Listen to Classroom Teachers to Solve Interoperability Problems
According to a recent EdWeek Market Brief, K-12 district leaders rarely adopt solutions for use based on teachers’ suggestions. While this won’t be surprising to educators teaching in large districts, it illuminates one of the reasons for major implementation hurdles as large district leaders roll out major initiatives with good intentions but poor grounding.
When I taught math at an alternative high school in New York City, I had a set of mandated tools which I had to use, but some of them didn’t meet my classroom needs. To better serve my students, I patched together a bunch of disparate edtech tools to ensure the materials were appropriately differentiated and accessible anywhere at any time. This meant devoting an inordinate amount of time copy-pasting achievement data from one system to another to ensure compliance with our set of mandated tools. Maybe my use case might have better informed other learning communities serving a similar student demographic. Maybe this information would have created an opportunity for school and district decision makers to more effectively evaluate the technologies they had purchased.
Why aren’t teachers considered a source of truth for large districts seeking product solutions? Teachers are on the front lines for our children, playing coach, mentor, counselor, and mediator before, during, and after the school day. They pour their blood, sweat, and tears into writing curriculum that guides students in making meaningful connections across concepts. They explore and incorporate new tools and instructional models in the name of student achievement, even when that means working late into the night and on the weekends.
There is some good news. According to that same EdWeek Market Brief, about three out of five small district leaders proactively seek teacher recommendations before procuring education products. Of course, smaller districts are inherently set up to be more responsive because they can have less bureaucracy. At Kiddom, we see this very clearly, as our K-12 operating system is gaining the most traction in small-to-medium sized districts, where leaders have their ears to the ground (and their eyes in the classroom). They recognize that any major new instructional initiative requires staff buy-in first, and to do that, you need to understand the tools your teachers have already chosen for their classrooms.
According to a report by SETDA entitled, State Education Leadership for Interoperability: Leveraging Data for Academic Excellence states continue to face massive challenges in making data readily available for use by decision makers, teachers, parents, and students. The report illustrates how interoperability can help states and districts better achieve student learning goals, in that “interoperability can allow for a balance between high quality information and local use of that information to support teaching and learning.” If half of K-12’s large district leaders continue to ignore teacher recommendations, and we assume that those teachers will continue to use tools that work best for their classrooms, how can we solve the interoperability issue in education?
To institute change and ensure decisions are made using high quality information, large district leaders should take a page out of their smaller peers’ playbook and create meaningful opportunities for pilot programs to report results directly to district leaders. If they don’t, they will only perpetuate the interoperability problem plaguing all of us in education, from students and teachers to district administrators to education technology companies.
If you’re the leader of a large district, you might remember LAUSD’s infamous $1.3 billion 700,000 iPads-for-all initiative. This blunder could have easily been avoided by engaging classroom teachers in decision-making processes, making critical improvements to the plan, and then building authentic buy-in. When we started Kiddom more than three years ago, we first focused on building tools needed to enhance the experience for individual teachers and students. By focusing on classrooms first, we discovered a disconnect between teachers and their administration bodies. So we listened and worked closely with public school administrators to understand how to connect school systems from the top-down and bottom-up.
At Kiddom, we recognize the need for change management when implementing new initiatives such as personalized learning, blended learning, and/or instructional models that are more student-centered. Our team of success managers are former educators focused on acting as thought partners for administrators, and connectors between school communities tackling similar challenges. We work alongside you to provide contextualized, targeted resources to guide teachers through long-term changes. If you’re interested in learning more about how we’re helping schools and districts measure and act on classroom intelligence, we’d love to chat.
P.S. We’re obsessed with designing and implementing technology that enables all students to learn via pedagogy and pacing optimized for them. Are you an administrator seeking to build buy-in to a new initiative to support your teachers? We’d love to learn more about your goals.