Can School Data Save Students?

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“Performance management” is one of those buzz phrases that I usually
like to make fun of, but I did my best to withhold judgment last week
when I had the chance to talk with Lori Fey from the Michael &
Susan Dell Foundation, which is all over the concept and has a new report out on the topic. Plus which, my favorite Bush-era press guy Kevin Sullivan pitched it to me.

years ago there were “precious few” examples of performance management
in school settings, according to Fey, and now there are at least 18
district examples and 14 charter networks doing it.  The newest cohort
of Dell grantees includes Denver, Charlotte-Meckl, and PG County.  Chicago was one of the originals.

remain skeptical about the power and usefulness of this approach, but I
did take away at least one hopeful idea:  streamlining data collection
and analysis so that it’s a tool not an obstacle to educators and
teachers.  It’s gotta be easy and fast for it to be of any real use.
And I do like the notion that sometimes the data is useful to debunk
myths about school performance and start new conversations.  Lord knows
we need some new conversations around here.

Click below for the Dell profile of performance management in use at Kelvyn Park HS and let us know what you think.  See previous posts about Kelvyn Park here

From the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation Report

Using data to help students graduate
Chicago PublicSchoolsKelvyn Park High School

School administrators at Kelvyn Park High School recognized a few years ago that something had to be done to address the low graduation rate. A significant number of students were not graduating, but administrators had few tools to help them identify the students who most needed help. Teachers might recognize that particular students were struggling, but only after months of having the student in class. If there was an issue to be addressed, teachers were tasked with trying to address the issue alone without the help of other teachers who might have also noticed the child falling behind. Meanwhile, a significant percentage of Kelvyn Park students were failing to graduate and enter the real world with a diploma in hand.

Before 2008, there were few effective tools to give teachers real-time reports on their students’ performance on tests. No central system that provided insights into student behavior in previous years. No mechanism for teachers to work together

Things at Kelvyn Park High School have changed over the past year. In the past 12 months, Kelvyn Park utilized a program developed by the Department of Graduation Pathways at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to keep the school’s freshman on track to graduate.

Two data and information specialists (also called On Track Coordinators) were assigned to the school to help build a repository of information that could be used by the faculty and restructure the way the information was being used at the school.

The goal within Chicago Public Schools was to take a data-driven approach to indentifying and intervening with freshmen who are at risk of dropping out or falling behind in class.

Prior to the school year, Kelvyn Park was provided with a “Freshmen Watch List.” The reports are available on the CPS Principal Dashboard, an interactive, performance management tool accessible by principals at all Chicago Public Schools. The Watch List, populated with each student’s 8th grade grades, attendance, test scores, and discipline actions, assigned a color code to each student with risk factors.;

For example, a student with nine absences in 8th grade was flagged for attendance intervention in 9th grade before the school year started. Principals, counselors, and teachers used the reports to develop interventions with the Watch List students. As soon as ten weeks into the school year, principals had access to the current year’s updates via a “Freshmen Success Report” on their Dashboard. The report identified the freshmen with too many unexcused absences or grades of D or lower in core subjects. Additionally, the On Track Coordinators supplemented the information on Watch List by creating a database, accessible by all teachers, with detailed biographical, behavioral, and academic information for each student.

Ninth grade students were divided into three “houses” or groups, each with 120 students. The teachers assigned to each house were then trained how to understand and use the data and information provided by their principals, counselors and information specialists, recognize trends, and create interventions to deal with issues they uncovered with their students. Utilizing the insight provided by the Freshman Watch List, Freshman Success Report, and school-developed database, school staff could give students the support they need.

At the beginning of the year, data available to the teachers included attendance, performance in previous years at feeder schools, and biographical information. Throughout the year, teachers and counselors could use the database developed by the On Track Coordinators to record notes related to behavior issues, the number of times a parent has been contacted by the school, and previous interventions attempted with the child. Each student’s performance in all of their classes was recorded in the centralized dashboard. Teachers held weekly meetings to discuss students’ performance and address issues as a group.

