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From Solo to System. Garden City’s Experience With the Kansas Learning Network Dr. Rick Atha, Superintendent Dr. Darren Dennis, Director of Learning Services ECS National Forum on Educational Policy Portland, Oregon August 20, 2010. With the End in Mind. The Results. WHAT

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From Solo to System

Garden City’s Experience With the

Kansas Learning Network

Dr. Rick Atha, Superintendent

Dr. Darren Dennis, Director of Learning Services

ECS National Forum on Educational Policy

Portland, Oregon

August 20, 2010

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The Results


  • AYP in reading and math for the first time

  • Standard of Excellence awarded from the state


  • Systematic procedures for making data-driven decisions using continuous improvement PDSA


  • District-wide use of articulated strategies for consistently transferring research-based strategies into classroom practices of teachers (with PD, coaching, observations)

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The Context: Garden City

  • Southwest Kansas community of 30,000

  • Agricultural economy

  • Tyson Foods is the largest employer

  • Minority-majority community

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The Context: USD 457

  • 16 schools

    • 11 Elementary Schools

    • 2 Intermediate Schools

    • 2 Middle Schools

    • 1 High School

  • Changing demographics

    • Ethnic minorities were 31% of students in 1990

    • White students a minority by 2000

    • Today, minorities account for 72.4% of students

  • 800% growth in English Language Learners in 20 years

  • 400 to 3254 ELL’s this year in the district

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In the Beginning

  • Kansas Learning Network needs assessment in January 2009

  • “One of the main findings of the district needs analysis is that the district lacks systemic coherence.”

  • “Coherence means ‘the elements of a school district work together in an integrated way to implement an articulated strategy.’”

  • “The district must strive to foster and sustain a more coherent approach to improving student achievement at all levels. In order to accomplish this, the district needs to provide the professional development for using successful practices, establish district-wide expectations that these practices be used, and hold staff accountable for meeting the expectations.”

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Coming Together Around Data

  • Fullan: “Shared responsibility carries most of the freight of effective accountability.”

  • “Only collective engagement will get us the results we are seeking.”

  • Systemic approach to data based on four phase model based on Deming’s “Total Quality Management” model:

    • Planning Phase

    • Doing Phase

    • Studying Phase

    • Acting Phase

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Changing Practice

  • Movement from collecting data to systematically implementing data-driven decisions/actions

  • Movement from compliance to support and reciprocal accountability for the continuous implementation of effective research-based practices

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Where to Begin

“Since what goes on in the classroom is at the heart of instructional improvement, a key part of developing an improvement practice is classroom observation. Connecting classroom observations to the larger context of the system’s improvement strategy is how to support sustained improvement.”

Elizabeth A. City, Richard F. Elmore, Sarah E. Fiarman, and Lee Teitel, Instructional Rounds in Education: A Network Approach to Improving Teaching and Learning (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2009).

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Where to Begin

  • “The most powerful single modification that enhances achievement is feedback…the simplest prescription for improving education must be ‘dollops of feedback.”

    • Hattie (1992)

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Where to Begin

  • Walkthrough instruments used prior to 2009

    • Recommended form and timeline

    • Some schools developed their own

    • No data collection centrally

  • Bringing uniformity to the walkthrough

    • Based around PALSS introduced by KLN

    • Purpose: data collection for professional development

    • Online data collection site developed

    • Feedback to teachers

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Walkthrough Reports

  • With online database, data instantly available

    • Disaggregate by level, school, date

    • Raw numbers, percentages, graphs, planning form

    • Live data

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We Have Data. Now What?

  • Superintendent’s Advisory Council (SAC) changed from reactive operational focus to proactive PD

  • First priority based on data: cognitive levels

  • Unclear that principals had same understanding of Bloom’s Taxonomy

  • Provided definitions and practice

  • Principals assigned to present lessons

  • Evaluated by peers

    • Using Walkthrough Instrument

    • Using a CPS system

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Building the System

  • Literacy and Math Institute in May 2010

  • Dr. Debra Pickering of Marzano Research Lab

    • The Art and Science of Teaching, Academic Vocabulary, Formative Assessment and Standards-Based Grading

  • Other presenters: Jeffrey Wilhelm, Jack Pikulski, Michelle Flaming, Judy Puckett, Jane Scott, Muggins Math

  • Each building brought PD Leadership Teams

  • Collaborative planning time to develop action plans around their needs

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Professional Development Modules

  • Model for Advancing Student Achievement Through Data-Driven Professional Development

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  • First modules rolled out at Administrative Retreat in July with “Feedback Forms”

    • Academic Vocabulary

    • Non-linguistic Representation

  • Modules in development

    • Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS)

    • Determined by Walkthrough Data

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In Summary

  • Through KLN, Garden City has developed a process for using data as the foundation for our work

  • Advance student achievement through data-driven professional development which targets research-based instructional practices predictably linked to improved student performance

  • Through PDSA, target continuous improvements and actions likely to have greatest impact