Charles Town, WV: Area High Schools Among Top 10 in State
The Journal

By: Danyel VanReenen
Original post from The Journal

CHARLES TOWN — Jefferson County Schools announced Jefferson High School and Washington High School ranked among the top 10 high schools in the state according to U.S. News and World Report 2017 Best High Schools rankings.

According to a press release, Jefferson High ranked third, and Washington High placed tenth. The schools were ranked based on a college readiness index, the percentage of students taking Advanced Placement tests, the amount of students passing AP tests, and mathematic and English proficiency among students.

U.S. News reviewed 28,496 public high schools across America. However, they eliminated some schools because they were too small to be analyzed, which left 20,487 in the nation.

In West Virginia, there were 114 eligible high schools, and five received silver medals — meaning the school ranked between 501 and 2,609 on the list, and the school’s College Readiness Index value was at or above 20.91

"Jefferson High School reported a graduation rate of 87 percent with 34 percent of the school population taking the AP tests, and 77 percent of those students passing the exams. Jefferson High School was one of five schools in the state awarded a silver medal,” officials said in a press release. “Washington High School reported a 95 percent graduation rate. Twenty-three percent of the school population participated in AP exams, and 70 percent of students earned passing scores.”

Meghan Metzner, media contact for Jefferson County Schools, said socio-economic status can play a role in student opportunity, however Jefferson County Schools design programs to close the achievement gap. She said the Free and Reduced Lunch percentage for Jefferson High is 33.7 percent and Washington High is at 29.2 percent.

Despite the number of students on the free and reduced lunch program, Metzner said strong school programs prevent poverty from defining them or limiting their future.

According to Metzner, both Jefferson and Washington high schools have strong graduation rates and consistent AP programs with an outstanding teaching staff. Jefferson County Schools emphasize high academic standards for their students, and they utilize an early warning system called Bright Bytes, to identify and aid students at risk of early drop out.

“Our parents trust us to educate their children so they send them to school consistently, which allows them to make greater progress. One of the greatest assets in Jefferson County is the high level of parental involvement we enjoy,” Metzner said.

Metzner also said Jefferson County Schools have the highest attendance rate of any school district in West Virginia.

“These rankings are a reflection of a system-wide commitment to excellence,” said Dr. Bondy Shay Gibson, superintendent of Jefferson County Schools. “From pre-school through high school our outstanding staff is committed to student success and these results show the results of that dedication and commitment.”

BrightBytes Digital Privacy, Safety & Security Module Featured as Cool Tool
EdTech Digest

Original post from EdTech Digest

Technology in education has potential to create powerful learning experiences, but simultaneous to those experiences, educators feel an overwhelming ethical and legal obligation to provide a safe and secure digital environment. BrightBytes, in partnership with iKeepSafe,™ built the Digital Privacy, Safety & Security module to help districts achieve the right balance between technology learning goals and privacy and security responsibilities. The module enables educators to analyze their current digital safety efforts collaboratively, and create comprehensive actionable plans for improvement. District leaders must understand all the interdependent components of creating the right environment. The module emphasizes a formative, collaborative process between stakeholders from across the organization. The core safety team completes the questionnaire together, and the results are measured on a three-level ABC maturity scale (Awareness, Behavior, Continuous improvement) that represents progression toward a safe digital environment. This data informs personalized reports, actionable next steps, and research-based insights to help create a safe digital environment. As solutions and procedures evolve, the questionnaire can be updated with new notes, documents, and responses. This provides the district with a formative, iterative, and complete view of the ever-changing learning environment to promote a common understanding of digital safety.

Susanna Clavello on Helping Students Navigate the Digital World in the Midst of Information Chaos
Guest Blog

Guest Blog by: Susanna Clavello

Today, librarians and library media specialists’ roles are more important than ever before. Let me explain why.

A research report from Adobe Education notes that, “In today’s world, a proficient employee needs to be computer literate, visually literate, information literate, media literate, and digitally literate.” Yet, a recent study from Stanford School of Education proves a shocking reality: the majority of middle school through college students are digitally illiterate. With so much emphasis on educating students to be good readers, how can we explain this disconnect?

We live in an age where instead of a traditional textbook, the world has become the curriculum and it can be easily accessed anytime. This reality has a significant impact on teaching practices, and since this shift challenges a comfortable and safe status quo, the future of many classrooms is for the most part stuck in the past.

Century after century and decade after decade, the American public school curriculum has adapted to meet the needs of a constantly evolving society. The Information Age began in the late 20th Century with the birth of the internet, putting new demands for a new skillset among graduates. Today, shifts in the global economy plus the increasing sophistication of technology and the shift from Web 1.0 to 2.0, then 3.0 and 4.0 have opened doors to the Conceptual Age. This very fast change has put strains in an education system that has been slow to adapt. In their book Teacher as Architect, Smith, Chavez and Seaman conclude that this inevitable change “...will require an upgrade to our curriculum, new instructional methods and materials, a new profile of a global graduate, and an open mind.”

The difference between deep learning and passing a standardized test is a fundamental change in pedagogy that creates a relevant, rigorous experience.  Leilani Cauthen from The Learning Counsel explains, “...nearly every industry is moving into the Experience Economy while the education sector has largely been left behind. It has instead been filled with new requirements for endless testing and accommodations while not being reinvented to discard some of the earlier, now non-relevant things.” (The Consumerization of Learning, Book 1, Chapter 4)

The definition of literacy has changed in the Conceptual Age and Experience Economy. Traditionally, literacy has been defined as the combination of reading, writing, speaking and listening -a skillset that is taught throughout the curriculum and across grade levels, and that state requirements and accountability measures put much emphasis on. Yet, these skills do not transfer from print to online format. Teaching reading using digital content requires a shift in thinking about what we call literacy as well as a change in pedagogy.

Digital literacy -which many equate to media literacy, web literacy, information fluency, information literacy, or transliteracy- is constantly evolving as technology continues to change and the demands of society continue to increase.

