Pt. I: Using Data Goes International with New Pilot from Kuwait’s Ministry of Education & MESPA

Kacy Karlen for TERCtalks

 I joined Diana Nunnaley, Project Director for Using Data, on one of her first days back from a whirlwind trip to Kuwait. As part of  Kuwait’s Ministry of Education’s Improvement of Educational Management and Professional Development (IEMPD) project, Diana and the Using Data team have been selected as one of four PD providers by the Massachusetts Elementary School Principals’ Association (MESPA) ushering in this new school management and leadership pilot in Kuwaiti public schools. Diana chatted with me about the first phase of data work, her perspectives on education reform, and the value of data-driven decision-making across oceans and continents.

Diana Nunnaley, Project Director for Using Data

Diana Nunnaley, Project Director for Using Data

 TT: Hi Diana. Thanks for joining me. So tell me a bit about how you got involved with IEMPD pilot…

 DN: It all started with the work we’ve been doing for the last 3 years with the Massachusetts Elementary School Principal’s Association (MESPA) in Marlborough under Executive Director Nadya Higgins. We’ve offered two different Using Data leadership seminars there, and have had subsequent opportunities to work with schools and districts across Massachusetts.

Nadya herself is very much personally invested in education reform supporting administrators. She has been working with the Middle East Initiative at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University to bring educators and administrators from Kuwait to the U.S. to study education reform—Massachusetts is seen as a leader internationally in education reform!

Through her work with the Middle East Initiative—and after working with the Ministry of Education in Kuwait to create and deliver Study Tours—Nadya was invited to submit a proposal in response to an RFP for this pilot. As she has experienced our work and our reputation in the field of data-driven professional development, Nadya wrote us into the proposal to provide PD around collaborative inquiry and the effective use of data—we are one of four consultants, and the only data PD provider contracted through MESPA.

 TT: Tell me about your first time in Kuwait, and any surprising moments you had.

DN: I think my greatest surprise was that—despite having a vastly different culture­—Kuwait educators and administrators share the same kinds of goals we have for education here in the United States. On the surface, the Kuwaiti culture looks and sounds very different from those of the U.S. cities and towns where we typically work. But once we began talking to the Ministry of Education staff, school administrators, section leaders, and support staff about teaching and learning, we were all speaking the same language. Their passion for helping their students reach international standards of learning mirrors what educators here are also working to achieve.

This is an extremely ambitious project —the Ministry of Education is planning to implement new leadership roles and responsibilities, new teaching standards, new learning standards and eventually—new assessments. And these huge systemic overhauls will be happening simultaneously! We’ve been working at it for years here in the U.S. The teachers and school staff who volunteered to participate in this pilot have an enormous undertaking before them. But their willingness to be the first to implement totally new paradigms for teachers and students alike is more than commendable—it’s like they are the first astronauts to go into space!

TT: Would you mind elaborating on the kind of programming you implemented?

DN: The visit to Kuwait kicked off the first phase of our work. It was the first time we met our Kuwaiti educators at the district and school levels. Some of them have already been part of developing the new leadership standards for principals as part of this initiative; some of them have been part of the team developing new teaching standards for teachers and new curriculum in 6 content areas. But we got to introduce them to the key aspects of a new vision for school leadership. Our part of this first session was to begin to help them understand what effective data use looks like in schools and to engage them in talking about their challenges and views around data use.

We introduced our group to research supporting key factors and conditions in place to introduce, initiate, and support deep engagement with school data. I gave the group an opportunity to use a scale to predict their current data use and share their ratings with their colleagues. From there, we got into questions about who has access to data—whether it’s a lot of educators or just a few; whether decisions are made broad-base on use of data from teachers, administrators and specialists across schools, or whether decisions are made top-down; whether professional development is an event that happens when someone else somewhere else decides on it, or whether pd is ongoing, formative, job-embedded, and growing from regular teacher engagement with data.  And we discussed whether or not there are supports in place for professional learning communities for teachers to regularly meet, talk about data, and enact solutions around their data analyses.

 TT: Did you use any other models of successful data use?

DN: We shared a video that shows a principal and her staff analyzing their data and sharing their results with students to help them see what using data can look like in the classroom. Our pilot group noted what they observed from the principals; teachers; and the students in the video. Actually, one of the big aspects of the UD process is getting students to engage with their own data—helping them to begin to track their progress, set their goals, and monitor their processes on the path to achieving mastery.

Ultimately, from this visit, I  needed to gather as much information as possible about their local context – what their current practice looks like and of course, more about the expectations for participants in the pilot project from the Ministry’s perspective. […]

For more information about Using Data, please visit: http://usingdata.terc.edu.

UDlogo2

And tune in next week for Part II of “Using Data Goes International with New Pilot from Kuwait’s Ministry of Education & MESPA”!

 

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