Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Yesterday was the second and final day of the South Carolina NWEA Conference in Hilton Head Island. I attended two breakout sessions to round out my conference experience. The first breakout was on Academic Audits done by Sandra Chavez. The second was about NWEA's Knowledge Academy or its online instructional tool to help clients implement MAP testing and later use data the tests yield to make informed educational decisions.

Beaufor County was the first school district to use Academic Audit in helping boost academic achievment of students. Academic Audit is based on the research of Dr. Lauri Bassi of McBassi & Company. Dr. Bassi's theory is that investments in human capital will produce meaninful returns on that investments. Too many organizations look at labor and the training of labor as a cost that reduces bottom line profits. However, Dr. Bassi demonstrated that organizations that invest in continued training of employees and reducing the barriers that hinder employee productivity, while reducing profits in the short term, will increase productivity and organizational profits. For a school district, student achievement is considered the profit of such an organization. Surveys are conducted on how well employees believe they can perform their job at various schools. The data is then grouped and shared with school principals and district administrators. With the data, leaders can work on making changes that allow increased productivity and eventually increased student achievement. As a side note, I have used Dr. Bassi's work in my economics classes. In my opinion she has rewritten the factors of production for the new service/information based economy of the 21st Century.

The second breakout session was about NWEA's Knowledge Academy. Knowledge Academy are mostly online tutorials to help client schools conduct MAP testing then use the data the tests generate. This is a great idea but unfortunately it is also, unwittingly, a well kept secret at NWEA. A recommendation I made was to make links to Knowledge Academy more prominate on the Association's website, Hopefully, they will take this suggestion and run with it. Such information would have helped me greatly when I was trying to set up and run MAP testing back in August and September of 2006.

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