Project organizers envision a series of statewide data systems.

Project organizers envision a series of statewide data systems.

An effort is under way in several states to create digital teaching resource centers that are aligned with state education standards and connected with student data systems, so teachers can find free, high-quality educational materials to help them address their students’ learning needs.

The effort comes from a partnership between the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). It’s a way of helping states provide 21st-century tools to increase student achievement, by leveraging public television’s vast collections of educational content.

The idea for the project arose a few years ago, when Gene Wilhoit–who is now the executive director of CCSSO–was Kentucky’s education commissioner.

“It all began when we tried to solve some simple problems in the state, such as [knowing] what’s going on in schools and how can we monitor that. But we couldn’t answer anything, because there were no robust data systems in schools,” he explained.

As Wilhoit and the state education department designed and delivered state assessment and accountability systems, they also tapped into Kentucky Educational Television (KET) to bring resources to the classroom.

“We had the KET and organizations and institutions, such as the state museum, digitize materials for students, and this was a big step. However, all of these components were not connected in any one place or organized in any way. I thought it would be a good idea if we could pool all of these resources together and link them to student data,” said Wilhoit.

That way, teachers not only could see what their students needed; they also could pull from a list of free digital tools and resources to help their students meet these learning goals.

“When I joined CCSSO, it was natural to want to help [other] states take on this type of project,” said Wilhoit. CCSSO has teamed up with CPB to make this happen and is trying to partner with other national organizations as well, such as the Smithsonian Institution and NASA, that can provide additional content.

The project currently has two main areas of focus: working with states to develop common data standards, and creating digital learning objects that will work with these standards.

“This project is part of the [federal] Ready to Learn grant initiative,” said Susan Zelman, senior vice president of education and children’s content for CPB. She said the idea is for teachers to use data to inform their practice.

Project organizers envision a series of statewide data systems through which teachers could go onto their state’s education department web site and find digital resources that can help meet each child’s learning needs, based on his or her formative and high-stakes assessment data. Teachers could find these resources, as well as targeted teacher professional development, “all with the click of a button,” Zelman said.

Wilhoit said organizing these resources will be a key to the project’s success, because otherwise the vast amount of materials would be too confusing to sift through. CPB and CCSSO would like to organize the resources according to criteria such as the type of material, grade level they target, state standards or learning goals they address, and so on.

Zelman thinks these organized state databases will help low-performing states and schools in particular, calling the project “basically a rapid-response system” for teachers.