Timely interventions

A few weeks ago on Sunday, I stumbled into the walk-in clinic, my head pounding. I was sad. I couldn’t hear well; noises were muffled, as though my head was under water. I was unable to smell the area restaurants. Food didn’t taste good or bad; it didn’t taste like much of anything. My eyes burned and felt like they were being pushed from my skull.
My throat burned; swallowing was a struggle. Every joint in my middle-aged body protested movement. I needed an intervention, and I knew it with each of my five senses.

The nurse at the clinic took my blood pressure and listened to my heart. She asked me what I weighed and recorded my lie without flinching. The doctor came in and looked in my ears, nose, and throat. He listened to me breathe. And then he told me I was a sick girl, and he designed a plan to make me well.

An hour later, I was back home on the sofa with my medicine in my hand. I was sick of being sick. I followed the doctor’s directions to the letter. Ten days later, I felt healthier than I had in a long while.

At BPS, our work as teachers is not so different from that of doctors. We need to use data, some observational, some pen-paper assessment data, to build a “standard treatment protocol” for our learners, those really struggling like I was and those who appeared to be doing well but may not be growing in skills as much as they could.

And in order to do this work, our teachers need time to do it – uninterrupted time. They don’t have time during the regular work day because, unlike clinic professionals who see patients one by one, our teachers work with groups of 15 to 30 or more. Teachers do the
testing and interpret the results and then plan for instruction which will improve
academic outcomes for students. This work takes focused, quiet time.

While some might argue that time can be found in the summer, I would argue summer is not timely. The use of data to inform instruction can’t wait until summer any more than I could have waited eight months for my treatment. When it comes to data-informed interventions, timeliness matters. We need to respond to what is happening with a child’s educational growth over the course of the year, not only at the end of the school year. Work like this needs to be spread out over the school year because we are measuring each child’s growth over the school year. We want to know, “How exactly is what we are doing helping each learner grow?” As teachers, we are learning how to do this work better each
time we are given an opportunity to engage with data, work with our peers, and
design our teaching and learning experiences.

Having said that, make no mistake that two things are very, very hard:

1)    Changing the school day is frustrating for families. It creates the need to adjust schedules and perhaps find daycare. Families are busy and change comes hard;

2)   Changing how educators use data is audacious work. As a professional educators, we are living and working in an era that is “data driven”. For many of us, use of student-specific data that we can use to change-up instruction is new. We haven’t always done our
work that way. But we are learning to.

The BPS main webpage has a “frequently asked questions” post regarding late starts.

Trust that we will monitor the effectiveness of late starts as opportunities for professionals to study data to inform teaching. Your response is important as well. You may wish to share with your children’s principal during the school year your family’s perspective
on late starts.


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