August 22, 2017
One thing is at the center of every educator’s passion—students. With 9,700 students in 14 schools, Lee County School District in Alabama is brimming with possibilities. The schools are spread across four attendance zones with each zone having its own set of demographics and challenges. But between 2013 and now, Lee County has undergone transformational changes that have positioned this district as a leader within the State of Alabama.
In 2013, with no unified system to hold student information and data, Lee County administrators knew they were missing out on key insights about all their students with their different academic strengths and paces of learning. They needed to pull the data together in one place so that the right student data would be available for teachers, school leaders and administrators to create actionable insights. Collecting the myriad student data points, such as SIS, reading assessments, formative assessment results and social and emotional learning evidence, would unlock the potential to better understand and analyze student performance. The leadership team knew that turning student data into insightful information would be the foundation for creating personalized learning plans for each student.
And like most school districts across the country, student data seemed overwhelming, especially with so many types of data points. Teachers were hesitant to use data because of the complexity; and, they lacked experience connecting the data to practical and informative adjustments to their teaching and student learning objectives . While teachers looked askance at the data, the school and district administrators also needed support in making sense of the vast amounts of data in real-time.
Lee County Schools leadership set an ambitious goal to equip and empower educators to incorporate meaningful students insights into their daily instruction by using robust and up-to-date data. If done correctly, teachers would be able to analyze multiple measures of student learning and academic progress to implement personalized learning plans for students. Administrators wanted to aggregate data into one place, gain staff buy-in on a new evaluation system that used student data as part of the evaluation process, and create a culture that embraces data-informed continuous improvement for the entire staff.
Prior to Dr. James McCoy being selected as the superintendent of Lee County School District, he was leading a school district in Georgia. While in Georgia, Dr. McCoy took note when a once-struggling neighboring district began making remarkable progress. Dr. McCoy discovered that this improving district was actively using several solutions from IO Education. When Dr. McCoy moved to Lee County Schools, he was determined to replicate this successful approach within his new district.
“We had always scored much higher than our neighboring school system in certain areas. Almost overnight, they showed improved results,” said Dr. McCoy. “I asked them what they were doing differently and they introduced me to IO Insights by IO Education. I was impressed how the platform allows you to organize student data on a virtual data wall and use that to identify and dig down into problem areas. At Lee County, we jumped in with both feet and implemented it in our schools.”
Lee County Schools did more than just bring IO Insights into their schools to collect and organize their data; they began to rethink all of the ways that they could analyze student performance using data. Before they could do that though, they had to create a plan on how to transform the culture of the staff from one that relied heavily on pens and post-it notes to a 21st century, real-time technology-driven data solution.
“I’m not the most technology savvy person. I’m the guy you see walking around with blue ink pens and a notepad all of the time. For being a digital newcomer, this system has been easy to learn. The visual experience of the virtual data wall makes it very easy to navigate all of the student data. It has been a smooth transition,” said Dr. McCoy
After seeing the benefits and positive teacher and administrative staff responses from the rollout of IO Insights, the Lee County Schools leadership decided to introduce IO Talent to help reimagine how the district conducted and managed evaluations and professional development for all members of the staff.
After two and a half years of using IO Insights, the entire staff has adopted using student data in regular measurement of student progress and school accountability. Teachers and administrators can now find and review student data with just a few clicks, instead of sorting through paper files and comparing multiple reports. Teachers analyze and track student progress against their personalized learning plans on a daily basis using the virtual data wall in IO Insights. Lee County Schools has identified a direct correlation between educators who use IO Insights and positive student growth.
“IO Insights allows us to do everything we want to do in one place. It creates that consistency we are looking for from a classroom-teacher perspective, giving us the ability to analyze the data for individual students. At the principal level, we can manage and analyze the data on the building level. It has been very effective for us,” said Jason Hunter, assistant superintendent of secondary education.
With IO Insights, Lee County Schools have seen teacher and administrator meetings become shorter and more meaningful because of the significant decrease in the amount of time spent gathering data, an increase in the accuracy of the data gathered, and the simplification of processes like determining if the curriculum aligns with state assessments. With less but more productive meetings, teachers have more time in the classroom with their students.
Through the implementation of IO Talent, Lee County Schools has been able to rapidly modernize their professional development process to allow educators and administrators to work together to become the best educators they can be. IO Talent gave educators the platform to establish professional development goals and track their own progress towards those goals. Evaluators used the IO Talent mobile app to capture both qualitative and quantitative evidence and then stored key documents in the peer reviewed e-portfolio.
“For the past two and a half years, we’ve built our IO Insights and IO Talent world. We used it for student data, school data and teacher evaluations. Now we are moving into the measurement and observation phase this year. I really see it as a one stop management system for our school district,” McCoy added.
Going forward, Lee County Schools plans to continue becoming a data-driven district across all classrooms, departments and processes. With the impact of the major federal law called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) impacting the district starting with the upcoming school year, Lee County Schools will use IO Insights to meet both the federal and state mandates around accountability and reporting. Because of the flexibility in IO Insights, Lee County Schools will be prepared to adapt to and address data, accountability, and reporting needs.
As the impact of personalized learning continues to grow in the classroom, Lee County schools aims to deepen a growing culture of measurement, adaptation, and continuous improvement across the organization.
Lee County Schools began with a simple plan of centralizing their student information and data into one easy-to-use system. As they began implementing IO Insights and later IO Talent, the school district entered into a new era of instruction and evaluation as they embraced the use of data in the classroom and across all functions in the district.