In 2009, the Obama administration announced it would focus on “cultivating a new culture of accountability in America’s schools.” Looking back over the last four years, “accountability” has been the central tenant for the education community, and politically charged.
School performance data is too often associated with failure, but it is a powerful tool that can improve teaching and outcomes for students. “Accountability” should be synonymous with opportunity – the opportunity to build a positive culture of performance in our schools.
Teachers are already adopting this approach and seeing that it gets them results in the classroom. Last year, middle school teacher Melinda Snover was part of a small team that used student academic performance data to drive teaching at Stella Worley Middle School in New Orleans. The result was a 20% jump in her students’ test scores. Her team of teachers met weekly to compare data, but these meetings were about more than accountability.
They shared successes and areas for improvement, creating a culture of trust between classrooms. They used that data to personalize instruction for each student and came back to the group meetings each week to collaborate on what worked and what didn’t. The routine became one of openness around accountability, and in essence, the teachers began to shift the school’s culture.
Her principal recognized this as an opportunity, and assigned Melinda to a new task this year, as data coach. Now it is her job to create a school-wide culture-change.
“Data driven teaching is a complete mindset shift,” says Melinda, particularly when trying to integrate it into an already busy routine. Every teacher comes to the classroom from a different perspective. Some have been teaching for decades, while others are newer to the school system. Regardless, Melinda says a positive, data-driven culture is beginning to take hold because teachers at Stella Worley are seeing the results of their collaboration.
Teachers simply need leadership and the right tools to view accountability as an opportunity. As a former educator, I learned this from my teaching team, a group of profoundly inspiring change agents who joined forces to share best practices and track how our students were doing across our classes. Too often we felt siloed in our classrooms. We knew there had to be a better way to collaborate with our colleagues across and down the hall, share mission-critical data, and create a culture of performance. We had the support of a visionary school leader to do it, but the tools to get it done did not yet exist.
That’s why I left teaching to create Kickboard, an analytics platform that goes beyond the gradebook. It is one centralized and secure place where teachers can track and share multiple dimensions of student performance across classrooms. With Kickboard, teachers can collaborate not just in weekly meetings, but also in real time, using accountability and data to create a positive culture shift in their school.
Nearly 200 schools have adopted Kickboard to track academic and behavioral performance in the classroom. But I hear stories like Melinda’s, and I know there are teacher-leaders out there who are ready to lead their teams towards a performance-based culture – they just need the tools to do it. That’s why we’re offering Kickboard Starter Accounts for free to teams of up to three teachers. It is the tool that will give teacher-leaders the opportunity to establish a culture of trust in their school, share students’ skill gaps, struggles and successes, to enable them to grow.
The last four years has seen the education community engage in a rich conversation about accountability. The focus of the next four years should be to expand that dialogue and consider how advancing a culture of performance can have an even more profound impact on student achievement.
This is our chance to define what accountability really means. We have an incredible opportunity to create a performance-based environment where collaboration, transparency, and sharing of data and best practices can empower educators to be growth-minded and results-driven. Teachers now have the tools to be change agents in their classrooms and inspire this shift at their school.