ROCKVILLE, Md. June 26, 2003 The term
appears throughout the core values, mission and vision statements of Montgomery County Public Schools. High on the list of academic priorities for this 140,000-student system just outside Washington, D.C. is another ambitious goal:
“to align rigorous curriculum, delivery of instruction, and assessment for continuous improvement of student achievement.”
Meeting these lofty objectives, however, requires far more than just posting the statements on the classroom wall.
“Without some kind of systematic approach, it’s hard to tell if the programs you’re putting in place today are going to produce the results you’re seeking,”
says John Q. Porter, associate superintendent and chief information officer of Montgomery County Public Schools.
“In striving to be more accountable to our parents, the school board and the county, we needed access to data that would allow us to accurately measure how our teachers and students are performing from a broad array of viewpoints.”
Since early 2002, Montgomery County Public Schools has been using an accountability solution from Microsoft partner EDmin.com, centered around the Microsoft Class Server: Learning Management Platform , to achieve the comprehensive performance analysis and data-driven instructional planning objectives that Porter and his fellow administrators sought. These same objectives are also central to the U.S. law known as the
“No Child Left Behind”
(NCLB) Act of 2001.
“Montgomery County’s early start and notable success in deploying technology to address the goals of NCLB have made the school system a model for other districts,”
says Jason Palmer, Education Products manager for the Microsoft Education Solutions Group. For that reason, Porter will be among the featured presenters at the first Microsoft INSPIRE Conference for educators on Sunday, June 29, on the company’s Redmond, Wash., campus.
Conference Promotes Sharing of Best Practices, Lessons Learned
The invitation-only event co-sponsored by Microsoft, EDmin.com and Scantron Corp. will focus on informing school officials about how Microsoft and its partners can help K-12 education districts meet the demands of NCLB with technology solutions. It also serves as a prelude to the National Educational Computing Conference 2003, which takes place Sunday through Thursday in Seattle.
Both events come at a pivotal juncture for state education departments and local school districts as they formulate plans to comply with the NCLB requirements. NCLB spans four main pillars: accountability for results, an emphasis on doing what works based on scientific research, expanded parental options, and expanded local control and flexibility.
“We’ve organized the INSPIRE Conference to speak with educators from around the country about how technology can be used to improve student achievement and academic accountability,”
“Our goal is to dig into the specifics of what’s working for educators, what’s not, and what kinds of technology and support resources educators need most to succeed in the future.”
The INSPIRE Conference will feature technology product demonstrations as well as interactive discussions of broader assessment and accountability issues facing school districts. Wanda Miles, executive director of e-learning strategy for the Microsoft Education Solutions Group, will give a keynote address outlining Microsoft’s long-term vision for how technology can improve education.
Another conference highlight is a panel discussion in which Porter and four other technology directors will share their experiences with using technology such as Microsoft Class Server and EDmin.com’s Virtual EDucation system to address the NCLB requirements. One of the key benefits of this session will be
“having leaders in this field speak to their fellow education practitioners about critical things to consider when implementing these types of technologies in their school districts, as well as what kinds of benefits a district can achieve,”
says Eliot Levinson, founder and CEO of the BLE Group and a nationally known educational technology consultant who will moderate the panel discussion.
“Most of the people attending INSPIRE are likely to be in the early stages of evaluating, purchasing and implementing technology solutions to address No Child Left Behind requirements,”
“We hope this discussion will allow them to learn from other districts’ experiences,”
adds Levinson. His firm, the BLE Group, provides technology planning and management services to school systems and education technology companies.
When school districts set out to adopt a new technology system, says Levinson, choosing a viable set of products is relatively straightforward compared to what needs to happen next.
“The greatest challenges for most school districts stem from an inability to implement and manage the technology well,”
“The key aspects of the instructional process from curriculum planning and teaching through assessment and remediation — need to be integrated and supported and made better with technology in order for the project to be successful.”
“Microsoft really gets that concept, and the company is putting a lot of focus on helping schools implement technology effectively,”
“Sponsoring the INSPIRE Conference for educators to learn from their peers who have been out there pioneering these technology projects is a further sign that Microsoft and its partners are serious about collaborating with schools to make their solutions work.”
EDmin.com co-founder Clayton Hoyle shares a similar view on the value of this Sunday’s event.
“We’re excited about participating in the INSPIRE Conference from the standpoint of demonstrating a very practical and proven technology solution that can help districts accelerate student achievement and meet the mandates of No Child Left Behind,”
“Montgomery County Public Schools is an excellent model for deployment that other districts can learn from.”
District Aligns Curriculum, Lessons and Testing through Technology Platform
In Maryland, the EDmin.com Virtual EDucation system, which includes Microsoft Class Server, forms the core of the Montgomery schools’ Integrated Quality Planning System, which provides a broad range of online data related to students, teachers and grade levels as well as standardized test results, instructional standards and curriculum plans. By helping teachers create, deliver and grade standards-aligned assessments and lessons over the Web, Class Server will allow Montgomery’s staff to easily track, analyze and improve student achievement against local curriculum standards in accordance with the requirements of the NCLB.
“Virtual EDucation and Class Server support our schools in setting high education standards, linking our curriculum to those standards, ensuring that our teachers’ day-to-day lesson plans consistently map back to the curriculum, accurately assessing students’ performance and using that data to improve our instructional decisions,”
“We’re now able to evaluate our students and teachers in real time, identify gaps in performance and make better decisions on how to address those gaps.”
Throughout the Montgomery County Public Schools’ deployment of Class Server and Virtual EDucation, Porter says,
“both Microsoft and EDmin.com have been very open to our feedback, and we’ve had a lot of influence on how their products are evolving.”
The tight integration between the two companies’ respective products has enabled Montgomery County Public Schools to merge its curriculum content, assessment data and instructional resources in one system, while keeping the school system’s IT maintenance and support costs low, according to Porter.
Montgomery County Public Schools uses EDmin.com’s Virtual EDucation to store, access and disseminate its standards-based student performance results to teachers of kindergarten through third grade at its 125 elementary schools. Microsoft Class Server complements this technology with tools that allow teachers to analyze student achievement against the district’s curriculum standards, assign personalized lessons to address each student’s strengths and weaknesses, and share lessons and assessment materials with their colleagues throughout the 187-school system.
Porter says the school district plans to take advantage of additional capabilities within Microsoft Class Server to give teachers, parents and students at-home access to an array of instructional resources in the near future. Possibilities range from allowing parents to view their children’s test scores online and monitor the students’ progress on homework assignments to enabling students to complete and submit their work online.
“Teaching resources that used to exist in multiple places can now be accessed from any computer, linked to our standards-based curriculum, combined with other resources and shared with other staff members to reinforce our best practices,”
“Our teachers are recognizing that Class Server and Virtual EDucation can help them work more efficiently and give them greater control in managing their day-to-day classroom operations.”