Our Academic Philosophy
Educational Directions’ approach does not consider curriculum to be only the content that has to be delivered. The curriculum plan is a plan to get students from where they are to where they need to be in all content and skill areas. Where possible, Educational Directions tries to parallel the district curriculum map or content set.
Educational Directions is a data-driven education company. First, Educational Directions establishes where each student needs to be by the time they take a test and what competencies they must develop to make a successful transition to the next level. We call this process “unpacking the standards.” A focal point of this process is to recognize State standards are not maximum indicators but rather a set of minimum competencies expected of all students.
For more about our origins and our approach to helping schools, please see our book Turning Around Turnaround Schools: What to Do When Conventional Wisdom and Best Practice Aren’t Enough. Second Edition.
Data Driven Instruction and Results
Educational Directions monitors student progress regularly. Checks for learning is one of the academic rituals all teachers are expected to use whenever new material is presented. An educator does not know if the lesson worked unless the teacher knows the students learned what they were supposed to learn as measured by the learning checks. On a more formal basis, teachers, school leaders, and school support staff are expected to provide measurements of implementation (did the students do the required work) and impact (did the students learn what they were supposed to learn).
This information is used not only to check on student progress but also to update student priority needs, as well as reorganize and redistribute students as needed to encourage student success. We make every effort not to leave students in classrooms with a teacher who cannot teach them, and we make every effort not to leave disruptive students in classrooms where they prevent other students from learning. In our model, students may be reorganized until the right combination is achieved.
Meeting Students Where They Are
Educational Directions understands the State Department of Education expect all students to exhibit proficiency in specific competency areas. Educational Directions believes schools must move all students towards proficiency. We should teach to enable every student to be successful. To do this, we must track a number of different cognitive and non-cognitive data streams, and we must make sure the students have the opportunity to engage in optimum work for developing their ability to perform to their potential.
In terms of student performance, Educational Directions believes there are five areas that must be developed for students to actualize student potential: the knowledge base, the attitude base, the perception base, the thinking base, and the experience base. In terms of diversifying to enable students to perform their potential, Educational Directions develops a performance profile on every student and identifies which of the five areas needs priority attention. This will then enable teachers to create programs to shape student experience in a way that enables performance.
Educational Directions will provide teachers, on a regular basis, with “real-time” mini test data to determine if students are able to handle state assessments or to determine if the students improve their performance with different types of questions. At least twice before the test, Educational Directions will provide a test equivalent to the state test so that teachers and students can assess how the students manage their time, use test-taking strategies, and attack different types of questions.
"We put students through scrimmages, where they either know the content or they know the process, to see if they can do the other.
For example, if I want to test content, I'll make sure they know the process. If I want to test process, I'll make sure they know the content. And then I'll put them through a real-time scrimmage which duplicates the test."
- Dr. Joe DeSensi
Educational Directions has developed a student-focused approach to the school year based on learner needs.
The model is call The Rhythm of the Learner Year. In this approach, instructional leaders look at students as both Learners (processing information into long term memory) and Performers (accessing that memory and using it at the level they will be assessed).
The Opening Period
- Preparing all students for success in class
- Mastering management and academic rituals and routines
- Building adult access to students
- Establishing work and performance expectations
- Jump starting critical reading, thinking and writing
The Formative Period
- Building an independent learner and increasing potential as performer
- Building operational language
- Using critical reading, writing, and thinking strategies
- Building basic reading and performing competencies
- Building a best effort comfort zone
The Calibrating Period
- Building proficient performance
- Mastering uses of content
- Successful equivalent performance
- Operational language fluency
The Testing Period
- Enable long term memory
- Ensure best effort
- Transition to the End of Year work
The End of Year (EOY) Period
- Establishing student ownership of learning and performing
- Enabling successful transitions
- Establish summer expectations
The Summer Period
- Reduce performance loss
- Encourage interests and talents
- Build access
- Review of data
- Planning, planning, planning
Educational Directions has a just-in-time professional development series that presents these concepts just before entering a new learning period. The strength of having a common session to introduce concepts and critical vocabulary and then follow up with onsite coaching to help the leadership teams apply those concepts in the real context of their schools is one of the greatest strengths of our turnaround programs.