School district lands grant from state ODE

Written by Chris Baxter, The Observer December 09, 2013 10:49 am

The engine for the La Grande School District’s data-driven instruction program has received some high octane fuel from the state.

The school district has been awarded a $75,260 Direct Access to Achievement grant from the Oregon Department of Education. Much of the money from the grant will be used to help it with its data-driven instruction program, one gaining statewide recognition.

“(The grant) is greatly appreciated and highly unexpected,” said La Grande School District Superintendent Larry Glaze.

A large portion of the grant will be used to fund at least 18 training sessions to help educators with data-driven instruction, which involves the use of assessment test results to design instructional strategies for students. These strategies are being designed with major help from the district’s Professional Learning Communities program. Teachers work closely together when evaluating student data through the PLC process.

Mickey Garrison, director of data literacy for the Oregon Department of Education, who helped the La Grande School District land its grant, is impressed with how the school district is using the PLC process to boost student achievement.

“La Grande is a pioneer in the work being done to ensure that each student is learning and growing,” Garrison said.

She also said that the 
La Grande School District is “exemplary” in the thoughtful and systematic way it supports learning and teaching.

Glaze said the Direct Access to Achievement grant indicates the state is looking at the district as a model. The ODE wants the school district to be a site where educators from other districts can go to receive training and advice on data-driven instruction, he said 

La Grande’s data-driven instruction is closely linked to its PLC program. Many other school districts have PLCs but La Grande’s is more intensive than many of them, according to Jerry Mayes, the district’s director of title programs. The La Grande School District’s PLCs meet weekly. 

“We are taking data every single week and using it for instruction in the upcoming week,” Mayes said, adding that in many other school districts with PLCs, teachers may meet once a month or once every six weeks.

Teachers meet for an hour each Monday to review student assessment data and devise teaching strategies. Mayes is impressed with how committed the school board is to making this time available.

“The school board has made it a sacred time,” he said.

Mayes said that in the years before data-driven instruction, teachers taught more instinctively.

“Before they did it intuitively,” he said. 

Teachers might assume that all of their students understood subject matter and then move on. Now they rely on statistical data to determine if students are grasping material.

It is data that helps teachers to see exactly what students are understanding and missing.

“It allows us to design personalized instruction to meet specific needs,” Mayes said.