Data-driven instruction: Achievement Network’s innovative approach to changing practice

Over the last seven years, the foundation has invested an estimated $180 million in the effort to ensure that US educators can make better use of the mass of data generated by and about students.

Interoperable technology tools that make use of a wide range of data are one piece of that puzzle. But the critical step (and too often overlooked) step is ensuring that the practice of teaching is viewed as a cycle of:

  1. Teaching
  2. Assessing student learning
  3. Reteaching

The Achievement Network (ANet), a Massachusetts-based nonprofit company, is working to change schools’ view – and educators’ day-to-day practice – of teaching. More importantly, they’re working to ensure that changes take hold across cooperative systems of schools.

Transforming data-driven instruction from a mandate into a habit

ANet’s methodology focuses on creating networks of schools that actively support and strengthen one another’s expertise in using data to personalize instruction for each and every student. Schools working with ANet administer standards-aligned assessments at set intervals throughout the year. Over the course of three to five years, ANet coaches work within the schools to teach educators how to analyze the results of these assessments on a rolling basis and use them to identify gaps in students’ learning, and help educators create action plans that help students overcome those gaps. They also work with schools to assess the effectiveness of those action plans so they can be refined and strengthened as needed.

To amplify impact and ensure that the change in practice is achieved at scale, ANET has established a process of network collaboration. ANet-trained schools meet and collaborate throughout the year to 1) share problem-solving strategies and best practices, and 2) benchmark their own performance. Educators themselves share what’s best about the model and, working together, make it more powerful.

Success in schools; success at scale

ANet began work in seven Boston charter schools in 2005. By the 2011- 2012 school year, ANet was working with 252 schools in eight urban areas, including Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, New York, Newark, Nashville, Memphis and Washington, DC, with an impressive track record of success. Five years from now, the company’s goal is to embed data-driven instruction into at least 500 network schools nationwide, and to inspire an additional 1000 schools to adopt similar practices.

Achieving significant improvement in schools around the country demands that we tackle the issue in new and thoughtful ways. ANet is just one example of an innovative company that’s begun to crack that nut. They work as external partners and consultants, which helps to ensure a level of fidelity in implementation, and they spend a great deal of effort in sharing best practices across geographically diverse network of schools.  In doing so, they are building upon the best work of their partner schools and scaling these practices across the country.

Learn more about how ANet’s work fits  into the foundation’s  strategic efforts to accelerate progress in the effort to transform the lives of children living in urban poverty.