November 2016  

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Director's Perspective
REL Appalachia has had so many exciting events and products this fall as research findings are shared and technical assistance projects wrap up for 2016. One promising initiative we have supported is West Virginia's Simulated Workplace program, a new approach to career and technical education. Thanks to REL Appalachia Governing Board member Ron Duerring, superintendent of Kanawha County schools, we were able to see the program in action at our fall 2016 Governing Board meeting, hosted by the Carver Career & Technical Center. We especially enjoyed student-led tours of Simulated Workplace classrooms; lunch catered by the culinary program; and a panel discussion with Carver representatives, including an administrator, a teacher, and a student. This experience was a wonderful reminder of why we do this work!

In this issue, we share reflections from Governing Board members about important REL Appalachia projects. We then profile 2016 projects that share research and data through various media, including videos, whiteboard animation, and infographics. We share information about a November webinar that presented results of our study on educator retention in West Virginia and featured State Superintendent Michael Martirano and local superintendents Manny Arvon and Nelson Spencer discussing recruitment and retention issues. We highlight our Teacher Data Use Survey and webinar series. Finally, we recap our "I Love Data" campaign and preview an upcoming research report on college enrollment and persistence in Tennessee.
Governing Board Members Reflect on REL Appalachia Projects
At our fall 2016 Governing Board meeting, we asked Board members from each REL Appalachia state to reflect on projects that made a difference in their states. Here is what they said:

Ron Duerring, Ed.D., Superintendent, Kanawha County Schools, West Virginia
I think the work REL Appalachia did with Simulated Workplace helped us facilitate its growth in our state. It was the support of REL Appalachia that allowed us to expand the program. Now you see it happening in all of our CTE centers, and it's starting to make its way into high schools. I don't think we would have gotten as far as we are in the project if it wasn't for REL Appalachia's involvement.

Linda France, Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Kentucky
The whole REL approach of researchers working directly with both the state and with superintendents and districts is a model that makes a difference. I think that the research and assistance with college and career readiness has been the most impactful. Dr. Michael Flory has been working directly with OVEC (the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative) and several participating districts to define what those skills look like. I hope this work will go on to examine how we measure skills that can't be measured in standardized tests. Just the focus in that area, I think, has made not only an impact, but a lasting impact. I'm very grateful for that work and the resources that are brought to bear around the questions we have.

Laura Hansen, Director, Information Management and Decision Support, Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS)
I would have to say it was the assistance and training with building school capacity for data-driven collaborative inquiry that was the most impactful. Not only did REL Appalachia help spread this instructional improvement approach to MNPS schools, but they built the capacity of a person working at MNPS, Dr. Margie Johnson, to actually continue the training in the district herself. Now we have an expert who can keep the work going, and we aren't relying on a researcher or expert to feed us everything. And everyone working on this has been flexible. We've adjusted course multiple times as the climate changed in the district. We made sure everything remained relevant at the school level and worked with schools that expressed interest in building this capacity, rather than making it a top-down mandate. And I think the culture is changing. When we asked teachers about the training afterward, they didn't say that they didn't like it or that they didn't find it valuable, but said they didn't get enough time, that they needed more of it.

Jennifer Piver-Renna, Senior Executive Director for Research, Virginia Department of Education
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe views breaking the school-to-prison pipeline as one of his top priorities. To effectively address the issue, the Virginia Department of Education wanted to better understand how our student discipline data could be used to identify schools most in need of technical assistance and services. With support from REL Appalachia, we were able to see new patterns and trends in our school-level discipline data as well as identify critical data quality needs to improve the accuracy of data moving forward. The Virginia Department of Education expects this work to contribute to more effective and efficient use of state resources among schools most in need of assistance.
New Infographics and Videos on REL Appalachia and Partner Projects 
Video: West Virginia's Simulated Workplace
Learn about the career and technical education (CTE) approach that is transforming schools across West Virginia, profiled in this West Virginia Department of Education video developed with support from REL Appalachia.
Video: Behind the Findings: Dual Credit Programs in Kentucky
In this interview, Dr. Patricia Kannapel dives deeper into the findings and implications of our study on the implementation of dual credit programs in Kentucky.
Video: Data Visualizations for Early Warning Systems
This animated video explains how data visualizations can share EWS indicators and highlights specific practices for creating visualizations that clearly communicate actionable EWS data.
Infographic: Tips for Visualizing Your Early Warning System Data
Check out these tips for designing effective data visualizations using EWS data! This infographic also includes resources on data visualization and examples of what good visualizations look like.
Video: Education Partnerships: The Power of Researchers, Practitioners, and Students
This video profiles our July 2016 conference, which powerfully integrated perspectives of researchers, practitioners, and students. The video features interviews with all three groups, conducted during the Postsecondary Readiness in Rural Communities conference in Nashville, TN, cosponsored by REL Appalachia, REL Mid-Atlantic, and REL Northwest.
Webinar Highlights Implications of Research Findings on Educator Retention in West Virginia
Districts serving high percentages of low-income students and rural, isolated schools need supports and resources for recruiting and retaining teachers. This is just one of the implications discussed during a recent webinar exploring REL Appalachia's report Retention, attrition, and mobility among teachers and administrators in West Virginia. The report, published in August 2016, described average retention, attrition, and mobility rates statewide and how these rates varied by teacher, administrator, and district characteristics. The report also provided average rates for each district in the state. (Read the report, the graphical summary, and the infographic.)

The webinar also featured state and local perspectives: West Virginia's State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano discussed the implications for state policy, and Mr. Manny Arvon and Mr. Nelson Spencer, Superintendents of Berkeley County Schools and McDowell County Schools, respectively, reflected on challenges to teacher recruitment and retention in their districts.
Teacher Data Use Survey Webinar Series Recap
In early October, REL Appalachia released a survey tool to help education leaders gather actionable information about data use in their schools and districts. We developed an implementation manual and tools for reporting the survey findings, and held a four-part webinar series to equip leaders to implement the survey and analyze findings.

Each webinar walked participants through a different aspect of the survey, including a survey overview, customizing the survey to school/district characteristics and needs, administering the survey and analyzing findings, and communicating results using REL Appalachia reporting tools.

The survey's creators, Dr. Stephanie Wilkerson and Dr. Jeffrey C. Wayman, led the webinars, and participants from across the country attended. Webinar recordings will be made available on the REL Appalachia website in the next month, so keep an eye on the event page for the videos and our Twitter feed for announcements about their release!
Coming Soon: Study on College Enrollment and Outcomes in Tennessees
A REL Appalachia research report currently under review examines the college outcomes for Tennessee's public high school class of 2007 six years after high school graduation. A companion report, also forthcoming, examines outcomes for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) students. Both studies followed the high school class of 2007 six years after graduation to examine college enrollment, persistence, completion, and performance. The studies will be released by the Institute of Education Sciences in the coming months.

Learn more about the statewide study here and the MNPS study here. Subscribe to IES's mailing list to receive a notification when the report is released.
Update: I Love Data in West Virginia
Country roads have taken the Mirror, Mirror: I LOVE DATA outreach initiative into Kanawha County, West Virginia. The initiative aims to bring awareness to the importance of using data to improve teaching and learning. Teachers are challenged to put data to work through mirror clings placed where they cannot be ignored: teacher lounge bathroom mirrors. REL Appalachia believes that when teachers use data thoughtfully, they can individualize their teaching to each student and ultimately improve learning.

Visit the Mirror, Mirror: I LOVE DATA webpage to learn more about existing REL Appalachia research, listen to what other teachers are saying about professional learning led by REL Appalachia, and find out about our upcoming events.
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