A Journey Toward Streamlined Data Collection and Analysis


The LinkIt! Team

Read time:

11 minutes

Chad Marcus, LinkIt’s Chief Academic Officer, recently had the privilege of sitting down with Barbara Recchio, Ed.D., Director of Science, Math, Technology, and World Language at Monticello Central School District in Sullivan County, NY. Because of Barbara’s leadership in leveraging data to drive effective MTSS efforts, he wanted to hear about Monticello’s journey, and learn from her experience. This is what she shared with us. 

Chad: Districts choose LinkIt! for a wide range of reasons, but we're really interested in learning a little bit more about why Monticello selected LinkIt! as a data, assessment, and MTSS partner. But also, what were some of the challenges you faced that led you to investigate LinkIt! and ultimately bring us on?

Barbara: So my charge here is to ensure that the standards are being instructed in the classrooms, teachers are monitoring student learning, data is being collected, and practices are being incorporated to improve instruction. When I arrived here that was happening in small pockets, but not consistently. What we needed was a common language for speaking about assessments, teaching strategies, and repairing gaps that might occur. We needed a single location where all of our data could be stored.

Portrait of Barbara Recchio from Monticello Central School District
Barbara Recchio, Ed.D.

Of course, we had the state education department that provided historic state and Regents assessments. But that wasn’t being used consistently. Usage was scattered all over, and there was no single person responsible for the software programs that were housing the data. 

I had a little prior experience with LinkIt, however. And so I thought, “this is a perfect solution to our challenges.” I reconnected with LinkIt, and it's been nothing but progress and full speed ahead from there. We're still populating our platform, but we are anticipating holding data meetings in the next six months. 

Chad: Now that you have data in your LinkIt! instructional Data Warehouse, how do you think those data meetings will look? 

Barbara: It will be a night and day experience. In the past, instructional coaches and department instructional leads would bring their teams together to look at assessment results. But it often ended up being a superficial conversation. It didn’t allow them to really look at question construction, missing skills, or needed practices to bridge learning deficits. 

The disaggregation of data was really not happening like we needed. We were getting only aggregated results and percentages from the state, and percentages don't really help us to reform our instruction. LinkIt! allows us to disaggregate that data to talk about the nuances of instruction, to improve both instructional and learner gaps. If we can disaggregate the results of a teacher's common assessment, we can identify classes that are performing better than others and look into what they are doing. We can ask those teachers to share their strategies. I have not seen other platforms that allow you to do all of that in one spot. 

Chad: You’ve got a great plan for rolling this out to your teams. What are some ways that centralizing all your data into LinkIt! has changed how you personally use data? 

Barbara: First and foremost it’s about saving time. With our current multiple systems, we are overwhelmed just trying to put all of that information together. LinkIt! helps us organize our thinking, and to ask ourselves, “I wonder how one piece of data relates to other aspects?” 

If you're looking at a student, for example, you might wonder if their upward ELA scores are reflected in their math scores, how it relates to their attendance, or if it relates to their historical record. What is happening in the life of that child that's causing that academic performance? When you have all of that information in one portal you can ask so many interesting questions. And really, that's where you get to the point of being able to move students forward in their academic careers. 

Chad: I love that you focused on asking questions about what the data is showing. That level of collaboration and inquiry is something that always has excited us about partnering with districts to use the data. How is LinkIt! helping to improve not only access, but usage by different stakeholders?  

Barbara: In the past students would rank their preferred classes on paper, then, along with their guidance counselor, they would try and piece together a pathway for the student. But the Guidance teams immediately put together a more beautiful solution. Now our teachers put in their recommendations for students directly into Data Locker. Then our students will go on the LinkIt! platform and put in their requests for courses. We're going to have all that data together in one beautiful visual, and then the students will meet with the guidance counselors to rectify areas where students thought they could or couldn't engage in a particular level of a course, but the teacher thought maybe differently. The power of that, alone, gives students a choice in a way that they haven't had before. Those conversations have never happened before – their voice wasn't even heard. And now a decision has turned into a conversation, and conversations carry much much more power. So, it's a good thing. 

Chad: You mentioned that you're collecting input from teachers around for student placement via our Data Locker. Are you using Data Locker in any other processes? 

Barbara: We are using it in other ways. We have one building principal with a very analytical mind, who is embracing the Data Locker piece. I'm eager to see how that works out, and what he’ll do with it in his data meetings.

Chad: It sounds like you already have such a strong strategic plan for leveraging this data to transform the conversations being had between key stakeholders. What are some ways that LinkIt! has helped change the communication happening? 

Barbara: One piece that we are working on is periodic letters to parents of Tier 3 students to inform them if the student is making progress. Historically we used template letters from a previous vendor, and It had a little box for our educators to leave a note for the parent, but there wasn't a running record of student progress. “I saw your students six times in the past X number of days and they worked on this, this, and this” doesn’t tell a parent much. Parents want to know if their student has improved or needs help, and what they can do to support the child at home.

What LinkIt! has done is to help us use Intervention Manager to provide drop-down menus specific for each program to facilitate better teacher feedback, such as “This child has worked on these skills, mastered these, and is still needing these others.” That is a huge benefit. And we can insert charts to make it easier for parents to understand student progress. Their concern is “is my child learning?” – and that clearly indicates that the student is moving towards progress.

