Snapshot on SIG and data use

As Barack Obama noted in 2009, “There is no silver bullet when it comes turning [underperforming] schools around.” Struggling schools vary drastically in the root causes behind their low performance; while some face challenges due to mobile student populations and low teacher trust, others struggle due to contentious community relationships and ineffective and inconsistent school AND district policies. We have seen that some struggling schools are able to recover and drive gains in student achievement, while many others experience poor outcomes year after year regardless of the support they receive. So, what strategies can we employ to improve failing schools?

The Center on School Turnaround’s recent report “Snapshots of School Turnaround: How Three Schools Used School Improvement Grants to Improve Student Learning Outcomes” documents the strategies employed by three districts to transform three failing schools. The report speaks to the important role that the district and state played in each of the three successful school turnarounds highlighted in this report; the authors highlight that a support system at the state and/or district level that provides both autonomy and ongoing support was critical for each of the three districts that successfully implemented a turnaround. The report also found that non-evaluative supports to teachers (including coaching and targeted, meaningful professional development) improved the school climate and the quality of instruction.Effective use of student data is also cited as a primary driver of school improvement.

At Emerson Elementary School in Kansas City, Kansas, the Assistant Superintendent Marcy Clay discusses how the school discussed assessment data with teachers in grade levels and one-on-one meetings to examine “what their data are saying and what the next steps would be to improve things.” While many schools cite analysis of student-level data as a key driver in school improvement, it’s useful to explore this process on a deeper level – exactly how are schools unpacking student data in a way that clarifies a teacher’s next steps for driving improvement? Recognizing that all students performed poorly on a specific content strand is one thing, but knowing how to assist a teacher as they unpack reasons for poor performance AND help them enact teaching strategies that remedy a learning deficiency takes a certain level of skill that has not yet been touched on sufficiently in the literature. One Gates Foundation resource speaks to how teachers can make meaning and use of student data, but it’s likely that school leaders and teacher coaches need additional supports in how to work with teachers around effective use of data.

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