Professional Learning Communities, Data Driven Decision Making, And Response To Intervention

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    Currently there are countless initiatives being pushed into schools in an effort to improve student learning. However, poor and shallow implementation clouds efforts to determine program effectiveness. Is the initiative unsuccessful due to its inherent inappropriateness or is it unsuccessful because it hasn’t been fully implemented with fidelity?

    An often neglected strategy for discovering what has been proven to work is to talk to principals who have actually turned a low performing school around. I had just such an opportunity two years ago when I was invited to join other National Terrell H. Bell Principals (recognized as turn- around principals for turning low performing schools into high performing schools and sustaining that change over time) at the National Blue Ribbon ceremony in Washington D.C. to participate in a panel discussion about school change. While discussing how we handled challenges and what strategies we used to improve student learning, a pattern of three characteristics we all had in common quickly emerged.

    First, each Terrell H. Bell principal firmly believes all students can learn. They eliminated committees and organized their schools around learning teams that focused on student learning and achievement.

    Professional Learning Communities and / or Data Teams

    Second, these principals used frequent common formative assessments to identify non-proficient students and to measure student growth and program effectiveness. This data was used by school data teams to guide instructional planning and delivery. Successful instructional strategies were researched and implemented. Non-successful strategies were discarded.

    Data Driven Decision Making

    Third, each principal created an intervention system that provided ever increasing levels of intensity based on student needs. These levels, called double and triple dosing or tiers, were designed to be flexible, with students moving in and out of tiers based on frequent monitoring.

    Response to Intervention

    Although the principals often used different terminology and traveled different paths on their journey, we all ended up in the same place. We organized our schools around teams that collected and analyzed student assessment data. We used that data to identify students, teachers, and programs that were in need of support. We created an intervention system that provided increasing layers (tiers) of intensive focused intervention delivered in flexible grouping assignments. We used additional assessment data to monitor the effectiveness of our instruction and intervention on student academic growth. We made constant adjustments to our instructional and intervention program based on our data.

    Professional learning communities (or data teams), data driven decision making, and Response to Intervention – by whatever name – were integrated and implemented with monitored fidelity to increase and sustain student learning and high academic achievement.

    Professional Learning Communities are WHO WE ARE.
    Data Teams and Data Driven Decision Making are WHAT WE DO.
    Response to Intervention is HOW WE DO IT.
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