Teachers could now look at a student’s profile and see that a particular child — who lives with his grandparents, has two siblings who didn’t graduate from high school, and had previous behavior issues — was scoring consistently low in all of his classes.
Because they were sharing information, Kelvyn Park teachers could take action such as adjusting class schedules when they recognized a group of students who were distracting one another. Groups of three or four teachers — one always being a teacher with whom the student was comfortable — would have in-person interventions with students to address concerns and help the students understand how they could improve their own performance.

Parents also became involved. Working with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Kelvyn Park utilized parent mentors to make home visits for students who missed three or more days of school to share information about the effect of poor attendance on graduation rates. Because the parent mentors were members of the community and often acquaintances of the families requiring a visit, the mentors were successful at addressing concerns raised by the school. They were also successful at bringing the families of the at-risk students to the school campus so teachers could speak directly to them. The parent mentors made over 1,000 home visits.

After just one year, the school’s administration were thrilled with the impact the program had on their freshman class. After the end of the year, 69 percent of 9th graders were on track to graduate on time, a 10 percent increase over the previous year. Kelvyn Park also saw the annual attendance rate increase by 4.2% over the previous school year.

Teachers and administrators at Kelvyn Park are determined to continue their good progress toward increased graduation rates. They know it could mean the world to their students.


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  • If only the parents would get involved and Ron would move REAL resources to the elementary school to help students then and there! great job for kelvyn park, but too litle too late--must start earlier Ron--earlier.

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    Elementary schools should have the option of extending the day to support more organizational communication among staff and provide more instructional time for students, which is essential for ELL students. Our children in general are cheated. CPS is in the stone age in terms of providing a workplace that is world class. Teachers should be treated as professionals and be given the added planning time like other true world class public school districts do for their teachers. The "Performance management" crap by Huberman is a ruse to cover their real ignorance in operating a school district and support real authentic school reform at the classroom level.

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    typical CPS--take a school where real data is showing positives and then crash and burn it by not opening positions until November! If Ron had stopped this at KP, then he would have some street cred. He and the Huberteam have no idea what they are doing.

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    No one questions Huberman, and he needs someone to call him on the nonsense. The PM team is full of people with second-rate degrees (sorry, Chicago, but the U of C ain't an Ivy). And the use of the various metrics CPS generates is questionable, at best. So you have people who are busybusybusy, producing nothing of any real worth.

  • In reply to SPAlexander:

    U of C, and the other major schools of education in Chicago have cover their butts by supporting Ren 2010 schools. Shame on the school of education. Cowards all! They use the Chicago Public schools for doing research and sending pre-service teachers. No real prophets here!

  • In reply to SPAlexander:

    since when are the teachers the ones to do the whole parents' job? Really?--what year did this responsibility get turned over to teachers to do, Morals, character, intimate health, abuse, etc. all on teachers. When parents stop sending their chidren to school because they cannot stand them at home or they have a client coming over, or sending them to school unfed, undressed, unbathed, unslept, or even high fevers and broken and disclocated bones and allow us to teach--that's when they deserve the noun PARENT.

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    Gosh, I'm so sorry that you're stuck with so many students whose parents are not doing the basics of parenting, but that's not what is being addressed here. Parent involvement in SCHOOLS is what's being addressed.

    Poverty, and all that attends it, sucks, doesn't it? Your students are lucky to have such an involved and supportive teacher attempting to educate them despite the odds! (I'm guessing you weren't describing your middle- and upper-income parents.)

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    5th grade teacher here, Englewood.

    First off, the parents who comment on this blog are not indicative of the parents most of us CPS teachers are dealing with. Let's get set the record strait.

    I love parent participation. I welcome it and encourage parents to come in as often as they'd like, as long as I know ahead of time so I can plan an activity for them to assist with.

    What's parent participation like in my classroom? Parents come in cursing, intimating student that they feel have crossed paths with or negatively impacted their child, disrupting my directions to tell me that someone is not acting right, and damaging my classroom atmosphere. This happens time and time again. I have parents who come into my classroom and posture towards my students, challenging them to duels. Seriously. This is not a "every now and than" event but a weekly, almost daily event.

    When CPS discusses parent participation they are speaking in code. They mean parents reading with their children, helping with homework, and acting appropriately when visiting a classroom.

    While I do feel bad for the parents above, some of them obviously send their kids to the "better" schools where things run quite different than the norm. Trust me when I say these comments and opinions should not universalized.

