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Collecting School-Level Data to Create Feedback Loops

“Not only can schools track their development, but they are also honing their understanding of personalized learning.” (Kimberly Richards)

Overview

Challenge: How to use data to help teachers and school leaders monitor their progress. How to gather school-level information that helps the district/system learn.

Context:

Fulton County Schools, GA, is a highly diverse district of 95 public schools serving just under 100,000 students. In 2012, the district began to incorporate personalized learning into its strategic planning process as a way to better meet the needs of all its students, and to close achievement gaps between groups of learners. As part of this process, district leaders wanted to make sure that schools could monitor their progress and track their learning as they shifted their instructional models.

Action Steps:

District leaders Heather Van Looy, Program Specialist, Instructional Technology and Kimberly Richards, Coordinator, Research and Program Evaluation, launched a system-wide survey of school practices to gather data on:

  • The instructional strategies teachers were using in their classrooms, how often they use these practices, and with what digital tools
  • What professional development teachers had experienced, how useful they had found it, and what other professional development they felt they needed to progress
  • Any barriers that teachers felt were standing in the way of progress. Teachers were presented a set of 15 different challenge areas and were asked to rate them as a “major barrier” a “minor barrier” or “not a barrier” (e.g., “data overload”)

Van Looy and Richards paired this with a student engagement survey to understand their students’ perspectives as well.

This data, combined with data collected during school visits, was used to build a live, interactive district dashboard that schools are using to measure their progress. Because the dashboard is live, it automatically updates itself when new data is inputted. Each school has a personalized learning team, which uses the dashboard data to explore how the school can continue to improve over time. According to Richards, engaging with various components of the dashboard has also served to clarify their understanding of personalized learning, as each personalized learning principle was broken down into its component parts.