University Preparatory Academy has developed an approach to implement data-based "Individual Learning Team" meetings for teachers, parents and students. Individual Learning Teams can be utilized to support achievement by building a strong connection between students, parents and caregivers, teachers, and other staff. Student data is utilized and evaluated to ensure adequate progress and provide team members with high-quality, specific planning tools.
Learning Team Best Practices
During 2001-2003, the Michigan Department of Education conducted a pilot program, the Partnership for Success, designed to immerse 10 professional educators in the cultures and improvement efforts of 14 Michigan school buildings struggling to improve student achievement. In their midterm report at the end of 2002, Partner Educators offered observations common to all fourteen High Priority schools.
"School-wide data systems capable of tracking student achievement over time, across classroom assignments and teachers" were one of their five highest recommendations. Only one of the pilot elementary schools succeeded in establishing such a database (focusing exclusively on reading), and preliminary information on the 216 "High Priority" schools now being supported by MDE's initiatives does not identify any with systematic, practical use of data in place.
Experientially-grounded examples of how to get serious about tracking and learning from individual student performance over time are rare to non-existent, and school reformers under increasing pressure want it badly. It is for this reason that Partner Educators are interested in incorporating University Prep's materials and experience into the MI-MAP tool they are developing for broad use in High Priority schools.
A crucial part of "best practice" is the light-handed, user-friendly methods University Preparatory has developed to minimize the time expenditure involved in setting up and maintaining the database. University Preparatory's system allows teachers to contribute data to the system easily, and to retrieve data they find useful. Data sorting, analysis and formatting are concentrated "behind the scenes" as an administrative service to the teacher front line, and minimized with a commitment to efficiency. University Preparatory estimates that once the database is designed and established, routine report generation can be accomplished with three minutes for each student.
Another pioneering aspects is the sequence of training experiences University Preparatory has designed to build demand for data among teachers and parents who don't notice its absence. When teachers and parents see practical, ready-to-use formats such as the Parent Learning Team Report, University Preparatory's experience is that they are much more motivated to contribute to the ongoing data collection effort. . .and that they begin to ask questions which can be answered by data analysis. But until they experience the power of individual data, they feel little need for it and tend to see "data" as something that is collected by somebody else and sent off to the "central office" as a compliance effort. This best practice is designed to change users' attitudes toward data by integrating it into relationships, conversations and decisions already being made, starting with parent conferences.
Michigan Association of Public School Academies
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