Seeing the “Big Picture” of Small Classroom Practices at KIPP Academy Boston
by Elise Swinford
Data monitoring might not sound exciting, but to educators at KIPP Academy Elementary Boston it could be the key to the next step to improve learning for all students. In November, KIPP welcomed educators from neighboring charter, Catholic, and BPS schools in Roxbury to witness how their teachers were beginning to gather and document academic data in “real time.”
Beyond measuring progress, the goal of this data collection is to create better instructional groups and to determine next steps for instruction.
For KIPP Special Education Coordinator Peter Perry-Friedman, being part of this community of practice in Roxbury and getting input from other educators is invaluable. “What works within one classroom is about teeny, tiny moves and small practices…[sometimes] we’re too ‘in it’ to realize the bigger picture,” he says. Building relationships with other special education experts in the community, says Peter, is important to seeing this bigger picture. “The more input, the better,” Peter notes of his team’s focus on constantly improving.
The “big picture” that Peter’s team hopes to see was evident in Network participants’ comments about what they observed in the classroom. The strong classroom culture was obvious, Samantha Rivas, After School Director at St. Patrick School, noted: students were fully engaged and were helping their peers as teachers frequently checked for comprehension.
Others mentioned the multiple ways that teachers were already monitoring student learning—from having each student record their responses on a white board to share with the class, to teachers implementing a signal for students to indicate whether they agreed or disagreed with a classmate’s response. The Network then discussed ways these types of monitoring might be translated into active data collection in the classroom.
What also became clear was the learning that the Network would take from this visit to their own schools. “The CGI [Cognitively Guided Instruction] block is amazing,” commented Mary Driscoll, Associate Superintendent, who plans to bring the idea back to her team at BPS. Ashley Riccardi, Dean of Student Support Services at KIPP, has worked in multiple sectors and proclaimed at the end of this conversation, “This is my dream: to have all three communities come together.”
Reflecting on the value of these observations and his own visits to other schools, Peter observed that “Hearing other educators’ stories and how they handled it” is an important part of this process…”it makes us reflect on what’s really important to us [at KIPP].”