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    When I'm talking about parental engagement with "the school" I'm not talking about classroom visits and room-mom stuff. Rather, I'm talking about clear discussions about assessments of my children and recommendations/explanations for learning in and outside the classroom. I have found this effort completely blocked by some teachers and kept to a minimum by others. Of course, now I expect to be called names. Shoot.

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    @7:40, I'd welcome your efforts re: recommendations for learning any time! This is the kind of parent participation that, as a teacher, I get really excited to see! I'm sorry your efforts have been frowned upon. That really is too bad.

  • In reply to SPAlexander:

    Spamdingle writes: "I agree that 'parent involvement' really is code for 'be a parent.'"

    Well, no. I think we're having two different conversations in this thread--one on parenting and another on parental involvement.

    Some people are writing about the absence of parenting on the part of parents. This is neglect. Good parents don't neglect their children, regardless of the parenting style they use (authoritarian, permissive, authoritative). Any style is better than none. People who neglect their children aren't doing any "parenting," and we think of them as bad parents.

    There is a lot of research literature on parental involvement (see, especially, Diane Epstein of Johns-Hopkins). Where parents are involved in their children's school life, attendance, achievement, attitudes, and social relationships all improve. There is a definite and reciprocal relationship between parental involvement and school climate, however, and this is what I think Wiz was talking about above.

    Many schools--for a host of reasons--have a school climate that is UNwelcoming to parents. This causes parents to become uninvolved in their children's school life, even when they may be very involved in other aspects of their children's lives.

    If we in the schools want to reap the benefits that occur when there is parental involvement at school, then we change our school climates to be more welcoming to parents. This is easier said than done.


  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    Danny, You nailed it!

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    our leaders have put the responsibility of raising children in the public school system instead of education children.

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Huberman is Oz.

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    everyone is like a turkey. waiting to see who is next.

    just make sure palin does not pardon you!

    when the answer is that everyone is next!

    The Shock Doctrine

    gobble gobble.

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    As a parent who has seen two of my three children gaduate through Chicago public schools and one still in attendance, let me make myself clear about this. I am ass-tired of people saying anything about parental involvement. It is not wanted so lets stop pretending that it is. I have gone to several schools on many different occasions and trust me on this, parents are not welcome. There is a theatre of want, but no reality. Change that and you might have more parental involvement, until then, stop bringing it up.

    I am continually astounded at the lack of how data is not used by schools. Being nothing but a parent, I have no idea what you data you have and how it is used currently, but this kind of thing is something that could have easily been addressed in the 1980s, but people, that would be teachers and administrators appear to be to resistant to change, and understandably so. The changes that are forced on teahcers and administrators is too often done without involving them in the process.

    When people really want to make changes, they should start the design at the bottom, with the people who are going to be most involved in the process, which is often the teachers. A program that works should be built around teachers so that it is most effective and least intrusive to the teachers, but that is rarely the way change is designed or implemented, because behind the theatre of it all is an implicit disrespect for teachers by administrators, may who had been teachers themselves. That disrespect should be considered as "if you know so much, then you would not be a teacher (but an administrator)".

    Well at least that is the way it looks from here.

  • In reply to WisdomSeed:

    As a teacher, let me say that you are dead on target.

  • In reply to WisdomSeed:

    "There is a theatre of want, but no reality. Change that and you might have more parental involvement, until then, stop bringing it up."

    So true. So true. The lie is never challenged in the press, either.

  • In reply to WisdomSeed:

    Wiz: Somebody should give you a school. I would agree 100%. We actually did some informal surveying and interviewing of principals and APs and found that they all wanted "parental involvement", but when asked what that meant, for the majority, it was basically for parents to stay out of the way and then magically appear with money and to do mindless envelope stuffing and other menial jobs.

    I think we need to do both--acknowledge that in some environments, consistent parental involvement will be a pipedream for many of the kids, but also that some one in their life cares about the kids and we should empathically reach out and invite them to participate in the students' education.

    There is a problem in general with our schools being unwelcoming places. The big lie is that we have to fire all of the ground level employees to change that.

    Doesn't it seem foolish that the we are buying that only way we can create a culture of respect is to turn our schools over to privatizers and outsiders who deeply mock and disrespect experienced teachers?