The digital world is where students spend a great deal of time looking up and sharing information, creating content, and interacting with others. Educators must understand the impact of this media on students’ identity and behavior, and help them become literate in the chaotic and confusing web of information. In his Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom video, Alan November reminds us that one of the myths about technology in education is that the web provides diverse ideas from around the world resulting in a generally better educated society, when in reality, this can only be accomplished when users know how to validate and interpret information in order to make informed decisions.

If you are curious about how digitally literate your students are, try one of these experiments. Take your elementary students to and practice main idea and details, context clues, cause and effect, and other reading comprehension skills. Then ask them, Would you take your dog to Dog Island? Why or why not? Observe their reasoning and the conclusions they draw. How many of them realize that the information is completely false? And if they do, how can they tell?

If you work with secondary students, ask when is it best to search for information using Google, Wolfram Alpha, Wayback Machine, subscription-based digital collections, or Twitter. Chances are, this may be confusing. Students may not realize that the quality, credibility, audience, and purpose of the information may vary drastically in each of these sources.

Digital literacy is not defined as the knowledge of using technology tools and applications; it is a combination of competencies and skills that are constantly evolving. According to Dr. Renee Hobbs, University of Rhode Island professor and founder of the Media Education Lab, “digital and media literacy closes the gap between the classroom and the culture because it capitalizes on the idea of making information relevant. Relevance ignites intellectual curiosity, and intellectual curiosity fuels lifelong learning.”

On the other hand, educational researcher Doug Belshaw discusses eight essential elements of digital literacy in his TEDx talk: cognitive, constructive, communicative, civic, critical, creative, confident, and cultural - which add another layer of complexity and depth to the modern definition of literacy. Belshaw concludes, “Digital literacies allow ideas to be amplified, to spread quickly, to be remixed.”

Just like reading online is different from reading on paper, so is writing. When students get ready to write online, there should be a prior conversation on what to write, where to publish it, for what purpose, for whose benefit, and how to use good judgment to engage in civil dialogue, should it become necessary.

Current state standards fall short of deepening student understanding of the intricacies of the digital world. Research projects using digital resources are often planned at the end of the school year -once standardized testing is over- and new literacy skills are often covered superficially. In addition, teacher preparation and professional development opportunities very rarely include digital literacy.

Current data from surveys nationwide indicate that 72% of teachers never ask their students to use online tools like Twitter or news feeds to acquire information, and 60% of teachers never or rarely ask their students to conduct research projects using digital resources (BrightBytes, January 2017). Why does this matter? Professor Renee Hobbs says that, “To take advantage of online educational opportunities, people need to have a good understanding of how knowledge is constructed, and how it represents reality and articulates one point of view” (Hobbs, 2010). More than one point of view is needed to draw conclusions and make informed decisions.

The ISTE standards for students 2016 cover digital literacy, and can guide educators in weaving new literacies across the curriculum fabric. State technology standards, on the other hand, may not reflect the most current digital literacy competencies and skills. Consequently, we must create opportunities for students -and adults alike- to be prepared to meet the demands of a constantly changing society, distinguish facts from alternative news, and engage in civil discourse.

As Alan November mentions to in his Mission Critical: How Educators Can Help Save Democracy article (December 2016), conditions that keep schools from teaching digital literacy include:

  • Teaching that often focuses on what is tested, and does not foster enough intellectual inquiry or academic exploration;

  • The omission of digital literacy in the core curriculum and standardized assessments;

  • Restrictive web filters that block teachable moments and give a false sense of security instead of promoting digital citizenship and critical thinking;

  • Limited knowledge of search strategies and how to validate online information;

  • Research skills that are taught superficially, late in the school year, in secondary grades only, or as a one-time introduction at the library.

The following are additional contributing factors:

  • Schools requiring teachers to follow a scripted curriculum versus allowing them to be creative and responsive to their students’ interests and cultural backgrounds;

  • The use of digital devices for supplemental programs or remedial courses, thus limiting access to tools for inquiry and creative work;

  • The misunderstanding that research equates to looking up information, with no analysis or synthesis involved in the process;

  • A perception that technology-related activities are separate from core instruction and therefore non-essential;

  • The fear that technology will eventually replace classroom teachers;

  • Teaching practices that are no longer current and do not harness the power of digital tools. In other words, why ask questions that students can google?  

  • A lack of certified library media specialists at each campus; and

  • A lack of awareness of the implications of digital illiteracy.

So what can schools do to ensure that students are good navigators of the digital world? A lot, actually. Here are some considerations:

  • Identify opportunities to use technology beyond the stage of consumption or substitution of traditional schoolwork, and redesign instruction to allow for student collaboration and creation of content;

  • Equip students with the necessary skills to validate information online and make informed decisions;

  • Allow students to be curious and question the validity of information they are exposed to, challenge assumptions and engage in high levels of inquiry and civil discourse;  

  • Provide opportunities for students to apply complex thinking to identify and create solutions to predictable and unpredictable problems in their community and beyond;

  • Empower students to think about their own thinking, and tap into their personal interests and passions;

  • Allow students to take control of their own learning;

  • Expose students to different social media channels, identify look fors, and develop a deeper understanding of how information is constructed and shared;

  • Implement a digital citizenship program with fidelity and establish a culture of safe, ethical and responsible use of technology;

  • Provide access to a quality collection of subscription-based digital resources that are reliable and trustworthy, and promote their use;

  • Involve school librarians and library media specialists throughout the process.

Why are school librarians and library media specialists so critical in this mission? For once, librarians are experienced classroom teachers with a Master’s degree in library and information science, and certification. They are the information experts on campus for both digital and print materials. They are also computer literate.

Librarians support teachers in helping students build literacy skills -including digital literacy- by teaching students to distinguish legitimate sources from untrustworthy ones, make sense of the information they are exposed to and put it into the right context, so they can make informed, responsible decisions. The library is the largest classroom on campus -a place where curiosity leads to discovery. Librarians provide resources and strategies to promote and implement innovative learning opportunities for students. In addition, they partner with teachers “to design and implement curricula and assessments that integrate elements of deeper learning, critical thinking, information literacy, digital citizenship, creativity, innovation and the active use of technology.” (see

Some of the most exemplary lessons I have observed are the ones co-designed by teams of teachers, librarians and instructional technologists. Some of the best student projects I have seen were supported by a great school librarian.

