December 31st, 1999 was not your average New Year’s Eve. While excitement about the turn of the century was palpable, uneasiness permeated as the second hand of everybody’s watch made its final revolution of the 20th Century. Y2K, the catchy acronym assigned to the collective nationwide fear that computer systems were doomed to fail at the stroke of midnight, was on the tip of everybody’s tongue.Read More
On its face, probably wrong, definitely incomplete doesn’t inspire confidence. However, we put this phrase in the footer of almost all of the documents we create at School Performance Institute (SPI) to remind us of its value as a core ethos of our improvement work. When people first see this phrase they typically have a reaction something like, “Wow, that doesn’t inspire confidence!”
We disagree.Read More
In December 2014, my first child was born. She was ready to enter the world, and my wife was even more ready. Our emotions were similar to most new parents – a combination of exhilaration, anticipation, nervousness, and bliss. Yet in the midst of everything I distinctly remember taking a moment to ask the doctor a question: “What’s my daughter’s Apgar score?”Read More
We’ve spent the last year learning how to use improvement science to increase the high school readiness rates of our 8th graders. Currently, we're gearing up to spread this improvement work from one middle school improvement team to a second middle school team at United Schools Network. During our upcoming launch day, we'll spend time creating team norms, studying improvement science, and digging into each school's on-track indicator system data. Thoughtful planning and a strong start to this work makes it much more likely that we’ll achieve our ambitious goals this school year.Read More
Earlier this year, I kicked off our Learning to Improve blog series by discussing seven early lessons from our improvement science work at United Schools Network. The good thing is that I think that all of those lessons were on point. But, we’ve also learned a great deal about using improvement science methodology through our 8th Grade On-Track project this school year. In this post, I will expand on those early lessons and present some of our new learning.Read More
James’ reading grade dropped from a B in 7th grade to a D during the first trimester of his 8th grade year. The rest of his grades were a C or higher, his attendance rate was above 96%, and he had never been in serious trouble. Most people would look at James’ academic, attendance, and behavior stats and not see a student that is in need of intervention. We disagree. At the very moment that his reading grade dropped, James was in need of extra support.Read More
This school year, School Performance Institute (SPI), the learning and improvement arm of United Schools Network, served as a partner with Columbus Collegiate Academy (CCA) to work on a tough-to-solve problem. SPI fills a number of critical roles including project management, strategic communication, human capital management, improvement research & advising, and data analytics. At our core is a commitment to continuous learning and improvement and a focus on using data to predict students’ learning, progress, and ultimately their success.Read More
In my last post, I provided an analysis for the educational funding strategy shift at the Gates Foundation.
The gist of the shift is that Gates is funding organizations that are marrying on-track indicator systems with improvement science in order to improve important student outcomes. I know this because I went after a Gates Grant last year and didn’t get it. But, I’m glad I did it because of the learning that came out of the process. In fact, it led to the current 8th Grade On-Track project I’m running at Columbus Collegiate Academy this school year.Read More
The marrying of on-track indicator systems with improvement science has caught the attention of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Over the next five years, Gates plans to direct 60 percent of its $1.7 billion in education funding towards networks of schools working together to identify solutions to local problems and using data to drive improvement.Read More
Goals for accountability and goals for improvement are two very different things.
I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed or if most of the folks reading this are right there with me. Either way, this was an important revelation as I’ve worked to bring improvement science methodology to my work as a school leader at United Schools Network. Far too often, these two types of goals get conflated during school improvement projects and this can have unintended consequences.Read More
If you asked your colleagues, the answers you get may surprise you.
It’s something I’d encourage you to do- run an experiment at your school or district- and see what happens. A few months ago, I did just that.Read More
Despite spending billions on professional development (PD) in the United States, well-regarded studies by organizations such as American Institutes for Research (AIR) and TNTP show no measurable results from this spending. This was the case even when the training was considered rigorously aligned to the tenets of best practice for educator professional development. At the same time, student outcomes, especially for students of color and students living in poverty, are unacceptable.Read More