Today I attended the first day of the South Carolina Regional NWEA Conference in Hilton Head Island. The day started with a breakfast meeting with my principal and our reigning teacher of the year, a self described Mad Scientist. She may be mad but she is an excellent teacher. We poured over the breakout session offerings and determined who should go where during the day. Naturally, it did not work.
My first session about using Compass Learning in relation to MAP test data. Compass learning is an interesting product because it creates lessons for students based on what RIT scores the student achieved. While a noble product, I have two problems with it. First, we just don't have the infrastructure to support it. For it to be most effective I estimate each math and language classrooms would need at least 5 computers each with students, with means, would have to work at home for it to work effectively. Second, since we don't have the infrastructure, we can't justify the cost it would be to implement Compass Learning.
The second breakout session was almost an answer to a prayer. NWEA Vice President Michael Patterson demoed a beta version of a new reporting system. I really hope it will allow people to search for data easier than the current report system. The current report website makes it difficult to find data needed to make decisions. At least NWEA is admitting there is a problem and is working on a solution. The only thing that concerns me is why it is taking so long to roll it out. I understand NWEA wants the system to work but it should not take a committee of school districts across the country to work on it. Oh well! It takes Microsoft forever to release new versions of it software and operating systems after they are announced to. Maybe its a Northwest thing.
The final breakout session was how Myrtle Beach Intermediate School uses Descartes data to boost instruction. One of the things I saw that was interesting was how the data could be used to determine teacher assignments based on how well students do on MAP tests. Also, they would identify how some groups could have done better if a little more emphasis had been placed in the right place. Finally, it showed how teachers who use data effectively could help students achieve higher test scores.
The day ended with me interviewing Tim Blaine, Regional Manager for NWEA, for an episode of Teacher Bytes. It was a good interview and Tim did a great job. I am going to hold off on publishing the cast until I know if I can get NWEA President Alan Olson to be on the show. After talking with Mr. Olson's assistant, Debbie, I hope we can get together. Debbie was a big help along with Tim in helping me with the podcast and I am grateful for their efforts.
Tomorrow will be the third and last day of the conference and I am about to plan the breakout sessions I hope to attend. One session I certainly plan on attending is the Human Capital Scorecard. The main presenter in this session is Dr. Laurie Bassi of McBassi & Company. I participated in a workshop with her when Bluffton High first opened up and I was impressed with her work on getting organizations to develop human capital as an investment. She graciously allowed me to use some of her writings in my Pre-AP Economics class I taught at Bluffton High.