Schools have the responsibility to teach students and educators alike how to navigate today’s messy and chaotic digital world responsibly and with confidence. We invite you to be open minded about the ideas listed above, remove any barriers or limiting thoughts, and envision the benefits of a digitally literate community at your school. And if it ever feels too overwhelming, remember Martin Luther King Jr.’s words: “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Susanna Clavello serves as the Coordinator of Digital Age Learning at Education Service Center, Region 20. She is also an IPEC certified professional coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner.


Insights Portfolio Sessions: An Interview with Traci Burgess, CEO of BrightBytes
Insight Venture Partners

By: Carolina Küng
Original post from Insight Venture Partners

Longtime EdTech executive Traci Burgess is wrapping up her first full year as the CEO of BrightBytes. BrightBytes is a data analytics company that helps schools to better understand their students. The company launched in 2012 and now serves one out of five schools in the U.S. BrightBytes is at the forefront of data-impact learning. 

“K-12 education, and the world as a whole, is data-rich and information-poor,” Burgess told us. “One of the things that BrightBytes brings to school districts is a meaningful way to make sense of data and use it to impact learning for students and the education institutions themselves. We take very complicated issues at a school – like the dropout rate – and we layer in different analytics and years of research to bring school districts, teachers, principals, and leaders, information that’s easily digestible and actionable.”

Burgess has spent her career entirely in education. Her early passion for mathematics led her to pursue a career as a math educator. After deciding she wanted the opportunity to help students on a larger scale, she made the move from the classroom to leadership roles in education sales and publishing, and eventually, into educational technology.

Traci Burgess recently sat down with us to talk about her journey, the most impactful piece of advice she received while building her career, the lessons she has learned as a CEO, and her views on the importance of setting and driving clear and measurable personal and team goals. 

Read the full discussion below, but in summary, Traci provides the following advice to emerging leaders in growing companies:

  • Find a mentor and learn to use the person effectively
  • Be an empathetic team leader
  • Create short and long-term goals for yourself and track your progress against them
  • Encourage your team members to do likewise
  • Never underestimate the value of effective team communication
  • Give talented team members a seat at the table and encourage them to lean in

Q: What was the best piece of advice you were given when you started on your path from math teacher to CEO?  
I had a strong mentor when I was young who helped me set a path to my end goal. One thing he told me was that the best leaders were those who could build out talent (he’d been in sales, all the way up to COO). He said, ‘If you’re going to progress into being a CEO, you must first show how you can build out a team. Scale the team, scale the company, move to that next level of operating, and you’ll have a natural transition to being a CEO.’  That’s the approach that I’ve taken with my career.

Q: We often come across anecdotes where a new CEO has a moment when they realize, “Oh wow, I’m actually running this company.” What was that moment like for you?
I was very fortunate that when I started at BrightBytes I had a three-week learning period with both of the original founders where we spent a tremendous amount of time onboarding. Onboarding was a whirlwind situation and somewhere around week three when the current CEO stepped away, I remember being at a Friday meeting where I twice said “Well, we should think of it this way,” and twice I was corrected because there was no more “we”. My heart skipped a beat. That was a defining moment for me.

Q: What was your first real challenge or loss as a CEO, and how did you handle it?
That’s an easy one. Early on in my tenure I had to make some tough staffing decisions and I didn’t realize how much of an impact this would have on the greater organization until it was underway. I have lived through restructuring and layoffs at past companies – but this was totally different. I realized that every move we made was going to directly affect and change people’s lives, that we were impacting every degree of their lives. This taught me the importance of being thoughtful and empathetic as a team leader – it was either that or losing all of my people.  

Q: What did that experience teach you about yourself and your leadership style?
Simply put, it taught me never to underestimate the value of communication.
Since then, I’ve made communication a focus across BrightBytes. For example, we’ve introduced meetings that bring middle management and the executive team together once a month to problem solve and build relationships. If we’re communicating with middle management leaders often, then we can make sure that changes are properly understood and debated across the company. And, every Friday we get together as a whole company and discuss these same issues. We communicate and we’re much more transparent than we would have been had I not gone through that experience up front.

Q: Female advocates like Sheryl Sandberg and Sallie Krawcheck have been very vocal on the need for women to “lean in” and to redefine our workplaces. How does that compare with your style of leadership, and what are your thoughts on it?
I would agree with that. Some of the frustrations in my career came when I thought I was ready to lead a company, but I wasn’t leaning in. I was sitting back, thinking that my actions and my performance would get me there automatically. That just doesn’t work for anyone.
Women definitely have to “lean in” more. Women have to be comfortable at the table with other executives and feel like they belong there. That’s the hardest thing, and I watch it even here, where some of the women who I think are amazingly talented tend to sit back and wait to be called, versus voicing their thoughts and being more assertive. 

Q: And as a leader how are you promoting a “lean in” attitude?
Having the right people at the table and encouraging them to speak is the trick. It’s on me to bring talented women to BrightBytes and also to give them the voice to speak up so they can excel and move up through the organization. And that goes for anyone in the organization – I’ve invited everyone on my team to sit down with me for an hour every two to three weeks. Interestingly enough, the women who have taken me up on that offer are the very same women who I think could be leaders someday very soon. 

Q: What do you discuss at these meetings? 
During our chats, we focus on goals and goal setting a lot. We talk about clear paths, you know, “What are your near-term goals? Where do you want to be one month, one year, three years, five years from now?” It seems to me that the tendency out here is not to think about that, and I’m always surprised by this. I also think it’s a West Coast/East Coast thing.

Q: How so?
When I was growing up, we always kind of knew, “This is what I want to do in one year, this is what I want to do in three years.” If somebody asked you that question in an interview, it was pretty easy to communicate your answer.

I’ve asked that question to several people in this organization and they can’t answer it. I’ve made an effort to change that mindset and get everyone to think about it – especially the women here who want to be successful and grow in their careers. I’ve taken it upon myself to work with these folks to make sure they’re more career- and goal-oriented.

