Washington trip, Part II

Well, my trip last week to the Consortium of School Networking ( COSN) Conference in Washington D.C. was very interesting.

I learned quite a bit while collaborating with leaders from our nation’s schools and professionals from COSN and Gartner, Inc.

The conference focused partly on the work taking place with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant “Closing the Gap through the use of Data to Impact Instruction” and partly how schools are preparing students for their future through innovative instructional environments.

The panel discussion I participated in disclosed that schools are good at collecting data, but we struggle getting it to the student level in the classroom so that it impacts learning.

We discussed how student performance is disaggregated by gender, ethnicity, attendance, behavior, family wealth, what is going on in the classroom, and the educational level of parents.

Then we revealed what our districts are doing with the data we collect to individualize instruction and meet the academic needs of our students.

Later that evening I spoke to a group that reports to the US Department of Education. They were seeking input on how innovation in public schools could be improved.

One of the biggest concerns from the group of educators was the focus of testing and school ratings based on only one criterion (student test results).

We determined that the overuse and emphasis of test results makes it challenging to be innovative and prepare our students for their future.

We asked that the focus on testing be used for diagnostic reasons and for school ratings to include multiple measures to determine school performance. I attended several presentations that focused on student engagement in the classroom, the use of technology as a learning tool for students, and innovative learning environments such as project based learning classrooms.

When compared to most of the school districts that attended the conference it is clear that RISD is headed in the right direction with our learning settings.

The final day was spent entirely with the districts that are a part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that I mentioned earlier.

As a part of this grant several districts across the U.S. were selected to receive support as they implement a data system into their school district that is open for educators, parents, and students.

These districts have a preliminary plan and are working to get their data systems in place. They also are working on a project that will help develop a tool for educators across the U.S.

This tool will be developed through COSN, AASA, and Gartner, Inc. and will provide educators a system of evaluating the impact of data at the classroom and individual level and provide a pathway for the data to make it to the individual student.

In a week or two we will be collecting more data. Please visit our website at and participate in a survey that focuses on school finance and Rockdale ISD budget cuts.

We want and value your input.

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