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Q-and-A: One district’s journey to a data-driven culture

4 min read


In this Q-and-A,  Kimberly Moritz, superintendent of schools at Randolph Central School District in New York discusses the district’s journey to a data-driven culture.

What strategies have you used to adopt a data-driven culture in your district?

A few key strategies have set us up for success in this area. First, a lot of people talk about data inquiry meetings, but don’t make them mandatory. Even as far back as the 2008–09 school year, we were meeting as professional learning communities (PLCs) to get teachers talking and to promote trust. Now, we also have grade-level teams made up of teachers and building administrators meet to look at the data for every single student. This is non-negotiable.

Second, we also gave teachers the freedom to use their professional development days to work on the areas that were of most interest to them. They submitted a proposal and then reported out to the large group on what they learned. This allowed them to take ownership of their own learning and has set us up for better collaboration on all issues related to data in the current school year.

We also looked at new programs and made all decisions related to the implementation of new state mandates collaboratively with teachers. We didn’t just bring programs into the schools and hope they would work; we followed through and kept involved in the process to ensure that they were being implemented and that teachers had what they needed to make them work well. These programs included Curriculum Associates’ i-Ready® and Ready® programs. We used data from these programs to set up Academic Intervention Service periods in mathematics and English language arts for all K–6 students. This allowed us to break students into groups based on their individual ability, so we now have classes for advanced, on-grade level and below grade level.

Importantly, we were doing all these things before the state implemented the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR); so we worked with our union and implemented the APPR in the first year under the premise that our teachers and administrators were all going to get comfortable before it was required by NYS.

Which tools/processes are you using to ensure the right level of student assessment?

For the past three years we have set up windows of time where teachers conduct formative assessments, and then we meet to discuss the results to determine where each student is performing. This year, we also implemented the New York State curriculum modules to raise the bar further on what our students learn.

We are looking hard at what every student needs to achieve, and we have found the best way to get a complete picture is to integrate an online adaptive assessment with both online and print instruction — for us, it’s with i-Ready and Ready. We found that results from the i-Ready assessments correlated closely with student performance on the state test, which was reassuring. And for our younger students, we want to make sure they get experience with the paper and pencil experience with testing; so Ready helps with that.

How is your district using assessments data to tailor instruction for students’ unique needs?

Our focus is on the fluency level of each child. We group students for intervention, from advanced to on-grade to below grade. Then, instruction is tailored to those groups so all students are advancing. Our students are using i-Ready online instruction modules for 40 minutes, three times a week, to ensure that they are getting the instruction they need to advance.

What top lessons about using assessments thoughtfully would you share with other school leaders? 

For years we, as administrators, have been experts at managing buildings and districts, but have not consistently and specifically focused on instruction. However, our most important job is how and what is being taught. My advice for any administrator is to become the instructional leader for your organization. You have to make yourself a good instructional leader even if it is uncomfortable or unfamiliar to you, and you need to ensure good instructional leadership at the building level as well. This level of leadership will give your teams support and confidence that they can be successful.