Q: Why do you think that is? Do you think it’s just the nature of how companies work these days – where employees inherently expect to change jobs/careers/industries several times throughout their working lives? 
Yes, I think changing jobs is much more acceptable today than when I was growing up.  Often people believe that their next step is much larger than the experience they have behind it, and that we [the company], should just recognize that and put you there. I find that people often think along the lines of, ‘If I just do the work for a couple of years, I should get the next opportunity. And if I don’t, I’ll move on to another organization.’ The problem is that people spin in these roles, especially women, because you’re not getting the skill set and you’re not focused on the end goal. You’re going to continue to spin in an organization and probably never reach your true potential. So, I’ve tried to change the mentality here to say: “If this is your end goal, lets actively think of all the steps you need to do to get there.” 

Q: Examples? 
It’s the beginning of the year, so in a recent all-company meeting, I ended with why I think goal-setting is important and gave the team my three goals. I was open about them – and they’re not financial goals, talking about hitting your numbers and growing the company – they were real goals. I made them see me as a real person who’s not afraid to be open about how I feel and to assess my areas of improvement.
I had a lot of people approach me afterward to say, “Can I sit with you for an hour to talk about my goals and get them down on paper?” – That’s when I started my weekly chat program.

Q: All of that said, what advice would you give to other CEO’s?
Get your team to think about their career, think about their goals and realize that they may not be able to achieve all of them in your organization. You want to coach and help them along. At the end of the day, this is about people. It’s really important to me to retain, train and keep everyone on this team motivated. I’ve been in organizations where developing people wasn’t the most important thing that CEOs and other leaders thought about. It’s a big mistake to go through the time and expense of bringing on folks and then not take care of them. Plus, goal-setting works. I learned very early on from my manager that you should have three goals every year, and three goals every week, and you should spend time thinking about how to achieve those goals. Keep yourself measured. If you don’t do that, a lot of noise and other things get in the way.

Q: What’s one interesting fact about you that most people wouldn’t know about?
I think a lot of people who know me would say, “You’re never going to retire. You’re too driven, you’re always going to be in the mix of things.” What people don’t know is I dream of someday living in the Bahamas.

Now I say that, I probably never will…But I think when people meet me, get to know me and see me in my workspace, they would never think I could ever calm down and live in that environment. But it’s a thing I think about often in the back of my mind – escaping, going there and having a whole different perspective on life.

Digital Privacy, Safety & Security Module Named Winner in EdTech Digest’s 2017 Cool Tool Awards

Original post from EdTech Digest

EdTech Digest Awards Program 2017: Shaping Our Future
Any education company is, by the era in which we now live, an edtech company. And today, any educator, learner, or leader is at least a nascent technologist. Billions of dollars have been invested in this future, and we will no doubt invest billions more. Whatever the immediate figures, because of the integral nature of education to humanity’s ultimate survival, the long-term trend will only be up. In honoring cool tools, inspiring leaders, and innovative trendsetters in education, we do so with a sense of excitement, but also a sense of responsibility. Dream-to-reality makers are awesome to behold. But the stakes are high because these honorees are shaping our future. Perhaps more so than in any other sector, in education there are mission-driven companies and there are purpose-driven people. For what mission, and for what purposes committed individuals or dedicated groups of people help advance the rest of us, is what we honor and celebrate here. And with that, here’s to the innovators, leaders, and trendsetters shining bright in one of the greatest fields of human endeavor.

BrightBytes is thrilled to be a Cool Tool Award Winner in the Security/Privacy category for the Digital Privacy, Safety & Security module!

Rob Mancabelli Return on Learning: Invest in Learning Outcomes with Quantifiable Information
DALI Presentation Tampa, FL

Presentation during February 2017 DALI Session

Rob Mancabelli starts with a bold statement, that "21st Century Learning" is the most used phrase in education today. Educators debate the concept at length, but the steps towards creating a "21st Century Classroom" are far less discussed. Many districts are stuck somewhere on this journey, they have provided their schools with the equipment, but are missing the pieces that support seamless technology integration - including professional development, network accessibility and classroom structure. Using BrightBytes, educational leaders can determine where to direct their focus and use their resources wisely to make the biggest impact.

Rob Mancabelli on Using Data to Make Better Decisions
Education Week

By: Tom Vander Ark
Original post from Education Week

Hashim Anwar asked his business school friend Rob Mancabelli for advice on his children’s education. As a former teacher and school administrator, Rob knew how hard it was to find good data to guide education decisions.

The two had attended MIT’s Sloan Business School to prepare to work on global innovation, but their conversation led to a big idea—bring the big data tools common in industry to education to help educators make better informed decisions.

The business school friendship of an educator and data scientist led to the formation of BrightBytes, and in this podcast, Rob shares more about how they work to help educators find and use the right data to improve student achievement.

Podcast Highlights

Five years ago there were people thinking about education data but none connecting it to research. Rob observed, “It takes three things to make a good decision: to know the research, to collect and use the right data, and to identify the right next steps based on what similar schools have done."

Leaders from almost 2,500 school districts representing about one in five U.S. students are informed by BrightBytes. The Clarity platform combines research and analysis to improve decision making by turning complex data into actionable information.

In addition to standardized test results, BrightBytes helps administrators collect broader proxies for student success. “We work with institutions on their priorities, and help them improve their return on learning by doing more of what the research says they should be doing,” added Mancabelli.

For example, a new superintendent in a district with a high dropout rate could use the platform to compare their district data to research on 23 factors. After developing a strengths and gaps analysis of their schools, BrightBytes supports an early warning system that identifies students at-risk of dropping out.

Unlike consulting firms that inflict a van full of new MBAs on an organization for months at a time, BrightBytes extracts information from existing systems and provides analytics through a cost-effective software subscription.

Five years ago, the application of a crude checklist was the best early warning system for at-risk students, but resulted in a large number of false positives. "Machine learning allows us to predictively look at historical data and get to more granular answers," said Rob.

"Machine learning is changing so quickly, it’s an exciting area to work in. We’ve come so far since we started,” said Mancabelli.

As a former school administrator now working on bleeding edge decision support systems, Mancabelli advises Ed Leaders to focus on their own learning. “We often don’t know what we don’t know,” said Rob. He urged leaders to make time every week for learning,

On building an impact organization, Rob said, “Check in with customers but build to your vision.”

