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Grant promotes effective use of K-12 education data

Jan. 21, 2005

KALAMAZOO--A one-year grant of $425,000 from the Wallace Foundation to Western Michigan University will support the development of education leaders in urban school districts to use data effectively to identify and implement teaching strategies that lead to improved student performance.

"Having access to sound information and knowing how to use it to improve student achievement is central to education reform in Michigan," says Dr. Jianping Shen, WMU professor of teaching, learning and leadership who is the project's co-director. "If our children are going to be successful, we need to ensure that we develop the ability of our district and school leaders to be good consumers of data and help them use the information to drive changes in instruction that lead to student achievement."

WMU will lead a statewide coalition of educators to develop a new system to assist school leaders, who are often overwhelmed by massive amounts of data, in using data as a tool to making instructional decisions that lead to the improvement of student performance. The coalition includes the governor's office, the state Board of Education, the Legislature, major education organizations and other universities.

The project will begin in public school districts in Detroit, Flint, Benton Harbor and Lansing. Principals and then teachers in four schools in each district will help researchers build a model for data selection and use that can be used in schools statewide.

The initial year's $425,000 grant is renewable for each of two additional years for a total of up to $1.275 million, based on evidence of sufficient progress. The effort is funded as part of the Wallace Foundation's education leadership initiative, which aims to strengthen leadership policies and practices at the state, district and school levels toward the goal of improving student achievement.

The grant will be used to train district and school leaders to interpret and utilize student achievement data to determine how changes in instruction will lead to the improved performance of all students. By using data as a compass to guide instruction in the classroom, school and district leaders will be better able to ensure that the resources being invested in schools is spent wisely and effectively and targets the specific needs of students. What is learned in the project will be disseminated via state-level policies, professional development activities of major educational organizations, and the educational leadership programs in three participating universities.

"This is an important initiative," says WMU President Judith I. Bailey. "We have put together a broad coalition of school districts, state agencies and professional organizations to accomplish one of the most important goals we have-increasing student achievement and building a work force with the leadership skills needed to keep Michigan moving forward in the new economy. Students across the state will reap the benefits when this effort achieves its goals."

"Leadership is the most important factor after teaching in whether schools succeed in raising student achievement," says M. Christine DeVita, president of the Wallace Foundation. "The partnership between Wallace and states such as Michigan that we are funding will, we believe, yield innovative approaches to new policies and practices to improve student achievement. By joining forces, we can help spread improvements and get results more broadly and quickly."

"The system for using data we are developing will be applicable to any school setting in the state," says Shen. "We chose to begin with urban schools because of the urgency of the need there, but what we learn from this project will be able to be used in school districts across the state."

"We expect the tools developed to become quickly available to all of Michigan's schools," says Dr. Van Cooley, a professor of teaching, learning and leadership at WMU and the project's co-director. "The inclusion of colleges of education at state universities will ensure the lessons learned are built into training programs for school leaders."

Besides the governor's office, those supporting the project include the state superintendent of schools, the legislative leaders of both the House and Senate's Committees on Education, the Michigan Education Association, the Michigan Association of School Administrators, the Michigan School Board Association, the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, the Michigan Association of Middle School and Elementary Principals, the Michigan Foundation for Educational leadership and the chairs of educational leadership departments at Central Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University. The Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency is also involved.

The Wallace Foundation seeks to support and share effective ideas and practices that expand learning and enrichment opportunities for all people. Its three current objectives are:

Strengthen education leadership to improve student achievement

Improve out-of-school learning opportunities

Expand participation in arts and culture.

For more information and research on these and other related topics, please visit the foundation's Knowledge Center at <www.wallacefoundation.org>.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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