Chad: That is wonderful. I know you're working with us to implement our MTSS software, Intervention Manager. Did you know you can use it to send mail-merged data on district letterhead? Has any discussion revolved around parent letters or emails you can send home?

Barbara: Yes, we will be adding elements of the platform over time, as well as opening up our parent and student portals to provide a direct line of communication with parents. I think it's really important that teachers be allowed to share information like how to reach out to them, tutoring options, or to provide additional resources to help the child. That direct content communication moves us away from adversarial calls to collaborative calls. It's a partnership in education. We have to focus on different aspects of child development. We are working to get more of our teachers comfortable with using LinkIt! as their right-hand tool. Our vision is that they have it open on their desktop and constantly entering grades, connecting with parents, and looking at how students are doing. 

Chad: We're excited to support all those next steps. In terms of your work with professional learning communities, data teams, departments, and articulation meetings, how have you fostered meaningful collaborations based around data? 

Barbara: To be perfectly honest, in the past the instructional coaches were really doing all the hard work of collecting that data, breaking it down, and picking out the pieces they think would be most beneficial to our teachers. But it's really filtered through one person's lens. Everybody needs to contribute to the data conversation. LinkIt! is changing that for us because it empowers all teachers – all educators – to have that data in their own hands. It's going to be a big shift, but we'll be training all of our teachers to ask the right questions when the data is in front of them. We met just last week with our Assistant Superintendent about how we're going to roll out the training for data meetings, and as soon as that's done, then people need to jump into the portal. There's enough data there already to have those conversations.

Chad: It sounds like a great plan. So many of the educators we work with identify similar goals around using data to drive ownership and accountability. But sometimes we'll also hear that there are competing initiatives or even concerns that the data could be positioned as being punitive. Did you face any of those obstacles in your district? What’s your response when people say “this isn't the right time to make a shift”?

Barbara: At Monticello, we have four goals that are important to us: inquiry-based instruction, social-emotional learning, diversity and equity, and family and community communication. Each of those components can be looked at through the lens of data. If we're talking about social-emotional learning, for example, we are using the RULER approach. Students come to class each day and take a pulse of what they're feeling. These strategies allow us to, without identifying particular students, talk about the level of social-emotional practices that we're implementing, and the level of restorative practices that we've been implementing. That data helps us compare performance between classes to identify and share best practices. 

The other piece is inquiry-based instruction. When I enter a classroom I look to see who's asking the questions? Is the teacher doing all the question asking? Why aren’t the students given a voice in the classroom to ask questions? When we do our evaluations, we intentionally look for inquiry-based instruction. We don't use that data to pinpoint individual teachers. Instead we look at our teachers collectively. Eventually that's going to manifest in improved classroom assessments, because happy kids are there learning, and they enjoy learning.

Chad: You've already shared quite a bit around the goals around data warehousing and assessments. As you've started to roll this out, what are some of the unanticipated outcomes that you've seen thus far?

Barbara: You know, the curious thing is that you always expect pushback from certain groups, and that's a mistake. I have been completely surprised by the people who jumped into the LinkIt! pool. For example, I was especially surprised that our guidance counselors were so excited about it!

Another surprise was when one of our administrators jumped on board. This particular principal takes initiative, questions, and is methodical and thoughtful. Typically he puts his own brand on projects, so it was a surprise to me when he just jumped in and embraced the platform as-is. We’re going to ask him to help us onboard our other elementary schools because of his enthusiasm. Once you get one person on board, it's like a domino effect. He's always been that person in our district, so I'm excited that he sees the value.

Chad: That’s a great story. As we come to the end of our time together I have a couple of final questions for you. Can you talk about how your partnership with LinkIt! is helping to evolve your district assessment practices?

Barbara: Certainly. As we have presented this to some of our schools I have had some teachers very excited to upload their assessments and testing online, disaggregate the data, and tag items with skills, practices, and standards. They are anxious to really dig down and understand where any learning deficits may still reside. I think that LinkIt! is going to really help us move forward because all of that data processing is laborious for our teachers. It will be exciting to get to that tipping point when we have enough teachers using the platform that we can have timely, real assessment data.

Chad: And finally, how does that dovetail with some of the initiatives happening at the state, such as testing moving to more of an online platform, and shifts in accountability and students’ experience?

Barbara: Just because you take an assessment online doesn't mean that it's going to help improve instruction. And I know the state does it just for accountability purposes, but that aggregated data – who decreased in level one, two, three, four, and five – is simply not as useful to teachers. We need to see the assessment data aligned to the standards. It's a state assessment. The New York BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) took it upon themselves to go back to the historical data and tag each item with the corresponding standard that was assessed so that they could send out that bank of aligned exams to teachers to use as practice. That’s hard work, and we look forward to LinkIt! simplifying that for us.

Chad: That’s very insightful. Barbara, you are truly a treasure trove of best practices. We're excited to continue to collaborate with you, and support you, and learn from you. Thank you Barbara for your time and for sharing all of this great stuff today.

Barbara: It was my pleasure.


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