This is part 2 of a blog series on how Lubbock Independent School District (Lubbock ISD) uses SAS® EVAAS to improve teaching and learning by promoting self-reflection and aiding instructional and administrative decision-making.
This is done in a district that, in the past decade, has experienced dramatic increases in the percentage of Hispanic and African-American students, and the percentage of students living in poverty. These shifts precipitated a focus on meeting the unique needs of all students, whether low, middle, or high achieving. In 2009, Lubbock ISD joined a group of 10 Texas districts, which has grown to 23, using EVAAS for value-added reporting.
On Friday, we heard from the teachers. Today, it’s the principal’s turn.
For principals, value-added data help to ‘work smarter not harder’
LISD has many school improvement initiatives within which EVAAS is just one piece of a very large puzzle. One offering receiving a lot of attention is the pre-Advanced Placement equivalent courses in middle and high schools. With support from a grant, LISD trained teachers to more effectively teach students in advanced courses and significantly increased student enrollment in these courses. However, principals still needed to make the decisions as to which teachers should teach these advance courses, and which students are ready to take them. Enter Heidi Dye, Principal at Hutchinson Middle School and former 15-year teacher. Principal Dye uses teacher value-added and diagnostic reporting to identify teachers’ strengths and manage to them. She can determine not only which teachers are most highly effective in those tested pre-AP subjects, but can also determine the teachers who impact more-than-expected growth with high-achieving students.
“I’ve made changes in teaching assignments based, not solely, but in part on our value-added results. It really does tell me which teachers are doing what we are asking them to do in the classroom…Some teachers are better at one thing than another and when we sit down and have personal conferences, we talk about those specifics. When you’ve got the numbers in front of you it’s a whole lot easier to have those crucial conversations...It gives me the backing that I need to make those decisions…As a faculty we have common goals in mind for our students and it isn’t about us, it’s about the students. So when we have a tool like [EVAAS] to use for the betterment of our students, then we’re going to take that and run with it. I think you have to work smarter, rather than harder a lot of the time.”
It appears that this strategy of data-driven teacher and student course placement has paid off at Hutchinson Middle School. The state of Texas evaluates schools in cohorts of like achievement and demographic makeup. In a cohort of 40 schools that look like Hutchinson, they were ranked number one. But for other administrators outside of LISD who may be unfamiliar with value-added data, a culture shift may be required to trust in the data for administrative decisions. Principal Dye’s advice for those new to EVAAS in TX is to:
“Use it. Don’t just disregard it. Take it apart and figure out what it means. Once you do that, it’s not nebulous. That’s for sure. I trust it as a data source because it’s never come back and really surprised me greatly. Every time I’ve looked at the data, I’ve thought to myself ‘Yeah, this is about right’.”
The educators at Hutchinson Middle School illustrate how a high-achieving school can ensure high student growth. Some may wonder whether low-achieving schools can also show high growth. Amy Stephens is the current Principal at Wright Elementary School, but spent five years as Principal of the recently consolidated Bozeman Elementary School. Bozeman was a low-achieving school with high student mobility, 98% free and reduced-price lunch, and about a 50/50 makeup of African-American and Hispanic students. Bozeman used to focus most intently on classroom management due to high teacher turnover, said Principal Stephens.
“If you had good classroom management, you were viewed to have good instruction. Looking at student engagement and student learning was really not what was happening. The information in EVAAS was vital to us turning Bozeman around. We had a lot of ground to make up with our kiddos, and a lot of times our state test scores did not reflect the huge gains that we knew we had made. EVAAS data helped us look at teachers and have some small celebrations and, in some cases, some big celebrations. That really helped boost my teacher morale and keep them engaged. I believe, firmly, that it helped us not lose as many teachers. It helped us keep it positive and keep them going in the right direction. I speak for my specific campuses in saying that our teacher evaluation process up until this point in time has been a ‘check in a box.’ Everybody thinks they need to be an ‘Exceeds’ in that box whether that ‘Exceeds’ translates to student learning or not. I think having this is very eye-opening and will cause more reflection. I am excited about having this piece in the future evaluation process - not any kind of a ‘gotcha’ but to start changing that culture to a growth model and what are we doing to ensure all students are learning.”
Please come back tomorrow to get the superintendent’s views. Thanks for reading.