Data-driven instruction is one of the transformative elements of excellent teaching. Simply put, if you don’t know where your students are at any given moment in terms of mastering the curriculum, then you’re going to have a tough time coaching them towards successful learning. Prince George’s County uses two powerful data software tools: EduSoft, for creating and scoring aligned assessments, and Performance Matters, a data warehouse for standardized test results. Each requires a bit of training to use effectively, but the opportunities for professional development with the tools are limited. So my colleague, Matthew McCrea, came up with the simple idea that we should build a website that trains teachers in how to use the software. I said something modeled on Lynda.com, a site for online software training, would be ideal. And we were off.
In late April, we presented this idea to a panel of judges at a pitch event held at Gholson MS: Superintendent Dr. Hite, Chief Academic Officer Dr. Arbogast, and School Board Members Carolyn Boston and Edward Burroughs. We ended up winning the competition, which means we’ll get support from the district administration to make the proposal a reality. This post outlines the idea, the origins of the project, and other innovations proposed by our fellow TFA corp members. Read on for the full story.
Here’s Matt and I talking to the panel, our colleagues, and various county employees:
Presentation (~13 min):
Question & Answer (~1 min):
Our Executive Summary (from the evening’s program)
We can grow and expand data-driven instruction in PGCPS by giving teachers the opportunity to learn tools like Edusoft and Performance Matters on their own time. Currently, there are not enough opportunities for teachers to access professional development on data-driven instruction. Our suggestion to provide high-quality PD to teachers on their own schedules is simple: build a collection of training tools and videos on Google Sites and give teachers access to it starting at PEIP. We envision an online forum for data-driven PD that is always accessible, facilitates discussion among instructors, and is focused on increasing student achievement. Presenters: Matthew McCrea, math/science chair, G. James Gholson Middle School (TFA 2009); Andrew Pratt, 7th grade Reading/English/Language Arts, G. James Gholson Middle School (TFA 2010).
Here’s the presentation itself:
And the (very incomplete) mock-up site you see me navigating in the video: https://sites.google.com/a/pgcps.org/on-demand-pd/
As part of Maryland’s Race to the Top grant, Prince Georges Country won funds for a multi-year partnership with Teach for America to begin an annual “Innovation Challenge.” In its first year, the project solicited ideas from TFA corps members working in PGCPS and helped them work through a five-month process of developing and refining an entrepreneurial idea that would solve a significant problem within the school system.
When I was first applying to TFA, I told people that in addition to learning how to teach, my time in the corps would also serve as a training course in social entrepreneurship. But burdened by the stresses of a first-year teacher, I balked at the idea of participating in the Challenge. How was I supposed to research and build an entire project when I was expending all my energy on lesson planning?
One morning at a TFA Professional Development Saturday, I arrived early for a Special Education session. But I found that some crossed communication channels had led me to an event that was no longer happening. I wandered for a minute and realized that the first Innovation Challenge meeting was taking place at the same time, so I sat down, listened in, and told Matt that I wanted to work with him.
Now we’ll be working in collaboration over the summer to build the site and record the training videos. Very much looking forward to it.
Full Event Video
To see all the presentations at the event, as well as the opening and closing remarks (all short and sweet), you can watch videos here: