Setting Up Your Data Systems for Successful Performance Analysis

June 2021

By: Annice Weinstein 

This school year has brought a new set of challenges and requirements to charter schools regarding student performance and data analysis. Schools opting to administer local assessments instead of, or in addition to, state tests will still need to disaggregate and report results by student group. This raises the question for charters: Are my testing systems set up to report the results that I need?

Student IDs Are Key

Any student data your school collects can be easily disaggregated by student group if the data includes either the students’ local SIS IDs or their SSIDs. Similarly, you can track growth over time if the results from multiple administrations are linked to the same student IDs. This requires you to be consistent in the set-up of your testing systems. If you are tracking student performance locally, make sure you include the student ID in your data tracking sheets.

If you are using a testing system that requires a roster upload (examples: NWEA, i-Ready, Renaissance Star), it is important to:

  • Decide whether to use the local SIS ID or the SSID as the primary ID and BE CONSISTENT. Use the same student ID for each administration of the test.
  • Stick to a defined process for creating rosters in the testing system, preferably through uploads and not manual entry.
  • If there is the need to manually enter students, make sure to use the selected student ID.

A breakdown in this process will make it very difficult to disaggregate student performance by student group and may result in missing growth data for your school, because the testing system cannot connect the results from two separate administrations to the same set of students.

How can EdTec Help?

EdTec’s data or assessment team can help you determine the best method to maintain consistent IDs in your testing systems. This may involve setting up custom exports from your SIS, having EdTec manage the export/import process at regular intervals, or exploring if Clever is a good integration option for your school.  Each option has its limitations, and it’s important to make a well-informed decision based on your needs.

EdTec can also provide custom data analyses of your assessment results. This includes breakdowns by student groups as well as an analysis of longitudinal progress, if the test was given over multiple administrations. Some examples of assessments EdTec has analyzed are NWEA MAP, i-Ready, Renaissance Star, and the SBAC Interim Comprehensive Assessments (ICAs).

EdTec helps charters prepare their student outcome data for state and authorizer requirements, in addition to stakeholder engagement.

EdTec also offers affordable licenses to Otus, a data, assessment, and learning management system. Maintaining student performance data in a system like Otus allows your staff, students, and parents to see student growth over time across multiple measures. It also provides a single repository for all performance data that can be disaggregated by student group and used for longitudinal analysis.

Using an assessment and learning management system such as Otus can help to streamline the data collection and reporting process.

Using an assessment and learning management system such as Otus can help to streamline the data collection and reporting process.


For further questions, please contact us at assessment@edtec.com.

Otus logo and images are the property of Otus, LLC and reproduced with permission.d engaging for all students. For example, they hosted a cooking activity where students could participate either in-person or online.

EdTec NCSC21

Join EdTec at the 2021 National Charter Schools Conference!

June 15, 2021

EdTec is excited to be an exhibitor and presenter at the 2021 National Charter Schools Virtual Conference! The conference takes place June 20-23, 2021. We invite you to stop by the EdTec booth in the Solutions Center to say hello to our team members and learn how our charter experts can support your school with business, operations, and performance services. We’re also eager to share how we meet the needs of new school developers around the country with our expertise in charter development.

Annice Weinstein, EdTec’s Sr. Manager, Assessment Data and Analysis, will present a Solutions Session on Tuesday, June 22. We invite you to attend “Data Driven School Culture, But Make It Easy” at 12:00 pm ET.  We will showcase Otus, an affordable K-12 learning platform designed to streamline the process of using data to improve learning. Combined with EdTec’s charter-specific support, Otus is the ideal solution for charter schools striving for a data-driven, equity-focused school culture in a distanced, hybrid, or in-person learning environment.  We will also share how we have partnered with the National Student Clearinghouse®  to provide verified data for charters on their graduates’ college enrollment, persistence, and completion status, along with key reports to support your school’s renewal and other compliance requirements.  We look forward to sharing our knowledge in this area and learning about your school’s data needs.

We hope everyone has a wonderful conference experience!

Leading in a Crisis: Spotlight Our School Partners During School Reopening

April 28, 2021

As school reopening continues to be a main topic of conversation and debate across communities nationwide, school leaders face the challenges of determining when students will return and what a typical school day will look like. Re-opening hasn’t been uniform across the country, and the guidelines and strategies vary by state (EducationWeek). Some states have implemented thresholds that must be met for in-person learning to resume, while others have left the re-opening decisions to local school districts.

EdTec supports charter schools across seven states. Although re-opening looks different everywhere, there is a common theme amongst our school partners of continuing learning in a safe, fun, and engaging way for all students. Read on for a few highlights of all the great work happening in classrooms across the country.

California

Before re-opening, schools in California must first meet critical thresholds in health metrics. The California Department of Education launched the California Safe Schools for All Hub to consolidate key resources and provide support and guidance for reopening. continues to update reopening guidance. For parents and students who are not comfortable returning to the classroom for in-person instruction, distance learning is still an option. Check out how our school partners are adapting:

Heartwood Charter School – Schools tours are back! Heartwood Charter School is now offering limited in-person on-campus school tours for prospective families.

The Academies – The Academies Charter Management Organization has welcomed students back on campus and is prioritizing safety and learning in the classroom.

Sunrise Middle School – Sunrise Middle School is now offering their after-school program for 5th and 6th graders with fun activities such as gardening, cooking, art, and sports!

Para Los Niños – Virtual events are still bound to draw a much larger crowd and are more accessible for families, so Para Los Niños plans to host a big virtual party to celebrate the accomplishments and perseverance shown over this incredibly difficult year!

High Tech LA – A picture is worth a thousand words! The seniors at High Tech LA were welcomed back to campus for their senior portraits. They also received their senior sweatshirts and swag.

Grimmway Academy – The Grimmway Academy students celebrated their return with fun activities as a part of their EGG-stravaganza!

Everest Value – The staff at Everest Value School are excited to see students in the classroom again as they transition from distance learning to a hybrid model in the upcoming weeks.

East Bay Innovation – The students at East Bay Innovation came back to campus a little taller and with new haircuts! The administration at East Bay Innovation welcomed students with fun, collaborative, in-person activities.

Aspire – Aspire is providing critical support by offering in-person instruction for their most vulnerable students.

Georgia

The Georgia Department of Education, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Public Health, has developed guidance to support districts and communities in determining their plans and strategies for reopening schools. Georgia’s Path to Recovery for K-12 Schools provides considerations, recommendations, and best practices for reopening, and is designed to help districts prioritize the health and safety of students and teachers. This guidance is not mandated, or state required. Local school districts have the authority and flexibility to meet their individual needs and be responsive to their communities. See how our school partner in Georgia is tackling re-opening:

Ethos Classical – Our school partner, Ethos Classical Charter School, is currently operating with their scholars onsite or on a virtual basis based on family choice.

Louisiana

Individual school districts can decide when to re-open for in-person learning, although the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted minimum health and safety standards for reopening. The Louisiana Department of Education put together a resource guide that includes health guidelines, best practices for reopening, templates, and a reopening checklist.

Élan Academy – Teachers are essential workers! The teachers are more appreciated than ever for their hard work throughout the pandemic. They have shown up for their scholars and are being vaccinated for a safe return to the classroom.

Nevada

In February, Governor Sisolak signed an emergency directive to ensure all students had safe and equitable access to in-person learning, whether full- or part time. The Nevada Department of Education also requires schools to develop distance learning plans.

Nevada Rise – Effective April 5, Nevada Rise began operating with a hybrid model, offering both in-person and online instruction. School leadership prepared a helpful FAQ sheet for parents to help families prepare for the transition. Staff was excited to welcome students back to campus with signs and balloon!

New Mexico

The New Mexico Public Education Department’s Reentry Guidance provides requirements, recommendations, and best practices for reopening. Local district and charter school leaders have the authority to decide to keep schools closed. Discover how our school partners are re-opening:

Solare Collegiate – With scholars back on-campus, Solare Collegiate is prioritizing safety and learning in the classroom while making learning fun and engaging for all students. For example, they hosted a cooking activity where students could participate either in-person or online.

Altura Prep – Altura Prep is taking advantage of being back in person as an opportunity to live up to their core values and give back to the community!

New York

In New York, all K-12 schools can remain open for in-person learning as long as the in-school positivity rate is lower than 9%. The decisions to open or close schools are made by local school district officials. The New York State Department of Education has published extensive school reopening resources to help guide schools as they plan for a return, including requirements and best practices. See how our school partners in New York are embracing re-opening:

Creo College Prep – The teachers at Creo College Prep are introducing mindfulness into the classroom through yoga practices!

Valence College Prep – The show must go on! Although in-person learning has resumed, Valence College Prep continues to offer a balance of in-person and virtual events. The students kept the performing arts alive from a distance by hosting a virtual musical performance.

Brooklyn RISE – Brooklyn RISE is bringing the school spirit back to campus! What better way to celebrate the return to in-person learning than a spring spirit week.

Tennessee

In Tennessee, school districts can decide whether to open school buildings based on guidance from the Tennessee Department of Education to assess the risk if it is safe to re-open. Our school partners in Tennessee have embraced a mix of in-person and hybrid instruction:

Grizzlies Prep – The students at Grizzlies Prep are back in the classroom, with school administrators emphasizing safety and learning.

Memphis Merit – Who doesn’t love a friendly competition? To celebrate being back on-campus, Memphis Merit hosted a Teachers vs. Scholars basketball game!

Rocketship – Rocketship has also resumed in-person learning, with their schools in Tennessee fully transitioned back into the classroom.

STRIVE Collegiate – STRIVE Collegiate is now embracing a hybrid model in which a percentage of students will remain virtual, and another percentage will return in person. They are also offering an in-person physical education program to give their students a physical outlet to excel in life.

Susie King Taylor Community School – The first-grade class at Susie King Taylor Charter School kicked off the spring with a fun science and engineering project that asked, Can your Peep float on your boat?


As some form of normalcy returns to our school communities, re-opening strategies must follow applicable guidelines to ensure a safe and successful learning experience for all students. How is your school handling reopening? What has been the biggest challenge? Is there something that worked well for your school community that you would like to share with other schools? Let us know in the comments!

Promoting Equity in Education: Five Takeaways from RAPSA For Charter School Leaders & Educators

By Jeremy Divinity, Marketing Specialist
December 2020

Last month, I attended a virtual conference, RAPSA Forum, hosted by the Reaching At-Promise Students Association. The event focused on leading educational accountability and providing equitable education solutions for ‘at-promise’ students. These students are typically minority, black and brown, and come from a background of poverty. These same students are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and risk further learning loss. The recent racial injustices are also at the center of the discrepancies faced by ‘at-promise’ students across the nation. The objective of the conference was to provide a forum for educators and educational advocates, along with students, to learn from each other and collaborate on how to combat these inequities.

While the conference included representation from charters, districts, and private schools, charter schools are uniquely positioned to implement changes and initiatives to better serve ‘at-promise’ students. Here are five takeaways from the conference on ways charter school leaders and educators can work to improve outcomes and promote the success of ‘at-promise’ students:

#1 Equity is the Destination but Healing is the Driver

The goal of equity is to provide more for the most vulnerable students. While equity was a central theme of the conference, there was also a heavy focus on mental health and wellness topics. We are all experiencing a prolonged state of uncertainty and anxiety, which has brought to light the importance of professional wellness, self-care, and critically reflective practice.

To sustain the positive work they do in the long run, educators need to do the internal work and take care of themselves first as no one can pour from an empty cup. Self-care for educators can take many forms, including exercise, yoga, meditation, sleep, and therapy. During this time of crisis, there is also a strong need for healing connection in our schools, which educators can facilitate through restorative practices, a framework for building community in the classroom while deepening human relationships between teachers and students. Restorative practices in your school can take the form of mindfulness, restorative circles, and collaborative class agreements.

#2 Address the Mental Health of Students of Color

As your school shifts more towards a social justice mindset, it is critical to support the mental health of students of color. Although it may seem like a taboo topic, educators must prepare for the pandemic’s mental health effects on their most vulnerable students. In addition to the trauma triggered by the pandemic, many students of color also face the consequences of generational trauma from poverty, racism, and adverse childhood experiences.

As a school leader, it is critical to understand the impact that these realities have on students of color and how they may influence their experience in schools. For example, trauma has a long-lasting effect on cognitive development and learning which may present itself in many different ways in the learning environment, including flight, fight, or freeze. Instead of disciplinary actions, educators can take an asset-based approach to education. An asset-based approach is key to achieving equity in the classroom and sees all students’ potential by focusing on their talents. By implementing an asset-based approach, educators will build relationships with an understanding of students rather than punishment.

#3 Equity is Access, Opportunity, and Belonging  

Many students of color feel isolated, misunderstood, and seen as ‘defective products.’ This feeling of not belonging has led to students of color dropping out mentally and physically, resulting in lower graduation rates that we see in the widening achievement gaps. Although the term ‘at-promise’ was coined to do away with some of the stigmas attached to these students, as one student pointed out in a conference session, it is still a label that categorizes them as ‘other’ or ‘unwanted’ or ‘unachieved’, which is furthest from the truth. The fact that these students are showing up in the face of poverty, trauma and racism speaks to their resilience and potential.

It is the job of educators and education leaders to nurture an environment of community, belonging, respect, identity, and worth, so that all students feel empowered to reach their potential. An equitable learning environment facilitates a feeling of belonging – of being connected to the community. Schools can foster this belonging by hiring more teachers that look like students as representation matters. Educators can also create a support system and a ‘safe space’ or ‘brave space’ to encourage dialogue and foster a sense of belonging. Most importantly, it’s essential that educators talk, listen, and connect with students. Be in their corner.   

#4 Education Equity Requires A Strong Foundation for All Learners

Quality education must be accessible to all members of society. Across the country, there is a history of segregation in our school system that continues to impact BIPOC students today. Students from marginalized communities are prone to second guess their belonging and worth, leading to many students having ‘impostor syndrome’ – where they ask, am I good enough, and do I belong? 

Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments. Education leaders can empower these students to step into their greatness by providing access to quality education and educating them on the history, contributions, and impact of communities of color. One way to do so is by including ethnic studies in the curriculum. Representing students of color in the school’s curriculum through ethnic studies can positively impact how students of color view themselves. 

#5 Zoom Fatigue and Anxiety is Real 

Students, just like educators, also have Zoom fatigue and anxiety. This Zoom fatigue hinders learning. Engaging virtually looks different for every student and comes with many challenges. Some students may not be comfortable showing their home environment and some students may not feel comfortable being on camera. For teachers, it is important to remember that cameras on doesn’t guarantee that learning is or isn’t taking place.

Equity within teaching and learning during the pandemic means meeting the needs of students where they are at, attending to their socio-emotional needs, and providing multiple pathways of engagement. This may mean that your school will have to broaden its definition of engagement and rely on multiple sources of information to document and verify student engagement.


The pandemic has revealed that we are at a reckoning point on how we are going to transform society, and education, to be equitable for all children. As advocates for high-quality, flexible education options, charter school leaders are uniquely positioned to play a prominent role in creating an equitable learning environment for future generations!   

Five Minutes of (Updated) Fundraising Advice for Charter Schools

By Melanie Horton, Senior Marketing Manager

Originally published October 24, 2017; last updated November 16, 2020

All charter schools can use a few extra dollars to fund projects and programs that support the success of their students. Wherever your school is with its fundraising strategy, there’s always room for evaluation and improvement. We’ve put together a list of five simple actions schools can take to increase donations, as well as a fequick tips to help strengthen the connection to potential and existing donors.  

Five Fundraising Actions Your School Can Take Today

1. Participate in #GivingTuesday: Celebrated the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, GivingTuesday was started in 2012 as a “global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world” (www.givingtuesday.org). The movement provides an opportunity for charitable organizations to rally their communities and encourage donations to their causes through the use of the #GivingTuesday hashtag on social media. For GivingTuesday 2019, online contributions reached $511 million, an increase of nearly 28 percent from the previous year, and the organization estimates that total online and offline donations totaled nearly $2 billion. That same year, the hashtag earned more than 20 billion social media impressions!  You can find several resources to help plan for #GivingTuesday 2020, which falls on December 1 this year, at www.givingtuesday.org, including a toolkit for nonprofits with links to social media templates and messaging along with other ideas for engaging your community. Don’t worry about implementing all the recommendations the first time you participate; you can start by incorporating #GivingTuesday into your existing social media plan, and set aside time well in advance next year to develop a more comprehensive strategy. 

2. Register on Amazon Smile. Amazon Smile donates 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to the charitable organization of your choice. There is a simple registration process, so you will need access to the school’s EIN and bank account information. Once you are registered, remind parents, teachers, staff, and other stakeholders to bookmark smile.amazon.com, where they can select your school as their charitable organization of choice; they only need to do this once, and all future eligible purchases made at smile.amazon.com will result in a 0.5% donation to your school.  Once an individual makes a purchase that results in a donation, they’ll be able to view and keep track of the total amount donated to the school across time; this is a fun, useful feature that allows donors to see the collective impact of several small donations made by members of the school community across time.  

3. Remember to ask donors if their employer participates in a matching gift program. Some individuals may not be aware their employer offers a matching gift program, leaving potential fundraising dollars on the table! Make sure to include this reminder on your website’s donation page, as well as in any direct mail fundraising campaigns. While there is technology available for purchase that can be linked to your school’s website, which allows donors to check their employer’s matching gift policy and guidelines on the spot, this is also easy to do without the help of extra tools. Just include a simple, noticeable message that prompts donors to ask if their employer, or their spouse’s employer, participates in a matching gift program. You can also prompt donors to check a box if they already know they have access to a matching gift program and remind them to proceed with the necessary paperwork. Asking donors to check a box makes it easy for you to follow-up about matching gifts.  

What happens next? The donor will then need to request the proper paperwork from their employer (as well as verify that the school is eligible for a matching donation) and submit a matching gift form to your school. Upon receipt of the form, a school employee will need to confirm donation from the individual and submit the form to the employer.  

You may want to check this list of top matching gift companies and share it with your community so those who donate have a quick way to verify if their company has a matching gift policy. This list is not comprehensive as it only covers larger companies with strong matching gifts programs, but it’s still a helpful reference to have. 

4. Register with local supermarkets and other retail stores. Several retailers offer programs that allow customers to donate a percentage of their purchase to the charitable organization of their choice. For example, the Kroger Family of Companies, which operates over 2,700 grocery retail stores across the country, has a Community Contribution Program that allows rewards card users to select a community organization to donate to. If Kroger doesn’t have a presence in your community, you may want to pay a visit to your local retailers to ask if they have similar programs.  

5. Don’t leave grant money on the table! There are hundreds of grant opportunities available to charter schools, some of which require no more than a simple application form.  It can be difficult to make time to focus on grant writing when there are so many other things to get done, which is why EdTec offers grant research and writing services for busy school leaders.  If you wish to speak with someone about how we can customize our services to meet your school’s needs, please send us email to learn moreFor more information about upcoming grant opportunities for charter schools, you can sign up to receive our monthly grants email. 

Three Ways to Strengthen Your School’s Fundraising Program

1. Make your case. The stronger your story, the more compelled your stakeholders will feel to give. Is your per-student funding rate less than the state average? Less than the neighborhood school district? Share these facts with your audience and include numbers when you have them. You’ll also want to include a list of things you aim to accomplish through fundraising, be it reducing class size, purchasing new musical instruments, enhancing facilities, or starting an after-school STEM program, as well as a tally of funds raised to date (if any) and what you’ve been able to accomplish as a result. Give your potential donors proof that their money will be put to good use!

2. Be thankful! Always send timely thank you notes, preferably within two weeks of receiving a donation (and sooner if you can). While it is a nice gesture to send hand-written notes, this is not always feasible, especially for larger schools. Have a template thank you note ready to go, personalize the letter with the donor’s name and donation details, and ask the school’s principal or executive director to sign it.  You might also consider putting together an annual publication that recognizes donors for their contributions and includes information about the projects and improvements that were made possible by their generosity. Donors will enjoy being recognized and be more compelled to give in the future.

3. Stay in touch. Add all donors who are new to your community to your contact list and include them in relevant communications such as newsletters and invitations to upcoming invitations as a way to remind them of all the great things happening at your school and why they should continue to give! It’s always more difficult to reconnect with donors when they haven’t heard from you since their last donation. Donors are important stakeholders, and we want them to feel like they are a true part of the school community. The more we nurture donors, the stronger these relationships will grow over time.   

 

Grant Opportunities for Charter Schools – October 2020

This post includes grant opportunities with deadlines starting in November & December 2020. 

EdTec is here to help your school secure additional funding for day-to-day operations or special projects. We’ve put together a list of regional and national grant opportunities currently available to charter schools. See below for more information.

If you’re interested in receiving timely information about upcoming grant opportunities, sign up for the EdTec grants newsletter here.

Nationwide Grant Opportunities

 

Toshiba America Foundation

Purpose: Grants to USA sixth through twelfth-grade teachers at public and nonprofit private schools to enhance science, technology, engineering, and math learning. Funding is intended to increase student success-rates by introducing creative project-based learning ideas that will make STEM learning fun.
Grant Amount: $5,000
Deadline: November 1, 2020
Learn more.

 

DiscoverE

Purpose: Grants of up to $1,000 to USA nonprofit organizations for educational engineering activities and events for youth. Priority will be given to events, programs, and activities geared toward underserved K-12 students. Funding is intended to provide hands-on learning experiences that inspire an interest and understanding of engineering and take place in or around Engineers Week.
Grant Amount: $1,000
Deadline: November 14, 2020
Learn more.

Regional Grant Opportunities

 

Stocker Foundation

Purpose: Grants to nonprofit organizations in multiple states to improve the academic performance of PreK-8 public school students in eligible counties. Funding is intended to upgrade educational practices and introduce STEAM learning programs.
Region: California – Alameda and San Francisco Counties
Grant Amount: varies
Deadline: December 31, 2020
Learn more.

 

Sunwest Bank Charitable Foundation

Purpose: Grants to California nonprofit organizations for programs that support vulnerable families and children, and provide basic needs such as housing, food, education, healthcare, and safety.
Region: California
Grant Amount: up to $20,000
Deadline: ongoing
Learn more.

 

AMPED, Kids in the Game

Purpose: In-kind grants of youth exercise equipment to schools or an exercise program that encourages children to be active. Interested applicants are required to register as “active schools” prior to applying. The equipment is intended to be used to implement a morning walking/running exercise program designed by the funding source. Each tool kit includes bands, charms, tracking system, sound systems, ropes, and other apparatus.
Region: Northern California & Atlanta, Georgia
Grant Amount: in-kind
Deadline: ongoing
Learn more.

 

Philanthropic Ventures Foundation

Purpose: Grants of up to $500 to California K-12 teachers in public schools serving low-income populations. Funding is intended to provide materials that will enhance classroom instruction in life sciences and chemistry.
Region: Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties
Grant Amount: $500
Deadline: first come, first serve
Learn more.

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If you’re interested in receiving timely information about upcoming grant opportunities, sign up for the EdTec grants newsletter here. EdTec can also provide support with grant writing – reach out to our grants specialist to discuss your school’s needs!

From Crisis Management to Strategic Planning: A Four-Step Framework (Part II): Insights & Exercises

(Part Two of a Two-Part Series)

By Guest Blogger Annie Crangle, Partner, Friday

October 2020

Four months ago, as the Friday team prepared to spend the summer taking school leaders through a strategic-planning bootcamp, the following questions were top of mind:

  • Will a short-term crisis turn into an everyday reality? 
  • Can long term-strategic planning be valuable in a crisis? 
  • Could a pandemic actually present a unique opportunity to innovate? 
  • Will the level of overwhelmedness and uncertainty decrease for school leaders, students, and families?

After helping 15 school leaders develop strong reopening plans grounded in a long-term strategic vision, we have more clarity on these questions, as well as some guidance and resources for schools in need of support.

Unfortunately, the crisis has turned into our everyday reality as many school leaders returned to school by extending their distance-learning model. And school staff, parents, and kids are exhausted from the continuous scramble. On the flipside, strategic planning has proven its worth in times of crisis, revealing “lightbulb moments” and helping leaders get a clearer understanding of their ultimate goals.

The connection between short-term planning and long-term planning is now clear in my mind—and becoming more clear in our strategic plan. Now, when I think about reopening our school, I have a much better sense of both the forest and the trees.” —Stacy Emory, Executive Director, San Carlos Charter Learning Center

Before we share more about our process and provide you with tools to start your own planning, here are some takeaways from our summer cohort:

  • Long-term planning provides short-term motivation: Leaders were able to get out of survival mode by establishing a vision for what’s possible on the other side of the crisis. Leaders’ confidence was restored by connecting short-term decisions to long-term solutions, and leaders felt empowered to seize the opportunity presented by the crisis to not only respond, but adapt and re-invent. 
  • A design thinking approach to strategic planning provides structure and flexibility: With frameworks for continuous evaluation, leaders were encouraged to reflect on past circumstances and plan for the future. For example: What did we need before that we don’t need now? What do we need now that we never needed before? What do we have that we can re-purpose in new ways? 
  • School leaders need a space where they can be vulnerable about failures, open with questions, and generous with resources: During and after the cohort, school leaders reported lower levels of anxiety, a high degree of learning, and access to a wealth of new resources and knowledge.  
  • Engaging staff in strategic planning exercises enriches the process and outcomes: After modeling strategic-planning exercises with the leadership group, we discussed how they might adapt these exercises to engage their staff. Many reported repeating the exercises with staff, and those diverse viewpoints strengthened their planning even more. 
  • Strategic planning is a meaningful way to train new leaders: Schools participated in teams of 3-4, some of whom were newly appointed vice principals early in their leadership career. At the end of the cohort experience, these new leaders reported greater awareness of the skills and responsibilities of school leadership and they felt more equipped to step into the role.
  • It’s possible to build relationships and community virtually: Our entire process was facilitated in a virtual environment—through the use of breakout rooms, virtual whiteboards, and play, we were able to collaborate and communicate effectively and build enduring relationships. Our summer cohort requested 3-, 6-, and 12-month check-ins to stay updated on each other’s progress.

As noted in our last post, our process was structured around a four-question framework. For inspiration, here are some sample insights that our cohort participants reported at each phase of the process. And for guidance, we’ve also included some of the tools we developed to help you guide your own strategic planning exercises:

1. What opportunities and challenges do we face? Develop a clear picture of our new reality and identify the most pressing challenges and risks to our model and the communities we serve. 

We asked school participants to complete a PEST Analysis: a summary of opportunities and threats due to Political, Economic, Social, and Technological forces.

We then asked schools to assess how their organization is equipped to respond to these changes by completing a SWOT Analysis: What are the strengths and weaknesses of our program (S&W)? How are we positioned to capitalize on opportunities (O)? How can we mitigate threats (T)? Lastly, we asked schools to put it all together: Based on our external analysis (PEST) and our internal assessment of our organization’s readiness to respond (SWOT), identify our top five strategic priorities.

Through the exercises, one school identified the challenge of redirecting parent volunteers while campus was closed. The school team established a strategic priority to revamp family and community engagement, ultimately developing a system for parents to teach enrichment classes via Zoom.

Another school reflected on their community’s differing views on social justice issues in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter protests. Leaders identified the need to create and implement (in whatever medium) an engaging and effective curriculum aligned with a learner-centered approach, through the lens of social justice and critical consciousness.

2. How will we adapt? Sharpen your focus on critical academic model and operational shifts, and opportunities for innovation. 

We guided school leaders through the essential shifts in developing a new academic plan, illustrating how to: be responsive to students’ changing academic and social-emotional needs; support clear communication and progress monitoring; maintain a commitment to the school’s instructional philosophy and approach; and adhere to new compliance requirements.

“Circumstances may be changing, your process may be changing, but your vision remains the same.” —Jennifer Reyes, EdTec, Guest Facilitator 

Through these exercises, one leader recognized the importance of keeping grade-level learning top of mind, adopting a “high expectations and high support” approach. Another school team reiterated that students craved feedback, so they decided to use formative assessments, hoping students would be motivated by seeing their own progress.

Second, based on their new academic plans, we walked school leaders through three steps to understand the operational and financial implications, asking them:

  • What new people, materials, resources are needed?
  • What existing people, materials, resources can be leveraged in new ways or redirected? 
  • What existing people, materials, resources, can be eliminated or reduced?

“The program drives the budget.” —Dena Koren, EdTec, Guest Facilitator  

School leaders saw opportunities to redirect robust professional developments budget to technology needs. Existing resources such as noise-canceling headphones used in Special Education classes were made available for students to check-out for home use. Another team decided to leverage classroom instructional aides to assist with implementing new health and safety protocols.

3. What’s our plan for making it happen? Map a realistic and financially viable short-term action plan; brainstorm near-term opportunities and long-term vision.

We asked school teams to reflect on five design-thinking questions to ensure each organization not only responds, but adapts, and reinvents through this period of change. (Many leaders repeated this exercise with staff using a virtual whiteboard—something we recommend for every school.)

One school team recognized that moving to a distance model has given them the opportunity to re-envision some foundational instructional approaches.

During week 6 of the 8-week process, we helped leaders collect their planning efforts into a 2020-2023 Strategic Plan Framework, with a focus on what makes their school unique, three-year core goals, key strategies, and vision for success.

4. How will we communicate effectively? Develop your message and communicate key shifts to your students, families, staff, and partners.

Communication is foundational to effective change management. We helped school leaders to engage in a stakeholder-mapping exercise to generate communications strategies and tactics that emerged from the following questions:

  • What is our compelling vision for each stakeholder group? How is that message communicated and reinforced? 
  • Where are people now, and where do we want them to be? 
  • What are the range of perspectives in each stakeholder group? 
  • What initial and ongoing communication is needed to support desired changes?

“Put yourself in the mindset of the stakeholder, what’s the first question a teacher is going to ask when you announce a new change?” —Elise Randall Hill, Rocketship Public Schools, Guest Facilitator 

One school team decided to establish weekly one-on-one check-ins with teachers who were struggling with distance learning, as well as more frequent all-staff meetings for greater communication, camaraderie, and support.

It was a whirlwind eight weeks, but we agree with the school leader who commented at the end of our final session, “Can we start again from the top next week?”


We hope these resources and insights are helpful. And if you need more help to generate a new strategic plan in the midst of this constantly changing landscape, call us. Friday is launching more cohorts this fall, and we invite you to join us.

Four Ways School Leaders Can Promote Equity-Driven Distance Learning

September 4, 2020

Equity is a driving force for charter schools in their quest to provide high-quality education options for all students, regardless of zip code. The COVID-19 pandemic and related school closures have created new challenges in this quest. As we learned this past spring, low-income students are at a greater disadvantage due to disparities in access to infrastructure needed for distance learning. Many schools across the country are starting the new year with either distance or hybrid learning, putting pressure on school leaders to determine how their school will continue to provide equitable learning opportunities for all students and families.

We’ve been following what charter schools are doing in this area and put together a list of suggestions for how school leaders can practice equity-based distance learning in the upcoming school year.

1. Check-in on Students and Families to Ensure Needs are Being Met

The students who are most in need are less likely to have access to a conducive learning environment, technological devices, internet connectivity, and parental supervision. Schools can play a role in helping to connect families to organizations that provide access to technological devices and internet service for reduced or no cost. You might want to check your state department of education’s website for a list of local companies providing discounts. For example, the California Department of Education shares information about special offers by various internet providers across the state. Common Sense Education also shares information about organizations helping to facilitate access to low-cost and free internet service, devices, and educational content.

Schools can also provide families with information about community organizations that can help to meet basic needs such as food, shelter, and childcare. For example, schools can create a list of community resources with instructions on how to initiate contact and make the list easily accessible to all families by sharing it in newsletters and posting it on their website. Alpha Public Schools created a microsite Alpha Family Resources Hub to provide families with information about resources related to distance learning, housing, food, and more.

2. Prioritize Staying Connected with Students to Support Academic Success and Mental Wellness

During distance learning, regular live interaction between teachers and students is important to maintain connection and encourage stronger learning outcomes School leaders are tasked with overseeing the quality of communication between students and teachers while ensuring check-ins are done regularly with different modes of communication such as text, phone, video, small groups, and social media. Maintaining a consistent, open, two-way communication between your school and students and families will allow insight into how students are adjusting to the new learning environment and coping with other issues.

School leaders can create a space for informal and formal conversations with students by implementing virtual advisory groups or individual online meetings. For example, Memphis Merit Academy created a hotline for parents and students to call for help with schoolwork, LifeWork Hotline | Virtual Teacher, to support students’ academic success. A similar model could work to connect students to counselors to support students’ mental health and wellbeing and help students cope with the stresses brought about by the pandemic. School leaders may also call upon social and mental health services by directing families to their teletherapy services while emphasizing mindfulness, playtime, and exercise to help parents and guardians structure time at home.

3. Provide Flexibility That is Responsive to Students’ Unique Needs and Abilities

It’s important to consider students’ unique needs and experiences when planning your school’s distance learning strategy for the 2020-2021 school year. School leaders might consider distributing surveys that solicit student and family feedback on digital learning experiences as well as their home environments. This feedback will make you aware of any barriers to learning such as access to technology, home language, caretaking responsibilities and/or the presence of caregivers, and can help to inform your distance learning strategy and tailor your approach to serve different groups of students. For example, the survey results can help to identify which students have familial obligations during the day and need access to asynchronous instruction, as well as those who require synchronous instruction to keep them engaged and on track.

A survey can also help improve family and student engagement. For example, at the start of distance learning and after noticing that only a few students were engaged in daily learning, Rocketship Public Schools surveyed their families each morning to inquire what students needed to learn at home and worked to address those needs throughout the day. By the end of the school year, nearly every student was engaging in daily learning.

4. Focus on Mitigating Learning Loss

A recent study by NWEA predicts that students will experience a learning loss of 30 percent in reading and 50 percent in math due to school closures related to the COVID-19 crisis. To help mitigate potential learning loss, school leaders can focus on strategies that accelerate student learning. Accelerated learning strategies require that students consistently receive grade-level materials, tasks, and assignments while making the work accessible. This Learning Acceleration Guide might be a helpful starting point for planning your strategy. To make up for the learning loss, the accelerated student learning plan should start as soon as possible, and ideally should be put together by a diverse team of teachers, administrators, and school leaders in a series of planning sessions. It is helpful to plan several instructional delivery scenarios and have a high-level plan for each scenario. You’ll also want to identify what unfinished learning needs to be addressed, and when and how. This document from Achieve the Core helps educators identify instructional content priorities in math and ELA in order to stay on grade level while addressing related prerequisite skills.


School leaders across the country are tasked with the challenge of developing strategies that maximize equity outcomes and address the diverse needs of their students during this unprecedented time of school closures. Equity-based distance learning helps to ensure that the most vulnerable students are supported during and beyond the pandemic. The resources cited here can help school leaders to implement school policies and processes that support equitable learning outcomes, as well as to train teachers to diagnose unfinished learning while providing acceleration support to the students most in need. What is your school doing to achieve equity in distance learning? Let us know in the comment section below!

Grant Opportunities for Charter Schools – August 2020

This post includes grant opportunities with deadlines starting in September & October 2020. 

EdTec is here to help your school secure additional funding for day-to-day operations or special projects. We’ve put together a list of regional and national grant opportunities currently available to charter schools. See below for more information.

