In the past decade, school districts in Massachusetts and around the country have been learning how to use data to customize teaching to each student’s individual needs, to support coaching and development of teachers, and to make big-picture decisions about resource allocation within a district. In internal meetings at all levels, districts across the Commonwealth are using data in high-stakes and high-impact ways.
While districts have become increasingly sophisticated at using data internally, we haven’t as often been using data to compare practices across districts. The new School StatNet program will take districts into this new area of data usage by convening district decision-makers for four discussions of data relating to school operations. Our hypothesis is that, by bringing together a group of districts to discuss consolidated practices and data related to important district topics, each district will have an opportunity to get new ideas on options for improving operations and educational strategies.
School StatNet is one of five education-related projects being carried out throughout the Commonwealth funded by the Patrick-Murray Administration’s Community Innovation Challenge (CIC) Grant Program. Somerville, Revere, Chicopee, and Fitchburg are taking the lead on the School StatNet program, which also involves partners from state agencies and academia.
School StatNet is being modeled after the successful Municipal StatNet program that Somerville helped found in 2008 with Springfield and Amesbury. Also with funding from A&F, Municipal StatNet brings together more than 64 New England municipalities to discuss data and share best practices.
Somerville fully understands the value of data in informing the decision-making process. While the City of Somerville had been using our own data to make decisions and improve operations for almost a decade, participating in the Municipal StatNet program has allowed us to do something we hadn’t been able to do before – compare what we do to other cities, rather than just comparing to our own past performance. Most striking about municipal StatNet meetings are the lessons learned and best practices that surface when data get shared. At each meeting, every community has an interesting practice to share; even the most sophisticated communities walk away with new ways of thinking about municipal operations. Meetings have also helped us identify challenges common to many municipalities which may require regional or state-level solutions.
School StatNet will bring together school districts from throughout the Commonwealth to examine data on school operations and student achievement, and to discuss operational strategies on a variety of topics. A State-level advisory board will help shape the direction of School StatNet so that it complements related initiatives at the State level, such as the release of Edwin, the State’s new teaching and learning data management system.
Our first School StatNet meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 21st. The meeting will be a data-informed discussion with participants comparing notes on the following two topics:
1. Systems of student support and intervention that districts carry out for general education students in grades K-5; and
2. An overview of the basics of each participating district — the size, number of schools, grade-spans of schools, and student population characteristics.
To get more information on School StatNet, please contact the project coordinator, Stephanie Hirsch, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-625-6600 ext. 2340.
We look forward to rich, data informed discussions in the coming year, and to the lessons learned for each of us who participate and for our state-level and academic partners.
By: Vincent P. McKay, Ph.D., Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, Somerville Public Schools & Stephanie Hirsch, School StatNet Coordinator, Somerville Public Schools and the City of Somerville