As with many innovative ideas, Fagen says the biggest challenge is that there are no systems in existence that do everything DCSD needs.
“We are trudging into brand new territory,” Fagen said. “What is very common in Douglas County is that we are pioneers. We do things that haven't been done before; because we know they're great for kids and we have talented teachers that we know can make these things come true.”
“We've spent a great deal of time over the last two years searching for this for our teachers, hoping that someone had already envisioned it and built it. What we learned over and over and over again, through multiple processes is that no one has built the whole system,” Fagen added.
While there have been technological advances in education, the industry has not seen the extent of automation seen in other fields.
“During the history of education, we've had to do a lot on paper, just because that was the only vehicle available,” Fagen explained. “In this day and age, we should
have more things automated for teachers.”
She says the goal is not to replace the human element in teacher evaluations. Fagen hopes the system will be “smart” enough to provide teachers with feedback on lesson plans, potentially signal whether the work should be made available to teachers District-wide, and to provide evaluators with a dashboard of data they can use. By leveraging technology, the hope is that teachers and principals will have more time to do what they do best.
“There are only a certain number of hours in a day. We want teachers working on being great with students, doing amazing things for students. We want evaluators to be doing the same thing for teachers. If they're spending tons of time just capturing data points, then they aren't having as much time to talk about those data points or to visit classrooms or to have conversations,” Fagen said.
“We want to shift the time spent on capturing, recording, tagging and all of that to more time talking, reviewing, reflecting, feedback, and opportunities—all of those things. We feel that is the more valuable side of the evaluation process.”
Fagen says the District hopes teachers can use the tool that best fits their needs.
“There is no required template. There is no required portfolio. There is no required anything. We want teachers to feel empowered to use the tools that make sense to them, but due to our scale, due to our size, we have the opportunity to partner with some people and bring some tools to our teachers that we might not be otherwise able to and make those available and hopefully make this whole notion of capturing the best of what we do much easier,” Fagen said.
The plan is to have a prototype of the data system running by summer, so that teachers can try and train on it, before using it next fall.
“If we are successful, I think there are many districts that are going to want to partner up with us, as well as our thought partners and software partners,” Fagen said.