He added, “Think about organization building as much as product development. Hire smart caring people and focus on culture."

K-12 Predictive Analytics: Time for a Better Dropout Diagnosis
Real Clear Education

By: Dr. Joel Boyd
Original post from Real Clear Education

Imagine going to your family doctor with a cough, fever and chills. You explain that you’ve had symptoms for a few days. Most of us already know what questions the doctor will ask, and with good reason. Doctors are trained in differential diagnosis. They don’t hear a cough and assume that you’ve come down with pneumonia. They look for the simplest, most common explanation to a problem first and utilize blood work, X-rays or MRIs to guide them in the search for rare or complicated explanations.

Unfortunately, school districts generally have far fewer tools to identify students at risk of dropping out. Unlike blood work or X-rays, K-12 early warning systems typically rely on as few as four lagging indicators  —considered in isolation— to diagnose problems. The risk piles up before teachers and administrators are called to action. Sadly, most states and districts use this very same approach to allocate and target precious resources.

Pioneered in the late nineties, so-called “threshold” or “static” early warning systems, which identify correlations in nationally aggregated data to identify cut points for risk indicators (using data like grades or attendance rates), are not without utility. But they tend toward over-identification of high school students because they rely on data for what brings students off track later in their academic careers. They also under-identify at-risk elementary students, causing educators to miss the opportunity to intervene early. Research suggests that static models can achieve about 50 percent accuracy in identifying students at risk before eighth grade. But a one-in-two chance of identifying the right students means that far too many students can fall through the cracks.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Real-time analysis of disparate data streams now enables the beneficial application of predictive analytics for everything from credit card fraud detection to personalized health care. And, as it turns out, the “digital symptoms” required to identify students at risk already exist in most districts. Districts can access and use that data to inform decision-making. And the advent of lower-cost technologies for data integration means that districts can apply advanced statistical methods and predictive analytics to direct resources toward students in earlier grades and bring them back on track with minimal interventions relative to the extensive efforts required to assist students in middle and high school.

Predictive analytics, which are increasingly used to support college retention, are fundamentally different from static early warning systems in that they move beyond national-level correlations, and use a district’s historical data, along with complex algorithms, machine learning techniques and current student indicators to forecast the likelihood that a student will go off track at some point in their academic careers. Unlike static models, predictive models “learn” over time and can identify risk indicators for sub-populations of students by grade level. The approach not only provides regular and on-going data to school staff to identify at-risk students early but also helps pinpoint the reasons students might be off track.

The deeper data is essential to making smart decisions about how to allocate limited resources. If educators notice a child is struggling with reading comprehension, for example, they can intervene with targeted supports early in a school year rather than relying on intensive remediation of a student who has been off track for a year or more. With more accurate identification, school and district leaders can make better decisions about how to direct resources that are likely to help more students do better.

A predictive analytics model may be able to identify with much more accuracy —about 94 percent in some cases—the students who are truly at risk. As school districts better diagnose challenges, more students have an equitable shot at building the skills they need to succeed in school and beyond. Our old approach to early warning served its purpose, but newer models can get us where we need to go more efficiently. It’s time to retire threshold approaches and open the door to predictive analytics. Our children deserve it.

BrightBytes Presentation at Litchfield School Board Meeting
Litchfield Independent Review

By: Leah Byron
Original post from "Litchfield School Board Makes Decision on Re-Roofing Project" Litchfield Independent Review

This summer, the Litchfield School District plans to replace sections of the high school and middle school roofs, as well as the entire roof over Lake Ripley Elementary, per a 10-year maintenance plan approved by the Litchfield School Board Monday.

Re-roofing is just one component of the district’s maintenance plan, outlining a schedule for facility improvements through 2027. The plan, approved annually by the School Board, also calls for re-paving the Wagner Education Building parking lot this year.

While the board has spending concerns, Jesse Johnson noted that designating funds to complete the replacement of a quality roof would cost less overall.

Andrea Uhl, a financial specialist from Ehlers and Associates, the district’s financial advisor, presented the board the information about general obligation bonds in order to finance the project.

The project is estimated to require a $2.5 million bond issue, which the board unanimously approved obtaining, along with a pre-sale report and notice of intent.

Enrollment Declines Steadily
Because Minnesota public schools are funded on a per-pupil basis, Superintendent Daniel Frazier expressed concern over the district’s declining enrollment. Currently, the total number of students enrolled in district is at 1,549. But Frazier predicts that this number will drop in the next five years to 1,328, a loss of 221 potential students.

Declining enrollment may be attributed to more than one factor. By 2021, Frazier projected that the kindergarten class size will be at 99 students, while the senior class size could be at 104 students. Compared to the 150 students that were enrolled for the year 2015, that is a significant decrease, he noted.

The number of births in Meeker County has dropped as well. Five years ago, in 2011, there were 136 births. In 2015, the birth rate was 123. It was noted that lowest number of births was in 2014, at only 100.

The board concluded that members need to keep watching enrollment numbers. The board needs to find a way to mitigate declining enrollment, Frazier explained.

Director Discusses Technology Implementation
Since the board’s first focus is on technology, members were eager to learn how technology is being used by the student body and faculty, according to chairman Marlin Schutte. Jennifer Ridgeway, technology director, gave a presentation on BrightBytes, a learning data and technology assessment tool.

BrightBytes assesses technology-based learning data nationwide and for individual districts based on a framework known as Classroom-Access-Skills-Environment, or CASE. In its assessment, Ridgeway reported that Litchfield Schools are above average for the state and the nation in terms of proficiency in technology. Overall, the district scored exemplary, with a higher score than both the state and nation.

Ridgeway explained that the students are using Apple computers and tablets as a tool to learn and study better in and outside of school. The fact that students will have to update their computer systems in a couple of years was a primary discussion point between Ridgeway and the board. Ridgeway agreed to talk to her administrative team to get a better sense of how to best keep up the systems.

Almost every job now has at least some usage of the computer and using it in schools helps teach problem-solving, Schutte said.

“We are committed to helping our students prepare for life, citizenship and work in an ever-changing business and technology world,” Ridgeway said.

