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Data and School Improvement Academy to Analyze School and District’s Needs

March 19, 2004 — Public schools and districts are under increasing pressure and responsibility from state and federal agencies to account for student performance. The wealth of data from assessments of student achievement as well as information available from other evaluations of student and school performance can create a divide between what is currently being done and what needs to be done to improve student performance, schools, and districts. The expanding nature of data accessibility and locally generated data requires school and district leaders and teachers to analyze and interpret multiple forms of data that result in substantive changes.

The College of Education at the University of Utah is using an existing partnership with five area school districts-Jordan, Murray, Granite, Salt Lake City, and Davis-and the U’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy to help bridge that gap of data analysis and improvement efforts by providing training to the districts’ principals and administrators through the creation of the Data and School Improvement Academy (DSIA). The five superintendents of these districts have supported the DSIA and have invited their school administrators to initial training sessions on March 24 and 25. Media are invited to attend.

Diana Pounder, associate dean for professional education at the University, notes that the DSIA asks such questions as: Where are schools in relationship to state and federal requirements? Which direction are our schools headed? How are data used to improve student achievement and schools? How can we get schools where they need to be? “Our aim is to ultimately have success for all children,” Pounder says.

To meet the needs of the five districts and more than 500 school and district leaders anticipated to attend, half-day sessions will be held in four locations along the Wasatch Front. Each session will illustrate how leaders in school districts and schools can build the cultural and technical capacity to use data for decision-making, school improvement and accountability in order to increase the achievement of all students. They will hear first-hand accounts from experts in the field from around the country who will come to Salt Lake City for this event.

Keynote speaker is Karen Banks, assistant superintendent for Evaluation and Research for Wake County Public School System in North Carolina. Banks will share Wake County’s journey to develop its capacity to improve student performance and narrow the achievement gap between student groups. A panel discussion will follow featuring Bonnie Sutton, a principal from the Robla School District in California; Paul Tighe, a principal in Dysart Unified School District in Arizona; Judy Park, a principal in Provo School District in Utah; and Kim Agullard and Lori Van Houton, of WestEd, a nonprofit research agency whose mission is to help administrators bring about successful school-wide change.

Once the training sessions are completed this spring, school districts may select district and school personnel to complete four additional trainings sessions in data management to be held during the next academic year. These personnel will then become “trainers of trainers” in their districts to teach data interpretation skills to administrators in their schools.

The DSIA is designed to contribute to current district and school organizational reform efforts. The College of Education hopes that the DSIA will demonstrate how leaders can build the cultural and technical capacity of school districts to use data for evaluation and improved student, school and district performance by integrating it into their work rather than making it another task that needs to be done. The DSIA’s intent is to create a shared partnership of accountability between students, schools and districts and the College.

The schedule is as follows:

March 24
8:30-11:30 a.m.
Jordan School District
Jordan High School Tech Atrium
95 E. Beetdigger Blvd (9880 S.), Sandy

1:00-4:00 p.m.
Granite School District
Hilda B. Jones Center, Heritage Room
382 E. 3605 S., SLC

March 25
8:30-11:30 a.m.
Salt Lake City School District
Rooms 115/116, SLCSD Central Office
440 E. 100 S., SLC

1:00-4:00 p.m.
Davis School District
PDC E. and W. (in the Kendell Building)
70 E.100 N., Farmington

(Note: Murray school district participants will also be at these events. Because their district is the smallest, they were incorporated into the training rather than holding their own.)