By Richard Capone, CEO, Let's Go Learn
Today, the resources that support schools are very different from what they were even 20 years ago. It is probably safe to say that most schools have telephone systems, a computer-based library check-out system, computer labs, Internet access, and much more. Some have moved towards computer-based curriculum management tools and other internal and external web resources. But most of these focus on the logistics of schools and their operations. What we really need are systems to diagnose students in order to move towards the next stage of education: one to one instruction.
Imagining the medical model for a moment. At an advanced medical facility, individualized diagnostic and prescription information would all be stored in a computer system. If a doctor looked up a patient, he or she would see past data and past analyses written by various doctors. There is no reason why teachers and administrators at schools cannot do the same today. Yes, some districts do store state testing data online, but what about an integrated platform that actually allows different teachers working with a student the ability to collaborate in helping that student succeed?
You may think this system sounds too far in the future, but it exists today in various forms. Informally, it means the core classroom teacher talking to the intervention teacher weekly or monthly about her students and figuring out a plan for each of them. With technology, it is the storing of diagnostic assessment data in one central repository so that any tests the classroom teacher administers are available to the intervention teacher, or vice versa. Today most data management systems focus on summative data that is required by the state. For instance, they store state test scores, attendance records, medical needs, etc. Access is usually restricted to the administrator, or less usefully, to the teachers in limited form.
What we are describing is a Web-based Diagnostic Platform (WDP). This is something new, and if schools don't take advantage of this new capability, they risk failing the neediest portion of our students. A WDP allows for easy, diagnostic student assessment; storage of data for long-term growth studies, as well as for rapid progress monitoring; and student placement into a number of instructional programs in order to ensure that each student is getting precisely the instruction he or she needs. Think of a WDP as your school’s instructional hub, threading together all your textbook series, supplemental instructional programs, special education programs, ELL solutions, and after-school programs into one cohesive educational plan. Any teacher, tutor, counselor, or administrator can go to the WDP and find useful information that not only shows past performance but also can guide future instruction. This, of course, is the key. How can we help this student today and tomorrow?
All districts must have a WDP if they want to take full advantage of the potential that will inevitably be within reach: true differentiated instruction. With the correct tools, teachers will plan their days by teaching a combination of group lessons and small group or individual instruction. The WDP will allow everyone to work together towards the common goal of helping each individual student. The key here is the dissemination of diagnostic information at the teacher level. There is no reason each teacher needs to continue to work independently.
Now, this may not come easily. There may be some resistance. But debate and professional development will help teachers and administrators focus on using tools that actually allow for true differentiated instruction. Schools and districts must realize that times have changed; e-learning, individualized instruction, and much more is possible. So why not build your school on a WDP that is ready to accommodate all of those possibilities?
Tags: diagnostic platform, web-based diagnostic platform