Building Technology Leaders in Virginia

How one school district personalized the scale and scope of professional learning during a 1:1 change initiative.

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ALP has partnered with Dell to support a partnership spanning more than 15 years with a large Virginia school district that is one of the longest running 1:1 districts in the country. This work has catalyzed a number of innovations in teaching and learning.

At the forefront of these innovations is the district’s Reflective Friends process, a valuable site-based leadership development process designed to provide school and teacher leaders and technology specialists with personalized, quantitative feedback on the current state of 21st century teaching and learning outcomes in their schools. Reflective Friends provides a framework and structure for the development of competencies required for leading technology-driven change in education.

Four Steps

The Reflective Friends cycle consists of four crucial steps to the personalization of professional learning for principals, teachers, and students including:

  1. Baseline Assessment and Visioning: collection of district-wide technology usage data and confidential baseline information on the state of teaching and learning through a 21st century lens.
  2. Formative Metrics: The Teacher Innovation Progress (TIP) chart provides a concise, practical, and transparent description of what transpires in a globally competitive classroom. The TIP chart outlines 21st century skills for teachers and students in the following four (4) competencies:
    • Research & Information Fluency
    • Communication & Collaboration
    • Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
    • Creativity & Innovation
  3. Site Visits: A cross-district team of “Reflective Friends” conducts a 1- or 2-day site visit to a participating school. Because each school hosts its own Reflective Friends visit and consequentially earns its own formative feedback, the process brings a sense of common purpose and transparency.
  4. Customized School Improvement and Coaching: Participants are empowered to author their own continuous improvement plan based on the integration of feedback they collect and knowledge of their school’s unique culture and needs. Combining these custom plans and training in the latest technology applications with teaching and learning outcomes aligned to the TIP chart, Dell and ALP consultants then provide educators with targeted coaching and resources that will maximize achievement between annual Reflective Friends visits.

Scale, Scope, and Growth

Since 2010, an 8-member team of ALP and Dell consultants have facilitated over 240 Reflective Friends days and well over 1600 classroom visits in the district’s elementary and secondary schools. Central and site-based instructional leaders who have participated in Reflective Friends regularly cite their involvement in this process among their most valuable professional development experiences. They report that the level of qualitative and quantitative detail generated from each Reflective Friends visit offers a highly personalized, longitudinal snapshot of teaching and learning for site leadership teams at each building. District-wide, all schools have demonstrated significant growth in terms of teaching and learning outcomes associated with the TIP chart, with a number of schools demonstrating over two standard deviations of growth.

Supplementary to the Reflective Friends partnership with the district, this work includes the facilitation of a professional learning community with the district cohort of Instructional Technology Resource Teachers and the development of an array of authentic performance tasks and open-ended benchmark assessments. In April of 2014, this partnership was extended for another four years in order to carefully integrate best practices and technology tools that support the enhancement of student literacy in elementary and middle school grades.

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