Starting this school year, all school systems in the state of Maryland will be required to have in place a teacher evaluation system that includes student growth as a significant component of the system. Like other Maryland districts, Wicomico County Public Schools (WCPS) has opted to implement FASTe (Formative Action System for Teacher Effectiveness) from Performance Matters to help connect the dots between student results and educator practices, and comply with the State’s new educator evaluation criteria.
Accessible year-round, the FASTe online platform enables educators to “progress monitor” their performance against the multiple measures in their annual evaluations and then link to professional development resources to hone their craft and improve their performance throughout the year. At the end of the year, they have access to interactive summative rating reports that are customized to reflect the multi-measures derived by the school system’s criteria as well as state measures.
Before purchasing FASTe, WCPS had acquired Performance Matters’ web-based assessment and data management system in 2011. The goal of the purchase was to provide educators with easy access to student data and to support informed decision making across the rural district’s 24 schools. Such tasks had been complicated in the past by the fact that the district’s 14,000 students had a mobility rate that ranged from 19 percent at the high school level to 24 percent at the elementary school level, which meant that students were moving in and out of the schools on an almost daily basis. With Performance Matters, the district gained the ability to update its student rosters nightly, rather than every two weeks. The system’s dashboards and color-coded reports enabled educators to analyze and act upon student data.
“Many of our principals have commented to me that we’ve moved from a Gremlin to a BMW in terms of the capabilities of the system, the types of queries we can do, and the way we can sort the data,” said Gary W. Doss, coordinator of school improvement, assessments and accountability for Wicomico County Public Schools. “We can manipulate the data right there on the screen and look at it in a variety of ways. We didn’t have the ability to do that before.”
Less than a one-hour drive from Washington, D.C., Calvert County Public Schools (CCPS) added FASTe to its Performance Matters system earlier this year.
“Maryland’s new evaluation system is forcing counties to think about how to tie teacher effectiveness with student achievement,” said Matt Poteet, CCPS’ supervisor of the department of instructional and informational technology. “To do this, we need to look at student data and teacher data as well, so we can make sure teachers get the support they need in the areas they need it. But we can’t do that if we don’t know what shortcomings or issues they might have. FASTe enables us to connect student outcomes to teacher actions.”
The FASTe framework includes integrated dashboards and analytics that are based upon guiding questions and a professional learning community process. Prior to the beginning of the school year, educators use FASTe’s baseline module to conduct a district-wide self-assessment. The baseline enables teachers, school leaders and administrators to more effectively schedule student rosters, and to implement policy, programs and professional development aligned to the current needs of the school system.
Once classes begin, FASTe provides ongoing formative support during each instructional cycle by collecting data on student assessments, teachers’ professional development activities, observational outcomes, and other metrics. The program correlates all the data to show the relative effect the activities are having on instruction and learning, and connects educators to the professional development resources or support they require at that particular point in time.
“Using data to drive instruction has been critical to our success,” said Poteet. “As a result, the quality of teaching has improved and student learning has improved — and that’s the business we’re in.”