In Other Action
The board hired Ann Selix as a special education paraprofessional at Lake Ripley Elementary working for 5.75 hours per day at a starting wage of $12.64 per hour.
The board accepted the following staff resignations: paraprofessionals Jan Johnson and Shannon Bode, physical education and health teacher Jo Carlson and physical education teacher John Carlson. The Carlsons are retiring at the end of the school year.
The board approved two overnight trip requests: one for the girls golf team to attend a tournament in Brainerd in May and another for the robotics club to attend a competition in Duluth in March.

The board approved the district’s 2017-18 school calendar.

The next School Board meeting is Feb. 27 in the Wagner Education Building.

How Schools Improve
Getting Smart

By: Tom Vander Ark

Original post from Getting Smart

Frustrated by the lack of widely used improvement frameworks in schools, a colleague emailed some questions. Following is a quick attempt to outline approaches to improvement and innovation.

I see teachers sitting around the table with reports and then deciding to do a program or do more PD. How can we develop a more formal improvement framework that would drive effectiveness and efficiency?

There are five important steps to developing or adapting an improvement framework.

1. Prioritize outcomes. Hold community conversations about what graduates should know and be able to do–like those in El Paso, Houston, and Marion, Ohio. An updated graduate profile can help create role and goal clarity by identifying priority student learning outcomes and ways of measuring (or estimating) those outcomes.

2. Do the research. Create a shared vision of what good practice looks. Unless you’re inventing a new set of practices, that picture should be research-based. BrightBytes is a decision support tool used by almost 1500 districts that allows teams to compare their outcomes with research recommendations.

3. Build a learning model. A common approach to supporting powerful learner experiences may include shared

  • Content, tasks and assessments (i.e., curriculum);
  • Teacher practices (e.g., Teach Like a Champ);
  • Values and behavioral norms;
  • Guidance and youth and family support services; and
  • Structures, schedules and staffing strategies that support learning.

Voluntary and managed school networks (and districts that act like networks) are disciplined about defining and supporting a learning model including some or all of these factors.

Some districts and networks go a step further and identify core processes and support systems for each (listen to an interview with Colorado’s District 51).

4. Identify metrics and source the data. In the 90s, best practice was a war room of handwritten data that allowed teachers and leaders to visually spot problems. By 2000, Excel spreadsheets were common. Data shops like Schoolzilla, spun out from Aspire Public Schools in 2013, help organize district data. Unfortunately, it’s still challenging to combine all the data schools are receiving.

5. Adopt a shared improvement framework. “School leaders need to focus their attention on creating the conditions where teachers have the resources, courage and support to experiment with improving their practice, and then the space to share what they are learning with other educators,” said Justin Reich, executive director of the MIT Teaching Systems Lab.

An improvement framework identifies core processes (e.g., reading instruction), shared practices (e.g., guided reading), quality metrics (e.g., observations, running record), improvement tools, and review cycles.

The improvement framework for the New Tech Network (below) incorporates shared values, process tools and common structures.

Who is doing this well?

Total quality management (TQM) tools and strategies have been used by some schools for 30 years. Church, Alaska, was an early adopter and first to win Baldrige Award. Former superintendent Rich DeLorenzo describes the journey and toolset in Delivering on the Promise.

APQC has been advancing similar process tools for more than 20 years.

Process tools are important, but continuous improvement starts with what Rob Waldron, Curriculum Associates, calls a “Tell it like it is” culture—a shared commitment to honesty, transparency, and accountability.

So where does innovation fit in?

Improvement is doing things better. Innovation is doing things differently hoping for breakthrough results. School districts and networks must constantly negotiate the balance between improvement efforts and phases of innovation.

Take competency-based learning for example. It implies new learning and assessment strategies, requires new structures and supports, and it demands a new way of thinking about success—it’s a big innovation. You won’t get there with cycles of continuous improvement. It requires a design process that reconsiders every aspect of education. It may be implemented in a few phases but once the new system is in place, you can go back to continuous improvement to make it work better for teachers and students.

Improvement can be undertaken with internal faculty agreements. Results are reported to stakeholders, but you don’t need permission to do better. An innovation, like the shift to competency-based learning, requires a broader community agreement because it involves investment, risk and new desired outcomes.

What about Design Thinking?

Design Thinking starts with an investigation of customer needs and imagining possible futures. It’s more about inventing than improving. 

A growing number of schools help students and faculty use design thinking to attack problems (see posts on Olin Colleged.Tech and DSISD). It’s often used in the inquiry phase (i.e., problem finding) preceding project-based learning (a sprint to a defined deliverable).

Based on the book Designing Your Life, One Stone students spent a time in January applying design thinking to their lives by imagining possible futures (i.e., what problem would I like to solve) and designing quick prototypes (e.g., a job shadow). 

Sometimes a problem spotted in a continuous improvement cycle is tough enough to warrant a quick design thinking exercise that may lead to a full process redesign (akin to business process reengineering). 

How about Lean Startup?

Coined by Eric Ries, lean startup is an approach to organizational development that (like design thinking) values hypothesis development, prototyping, and rapid iteration.

It’s usually applied at an early stage than continuous improvement—often well before shared and documented processes are adopted. The lean mindset and practices are similar to and useful in continuous improvement.

The Goal: Internet Access for all PVUSD Students
Capitola Times

Original post from The Capitola Times

By: Maria Orozco, President PVUSD Board of Trustees, and Jeff Ursino, PVUSD Trustee

On November 16 the Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees considered several programs expanding access to Internet services for low income students across the district.

With the introduction of Chromebooks and possible rollout of digital textbooks, there is a sense of urgency at the District level to ensure that our students have access to the Internet while at home. Results from a PVUSD BrightBytes survey in October of last year showed that 3000 of our students do not have home Internet access. This puts students whose families cannot afford Internet access at a disadvantage compared to those that have access. Students without Internet connectivity at home cannot access instructional content and online learning resources, which may affect their educational performance.

As stated by Maria Orozco, Board President, “Students rely heavily on internet access for online learning, homework projects, research and communication with teachers. Internet access is an integral part of 21st century learning and no student should be left behind.”