    The system is rotten from the top. We need administrators and politicians that treat parents, students, teachers and other community members with respect, not just get rid of them to replace them with new "clients" that will aid them in juking the data.

  • In reply to xian:

    Razzing Sean is one of my fave pasttimes, but I can't find anything here to give him grief over.

    I do agree that there is a disconnect--a chasm deep and wide--between the school's claim to want parental involvement and the unwelcoming behaviors that parents are often confronted with. Not all of that is due to administrators, either.

    For teachers, dealing with parents can often be frustrating and time-consuming. I find it frustrating when parents ask for special treatment for their children at the expense of others in the class. A parent's simple plea to devote more one-on-one time with their son or daughter means, of course, spending less time with other students in the class.

    And while I'm interested in the family dynamics of my student, I cringe at the mother who wants to regale me with stories of all six of her children, rather than just the one I have in class. I don't have time for it.

    So, I think teachers share some of the blame. In my head, I know it's important to cultivate parental involvement. But I don't always do it.

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    Oops! Forgot again. This is Danny.

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    I suspect that when schools say they want parent involvement, what they really want is for the parents to do their jobs as parents. Teach their children the values of learning, respect for others, proper behavior, and so forth. Make sure their children are prepared for school, properly rested and fed, and with the supplies they need. Follow up on their child's assignments and performance in class. If every school (not just the affluent or selective-enrollment ones) had this sort of "parental involvement", they could all be high performers!

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    I agree that "parent involvement" really is code for "be a parent." The walking school bus concept or a parent patrol could be helpful, but please parents, don't get crazy over C&I until you've picked up a master's....or at least a GED.

    With regard to the PM folks, I'd like to see some with an ed background. They know jack about schools, which causes them to miss what we would consider to be obvious veins of research.

  • In reply to WisdomSeed:

    That is because more often than not the press is more intereseted in parroting than getting deeper into whatever subject is at hand, especially when it comes to education. I would really love the opportunity to sit with community peoples and come to some sense of what we really want from public education. I think the important thing to ask ourselves is why do we want what we want and what is the real societal benefit of having it.

    As a novelist, I would love to have readers, but as a parent, I do not see the benefit of putting so many resources into literacy (the kind using literature) when I don't understand the societal benefit of it. I'm not saying I'm right, I'm saying I don't understand why so many resources are poured into what is really little more than art appreciation. Now if the same resources were poured into the other creative arts, like film, music and art, then there would be no reason to complain. Not that literature is not a worthy pursuit, it is. But then to what end and for whom?

    Math, science and civics (reading should be taught as a much needed skill, but not for the point of literary discussions) should be the cores of education, but as children grow they need to be given avenue of pursuit. I am most likely thinking of this the wrong way. I am just so dissapointed in how all this has worked out.

    I don't know...

  • In reply to WisdomSeed:

    Literacy is supposed to be about being able to read (the basic mechanics of it all), but then being able to critically read, too. So literary discussion is about being able to determine, what was the intent of the author, do you agree? If you agree, why? If you disagree, can you call out a paragraph and provide evidence for your disagreement. One of the benefits to using literature to teach this, is you don't wind up getting people's winds up like you would if you used OpEds, history texts, or things of that nature.

  • In reply to WisdomSeed:

    In response to the "Performance Management," it's a bunch of baloney, certain classes were closed by the end of the first quarter, since then I've had a steady stream kids piled into my classes (well over the contract limit) for the remainder of the year. Still getting students. Performance this and accountability that, they need to look in the mirror. Not to mention they inflated the class size numbers on IMPACT, at least for the classes at the school. Then they expect teachers to be "collecting data" and implementing things that more comparable to "corporate business models." This really does not translate to inner-city Chicago schools. The same people mandating we implement this B.S. are the same people giving the O.K. to give teachers the shaft.

  • "Performance management" is code for "we really have no idea what we are doing but it sounds like we do!"

  • That was last year. Does the data show that at least 7 teachers were not filled at Kelvyn Park this year -- 2009-10? Hundreds of students there had substitute teachers up to Nov. 15 ... denying them of 1/3 of their learning year? No disrespect to substitutes, but too many KP students waited too long for a full-time teacher. Nothing short of criminal. CPS should be held liable.

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