If you’re interested in receiving timely information about upcoming grant opportunities, sign up for the EdTec grants newsletter here.

Nationwide Grant Opportunities

 

P. Buckley Moss Foundation for Children’s Education

Purpose: Grants to educators for projects that enhance educational programs through art. Funding is intended to provide students in grades Pre-K to 12 with increased learning opportunities, which can strengthen motor skills and concept training. Eligible use of funds includes the purchase of visual arts supplies to be incorporated into non-art disciplines, including math, science, and geography.
Grant Amount: $1,000
Deadline: September 30, 2020
Learn more.

 

National Society of High School Scholars

Purpose: Grants to high school teachers to benefit students from diverse populations or rural areas, as well as for teachers involved in inclusion and diversity programs for their school or community. Funding is intended to support expenses for field trips, materials, supplies, and other instructional resources used to assist in course delivery.
Grant Amount: $1,000
Deadline: October 1, 2020
Learn more.

 

Constellation

Purpose: Grants to schools for projects that provide students with opportunities to engage with current and future energy challenges. Funding is intended to enable students in grades 6-12 to engage in educational projects that will enhance their understanding of science and technology, and inspire them to think differently about energy.
Grant Amount: $25,000
Deadline: October 1, 2020
Learn more.

 

GameTime

Purpose: Grants to purchase outdoor recreational equipment. Funding is intended to help communities provide children and families with more opportunities for play.
Grant Amount: Up to $50,000
Deadline: October 30, 2020
Learn more.

Regional Grant Opportunities

 

City National Bank

Purpose: Grants to K-12 educators to enhance literacy. Funding may be used to purchase books, software and hardware, CDs, DVDs, and other educational resources.
Region: California (multiple counties), Georgia (Fulton County), Nevada, New York (Manhattan and Suffolk County), Tennessee (Davidson County)
Grant Amount: $1,000
Deadline: October 31, 2020
Learn more.

 

Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation

Purpose: The Foundation is placing an emphasis on capital requests.
Region: California (Alameda and Contra Costa Counties)
Grant Amount: Varies
Deadline: Ongoing
Learn more.

 

Walter and Elise Haas Fund

Purpose: Grants for education to support preparing all Oakland and San Francisco public school students for college, career and civic life.
Region: California (Alameda County and San Francisco)
Grant Amount: $5,000 to $150,000
Deadline: Ongoing; must first submit LOI
Learn more.

 

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If you’re interested in receiving timely information about upcoming grant opportunities, sign up for the EdTec grants newsletter here. EdTec can also provide support with grant writing – reach out to our grants specialist to discuss your school’s needs!

Tracking student engagement and enrollment during distance learning

Tracking Attendance and Engagement During Distance Learning

By the EdTec Data Team 

August 18, 2020

This past spring, many schools learned that tracking student attendance and engagement during distance learning can be a complicated and often messy process. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be! There are many ways to track attendance and engagement in this new learning environment, and you’ll be in better shape if you clearly define which methods your school will use from the start. Accurate data is not only necessary for reporting purposes, it will also help your school to identify students who are not engaging and risk falling behind. We’ve put together a few tips to help schools get a plan in place to track student attendance and engagement this school year.

#1 Continue to take attendance on a daily basis 

Most schools need to collect daily attendance to provide evidence of whether a student is present or absent to fulfill state, district, and/or other reporting requirements. This data is also important so that school leaders and teachers have an accurate picture of which students are participating in distance learning and which are not. This data can be used to inform optimal resource allocation and determine the appropriate interventions and supports for those students who need it most.

#2 Develop a consistent process for taking attendance that can be applied across learning models 

Schools will likely switch between different instructional models during the 2020-2021 school year, so there should be processes and systems that allow for a seamless transition in attendance recording. To minimize confusion, consider setting up a daily Advisory or Homeroom class that can be used for taking attendance both when the school is offering fully remote instruction and when the school is ready to transition to a hybrid model.

#3 Have a system in place for tracking in-person attendance versus virtual attendance 

Even if your school intends to or has already reopened with fully remote learning, plan to have separate codes in place if, and when, the school returns to some form of in-person instruction. Given the vastly different nature of remote learning, the ability to distinguish between and report on the two types of attendance will help schools identify students who may require additional resources and support. Keeping your attendance system as clear as possible will help ease any confusion when in-person instruction resumes.

#4 Rely on multiple sources of information to document and verify student engagement 

While the guidance on what qualifies as sufficient documentation of student engagement varies across districts and is evolving, schools should keep track of and be able to demonstrate how students and teachers are being held accountable to one another.

Some sources might include:

  • Gradebook assignments and assignment scores
  • Log in records and log in duration from learning platforms or student portals
  • Daily logs (electronic or paper) that can be saved or stored in a student’s file
  • Online polls or chat history
  • Attendee logs from video or audio calls

If your school uses PowerSchool or Aeries as a student information system, you can reach out to our school data experts for ideas about how to prepare your system for the new school year.

Having a clear plan in place to monitor student attendance and engagement will help your school to collect accurate data for reporting as well as determine which students may need additional support to keep them engaged and learning. How is your school tracking student attendance and engagement? Let us know in the comment section below!


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