Students with Internet access at home are able to gather information from a wide array of public sources almost instantly. With Internet access in their homes, students are able to peruse magazines, books, newspaper articles and Internet sites. Such connectivity readily invites students to seek a deeper understanding of the subject as well as a more complete knowledge of what is being discussed.

Another advantage is the excitement that the Internet brings to our students. A survey by the National Math and Science Initiative found that hands-on Internet activities excites students and allows them to be more fully engaged in the educational process. As many parents can tell you, our children are already very involved with the Internet through social media and video games. Giving our students home access to the Internet will help our students towards a more productive educational experience.

A final benefit that we feel is of the utmost importance, is that internet home access for our students will help to close the communication gap between parents, students and teachers. With Internet and email access, parents are able to communicate more frequently and directly with their child’s teacher thereby helping to advance the student’s education by building a more effective and meaningful parent/teacher partnership. Also, students are able to email their homework and class assignments to their teachers thus allowing a faster response from them and an end to any “the dog ate my homework” excuses.

In an effort to increase internet home connectivity and to give our students access to these benefits, the PVUSD Technology Services will present to the Board options to help provide PVUSD’s low income families and their students with free or discounted home internet service. Other options being considered include: installing Wi-Fi on District buses providing internet access to students while on the bus; “WiFi hotspots” students could check out from the school library to provide internet service at home; and Chromebook 4G LTE cards that will provide internet access for students using the Chromebook.

All of these Internet service options are to help every student in our schools to have the best educational experience possible. The 21st century workplace is often based on knowing how to use technology. By providing all our students with Internet access, we are giving them the tools to be successful, and that is a goal we all can get behind.


BrightBytes Named in Top 10 Fastest Growing Education Solution Provider Companies
Insights Success Magazine

Original post from Insights Success Magazine

Educational Transformation with the help of Technological Upgradation

Technology in education was a debatable topic amongst the society with everyone having their positive and negative views on whether to modernize education and make it technology aided or not. But, as technology got embraced by the educational institutes, everyone realized the significance of technology in education.

Its positives got outnumbered with the negatives and at present, education has taken a whole new meaning with technology while transforming into ever-advanced level. Education and technology are a great combination when used together with a right vision and reason.

With the right vision and reason, many education solutions providers have equipped technology into their core values and are delivering outstanding solutions and services while making education easier more than ever.

Out of them, we have shortlisted the most outstanding and exceptional solutions providers in our The 10 Fastest Growing Education Solution Provider Companies issue. These education solutions provider companies are using technology advancements at its best and are standing strong while proving their mantle.

Improving Education For A Better Tomorrow

This is the most exciting and challenging time to work in education in the past century. It’s challenging because the methods of schooling honed over the past 100 years do not provide students with the skills they need to compete in the global economy. But it’s exciting because developments in connectivity hold the promise of replacing these approaches with advances that make individualized learning truly possible for the first time in human history.

The transition between these two worlds requires talented educational leaders who can meld together visionary plans with real change management for their schools and communities. BrightBytes is a company which provides essential tools that advance the work of these educational innovators. 

BrightBytes: Improving the Way the World Learns

With a mission to improve the way the world learns through the use of data, BrightBytes gathers ideas from the best experts in the world and creates evidence-based frameworks that are combined with data from schools, providing clients the tools to understand and quickly improve student learning outcomes.

In an industry overwhelmed by DRIP syndrome (data rich, information poor), BrightBytes goes to great lengths to provide educators across school, district, and state levels, with personalized and research-driven insights, resources, and support material at each data point. Educators not only see the data in an educative and engaging format, but they also know what actions to take to address any gaps or challenges within their personalized results.

Rob Mancabelli: A Veteran Educator

Rob Mancabelli, the Brightbytes Co-founder & Chief Strategy Officer, is an educator with over fifteen years of experience in schools. Rob is an internationally known speaker, writer, and consultant on educational innovation. He’s the co-author of the book Personal Learning Networks (2011), sits on the advisory board of Education Week magazine and has an MBA from MIT.

The Seven Modules

Mancabelli, a veteran educator himself, aspired to address different challenges educators face with each unique module available on the Clarity platform.

He explains, the first module, Technology & Learning measures the impact of school technology on student learning. It works to narrow the new digital divide and provide fast actionable solutions for more impactful implementation and improved fund allocation.

The Digital Privacy, Safety & Security module, created in partnership with iKeepSafe,™ gives districts the capability to strike the right balance between achieving technology goals and fulfilling privacy and security responsibilities.

The Early Warning and Intervention modules, formed through a partnership with Mazin Education,™ uses predictive analytics to identify at-risk students early based on student-and building-specific triggers. The dropout prevention system identifies students at risk of dropping out as early as first grade, with 90% accuracy. After identification, the modules help connect students with the right support systems, and monitors the success of students within those programs.

Leadership, the fifth module on the Clarity platform, was built in partnership with McREL International. This module helps district leaders understand which initiatives have the greatest impact on the learning process, and whether school leaders are adequately empowered to drive those initiatives.

The 21st Century Service Agency module informs service agencies where they stand in terms of technology readiness, and delivers personalized recommendations for improvement.

Finally, the Financial Transparency module makes it easy for the public to understand revenues and expenditures by organizing and comparing spending throughout schools across the state. Community members can use this knowledge to have informed conversations and ignite change.

Providing Research and Action Plans

Many companies offer dashboards of educational data, but those products fail to transform that information into decisions. The BrightBytes platform provides educators with research frameworks that select only the data linked to improved student outcomes. It then identifies strengths and gaps in those frameworks, and offers insights into how to improve, using specific examples from real schools. This combination of research and action plans set the platform apart from every other offering.

The complex predictive-analytics platform and its research-based content are the product of the combined efforts of the BrightBytes Labs, the research engine behind Clarity, and the BrightBytes team. Together, mission-driven school practitioners, designers, engineers, and visualization experts join forces with statisticians, analysts, researchers, and thought leaders from top institutes to power and inform the seven modules of Clarity.

BrightBytes plans to continue their process of creating products that address issues that arise in the K-12 educational sector. The organization is set to expand their product lines and sales teams, across the US and internationally.

