Learn About ISA’s Monitoring, Evaluation, and Research Team

Districts and schools are focused on continuous improvement. Accessing and using current and relevant data collected from multiple stakeholders—such as students, staff, families, school boards, and the local community and businesses—is critically important to the process of identifying improvement areas and developing solutions.

That’s where we can help. The Monitoring, Evaluation, and Research (MER) team at the Institute for Student Achievement (ISA) provides customized supports to schools and districts for collecting and analyzing data relevant for a multitude of improvement purposes. These include strategic planning and development, improving instructional programming and services, fostering social and emotional well-being, designing staff professional development, improving family and community engagement, and much more.

Here are a few examples of ISA MER services to support continuous improvement at the district and school levels:

  • School climate assessment focused on better understanding student, parent/guardian, and school staff experiences with school climate in key areas such as school and community connectedness; school leadership; teaching and learning environment; interpersonal relationship; safety; and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
  • Special education review designed to improve services for students with disabilities by examining factors such as program compliance with state and federal laws, disproportionality, individualized education plan (IEP) development, curriculum, instruction, service delivery, and parent communication and engagement.
  • English learner review developed to better address the needs of and improve the learning opportunities for English learners by reviewing areas such as compliance with state and federal regulations; identification processes; family communication and engagement; program and service delivery; and curriculum, instructional, and assessment practices.

Do you have untapped data or information that needs to be analyzed, or do you need additional data or information collected to support your continuous improvement work? Click here to learn more about how ISA’s MER team can help.

Coaches’ Corner: ISA’s Alwina Green

Alwina Green retired in 2013 as a teacher of mathematics in the school districts of Philadelphia and Camden City. During her 27 years teaching, she had the opportunity to serve Philadelphia school district as a classroom teacher, a collaborating teacher of mathematics and hand-held technology, a school growth teacher, a content specialist, and a school-based teacher leader. In addition to a certificate in mathematics, she holds certificates in professional development from the National Staff Development Council and a Technology for All Students certificate from Texas Instruments. She successfully conducted workshops for teachers and assisted them directly in the classroom with incorporating the graphing calculator into the school district’s curriculum. In 2017, she began working for ISA coaching in Philadelphia; Allentown, Pennsylvania; and Cleveland, Ohio.

Which teacher of yours do you feel most impacted your coaching approach? Why?

After I finished my course work, I was a substitute teacher for a couple of months. I ended up at a school where I thought I did not know anyone, but I heard a familiar voice. I called out, “Miss Gilmore?” It was my ninth grade algebra teacher from Sayre Junior High School. Of course, she was no longer Miss Gilmore, but I introduced myself as a former student who was influenced by her love of mathematics. She was always fair and consistent and ran a tight classroom. No one played around, but everyone learned. She first took me to the teachers’ lounge so that I could tell everyone how skinny she used to be, and then she took me to her classroom to speak with her students. I told her students that I remembered Miss Gilmore as being “no nonsense.”  If they just stuck with the math, they would be sure to learn. I felt so uplifted that day and decided then that I wanted to be a facsimile of Miss Gilmore. This is how I approach my coaching because most students are hard-pressed to see the need to learn math. I encourage and model hands-on activities that make math relevant and encourage the teachers I coach to be fair and consistent and to show the relevance of mathematics as it relates to today.

What do you enjoy most about your coaching work?

I enjoy sharing strategies with the teachers that I used in my classroom that I know worked, and I enjoy seeing the strategies in practice when I visit. As a professional learning community (PLC) coach, I also interact with all content groups. This is also an opportunity to interact with the coach team at the school since I use their input in creating the agendas for the PLC meetings.

What was your most memorable moment with a student or students when you were teaching?

I always enjoyed using hands-on activities when I was a teacher. I was teaching middle school, and the students were discovering that any three angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees. We drew angles, measured them, cut them out with scissors, and then measured again after we lined them up on a straight line. The period was over, and one student said, “This was fun, I can’t believe the period is over.”

What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Easy question: Häagen-Dazs Rum Raisin

From the UChicago Consortium on School Research: Improving School-Family Communication and Engagement: Lessons from Remote Schooling during the Pandemic

In this newsletter we highlight a recent report from the UChicago Consortium on School Research called Improving School-Family Communication and Engagement: Lessons from Remote Schooling during the Pandemic.

As the Consortium wrote, the “initial shift to remote schooling that occurred in response to the COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges to school communities across the country. Among the many challenges, searching for ways to collaborate more closely with families to sustain student learning and development under the new context became paramount for educators.

“This brief outlines seven lessons that we drew from the insights shared by our focus group participants. The first three lessons address educator practice in the classroom, reflecting dimensions of communication that occur day-to-day. The following four lessons describe school-wide communication efforts that were positively received during remote schooling. We then highlight a central challenge that emerged in our conversations with both educators and caregivers: participants described a desire for additional guidance and support in improving their communication efforts.”

The authors also “categorized prior research about school-family engagement into three school engagement approaches with families,” which can be found here. As they wrote, “school staff can use these approaches to identify the current status and future goals of their family engagement approaches.”

Lastly, see resources related to this research project, such as a discussion guide for educators and a one-page summary for school leaders, here.