looking to find that “dream” job the realness of the education landscape set in. The aspiring admins get charged up while in Graduate School, or through reading about exceptional leaders who make lasting change…. Then….. what happens?”

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