Innovation from Within: How Savvy Districts Are Making Data Privacy Work
The Huffington Post

Original post from The Huffington Post

By: Joel D. Boyd

Over the last three years, hundreds of bills designed to protect the privacy and security of student data have been introduced across state legislatures. At least 60 have become law. State legislation aims – in part – to clarify federal laws drafted at a time when the latest technology included a DOS-run version of The Oregon Trail. But in the decades since, high-speed internet has accelerated access to content for teachers and students. Mobile computing has enabled an explosion of teacher-focused apps and tools and, in some cases, begun to disintermediate district-level decision-making. Educators now collaborate beyond their school or district via social media and share teacher-generated content with thousands of peers at the click of a button. Legislative shifts reflect the best efforts of policymakers to keep pace with innovation – and yet the gap between education technology policy and practice grows.

As new laws trigger state and district policies to be drafted almost more quickly than they can be read, the potential for misunderstanding and misinterpretation abounds. There is risk that the shifting sands of compliance could stymie beneficial uses of innovative tools at a time when our most vulnerable students deserve the best modern technology has to offer. District and school leaders, stuck in the middle, have to balance compliance concerns with leveraging technology to address their most vexing challenges. A handful of districts are getting it right. Some were focused on data privacy before data privacy was cool. The following three tips represent perspectives from peers in district leadership, including Ventura County, one of the most thoughtful districts in the field.

Build a shared understanding of safety.

Begin with a vision of a world in which students have access to a wealth of knowledge and ideas, to diverse and stimulating learning environments, and to personalized learning playlists that capture their imaginations and take them places that were barely conceivable without today’s technologies. Then raise the challenge of making these experiences possible while also protecting students from accidental disclosure, inappropriate content, or bad actors. Work collaboratively with everyone influenced by new policies to understand what may or may not work in implementation. Finally, work together to articulate a plan that maximizes the likelihood of success and mitigates the risks of failure.

Ventura County, for example, built relationships, trust, and credibility with their stakeholders, including staff, students, and community members, which was critical in helping achieve the vision of creating a healthy digital environment for students and staff. These were essential ingredients to a sustainable coalition that could develop long-term solutions.

Tap into technology to accomplish the most challenging parts of the work.

The more information available from students and families, teachers and leaders, and community stakeholders, the more and better they can be supported. Technology tools can be used to facilitate the work of building that shared understanding of safety described above. They can also be used to capture concerns and disseminate information about planned implementation activities.

Ventura worked with its partners to deploy a module to help schools, the district, and service agencies quickly analyze their current digital safety efforts, processes, and procedures, and create actionable plans for improvement. The tool takes stakeholders through a survey that helps them reflect on and assess current efforts, identify strengths and weaknesses, and determine areas in need of support. It also helps promote an iterative process for schools, districts, and service agencies to track their progress and identify where they’re excelling and where they need to make improvements in implementing the data privacy policy.

Anticipate evolving technologies and student needs.

Continuous innovation is one of the most exciting aspects of our digital economy. It is also one of the most challenging to manage for school districts. A torrent of new technologies means that policies and protocols designed to protect safety and privacy must mirror the innovation cycle. Community leaders, district personnel, teachers, families, and students change over time. Their needs evolve. Their goals shift. Simply engaging stakeholders once is insufficient. Regular, explicit attention to the opportunities and challenges of new technologies is required to maintain an ideal relationship between safety and privacy and student learning. Savvy districts are designing systems and workflows in order to engage stakeholders on an ongoing basis, gather insights and opinions, and educate key constituencies about the incredible new opportunities available for learning—and for protecting themselves.

Information about students and the ways they learn best is deeply personal. Yet the opportunities to harness that information to transform their learning environments into engaging, exciting places are boundless. With thoughtful processes in place to translate data into learning outcomes and mitigate the associated risks, schools and families can realize a future unbounded by today’s limitations. Technology need not be a danger. Instead, it can serve as a bridge between protecting students’ privacy and safety and expanding their opportunity.


District Success: Increasing Effective Leadership with Insight to Staff perceptions

The administration at Beaver Creek School District have invested extensively into building an effective leadership team. The district’s superintendent, Karin Ward, is a McREL trainer, and the dean of students, Tammy Naef, has taken eight McREL sessions. Together, they have been very
mindful to connect leadership visions with actions for all stakeholders across the district.

Technology & Learning Module Successes in Arlington, Texas

Arlington ISD is a large district in Texas with 75 schools and just over 60,000 students. The technology department is responsible for all planning, implementation support, and training efforts related to technology throughout the school district. With the guidance of Barry Fox,
the Director of Personalized Learning, and Marcus Miller, the Coordinator of Instructional Technology, the district used the BrightBytes Technology & Learning module to measure technology usage in classrooms at every campus and inform strategic decisions around technology resources and implementation.

Great Prairie Area Education Agency: Room 21C - The Classroom Tech Built

Great Prairie Area Education Agency, located in southeast Iowa, is one of nine Area Education Agencies. The agency provides leadership and service to over 36,000 students and 2,800 teachers and administrators across 39 school districts. GPAEA works to improve teaching and learning by developing leaders, discovering solutions, and delivering service through collaboration with students, families, schools, and communities.

Technology & Learning Module Informs District LCAP & Provides Insight to Next Steps

Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District is a large district in Solano County in Northern California. The district has 30 schools with over 20,000 students. In September 2012, Director of Technology Support Services, Tim Goree was in search of a tool that could inform district leaders about technology needs as they worked toward a hybrid version of 1:1 device implementation and other technology planning. He purchased the BrightBytes Technology & Learning module to gain insight into the district’s current staff and student access, implementation, and perceptions.

Technology & Learning Module Helps Onslow County Schools Drive Student Learning Outcomes

Onslow County Schools is a growing district in Jacksonville, North Carolina. The district has 37 educational facilities with over 25,000 students. As a member of the League of Innovative
Schools, an organization that works to connect and support the most progressive education leaders in the nation, Onslow understands the powerful potential of technology for meaningful learning experiences. The district continually works to enhance technology education to
better drive student outcomes.