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Directing Data in Chicago

Work smarter, not harder,” says Sharnell Jackson, chief eLearning officer for the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). And with its experiment this month with IMPACT (Instructional Management Program and Academic Communication Tool), things in her district should get a whole lot easier. The new tool combines a student information system and an instructional management system to streamline all administrative tasks, from attendance to student scheduling. IMPACT is just one of the technology solutions under way in CPS, and here Jackson shares her favorites.

On-the-Spot Assessment
Early-literacy teachers in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) wanted data fast, in real time, to make assessments and differentiate learning. Jackson found the solution in personal digital assistants (PDAs) from Wireless Generation.

The tool, which uses DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills), is designed to prevent reading failure through three essential practices: early literacy screening, data-informed instruction, and ongoing progress monitoring.

As test scores improved with the use of the PDAs, Jackson continued to find tools to provide teachers with real-time data. Now all third-through eighth-graders use Harcourt Brace from Scantron for benchmark assessments, and scores are up at least 15 percent.

Others are taking notice. After hearing about Jackson’s success, Illinois decided to implement the initiative in every Reading First school statewide.

All the Content You Could Want
Funding from the federal E-Rate program put media distribution systems, which provide digital content, into 182 CPS schools. “But the schools didn’t know how to use them,” says Jackson. “And there was no content.” So with funding from Enhancing Education Through Technology, Jackson purchased all the content for every school in every subject, expanded hard-drive space to handle it, and provided professional development.

Servers in each school distribute digital content to teachers’ desktops, from which teachers can access up-to-date, interactive, standards-based lesson plans and quizzes for whatever subject they are teaching at whatever grade level.

According to Jackson, “Schools have gone completely berserk” over media distribution.

PD for Leaders
“It’s important that principals have an understanding of how technology integration relates to state and federal guidelines for specific improvement,” Jackson says. So she collaborated with ISTE, a nonprofit organization supporting the use of information technology in schools, to create the Principal Technology and Leadership Institute.

The institute trains principals to integrate technology in their school improvement plans and shows them how this synthesis helps schools meet No Child Left Behind requirements. Principals participate in both face-to-face workshops and in online learning experiences.

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