3. Are you using the right data? “How do we move beyond myopic focus on high stakes test results to empower students and teachers with data to inform learning? How can technology be used to reach a more comprehensive understanding of student achievement?”

With the move to Common Core Standards and away from some of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) accountability measures, an “increasing number of educational leaders and policy-makers are questioning the value of standardized tests as a tool for evaluating students, teachers, and schools,” reports CoSN.

Forum participants explained that while the standardized test can be viewed as an autopsy to analyze what went wrong for the specific students after it’s too late to do anything about it, formative assessment “allows teachers to collect data about students more frequently and modify instruction as a result.”

Teachers also do not have the time to customize instruction for the needs of individual students, says the report. Instead, instructional tools are needed to automate the formative assessment process and math students with appropriate resources.

4. How are you modernizing professional development (PD)? “What role should you play in facilitating the move from traditional face-to-face staff development to more blended, online, collaborative opportunities for leader and teacher professional growth?

PD is “crucial to successful implementations and initiatives,” says CoSN. According to forum participants, you should start by reaching out to principals and administrators, because “helping them see how to use technology for their own personal growth…is a critical first step.”

Also, PD needs to “practice what [it] preach[es]” by including “multiple modalities, just-in-time learning, smart groupings, and other forms of differentiated learning for staff.

Looking closely at policies and how they might need to change should also occur, says the report.

For example, many states with PD mandates measure progress in terms of “seat time.” With blended and differentiated learning, these measures no longer “make sense,” explains the report. “There needs to be a way of accounting for individualized exploration, online learning, collaborative meetings with peers, instructional book groups, and more.”

“As technology, assessments, and instructional leaders come together to focus on common problems and principles related to improving education, valuable conversations are taking place,” concludes the report. “The undiscussables are rapidly becoming less mysterious, more commonplace, and more discussable through the power of collaboration and a unified vision.”

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Meris Stansbury

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