Friday, July 17, 2015

Superintendent of the Year Shares Secrets to Success

Classworks recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Gearl Loden, Superintendent of Tupelo Public Schools and 2014 Mississippi State Superintendent of the Year. Under Dr. Loden’s leadership Tupelo’s state ranking increased from 96th to 26th, and the graduation rate has risen by 10%.


Dr. Loden has been a Classworks believer from the time he was superintendent for Amory School District. When starting at Tupelo Public Schools, he brought instruction programs with him that proved successful for students and teachers at Amory, including Classworks.


We were excited to speak with Dr. Loden about how his district is using Classworks to support teachers and students.


Interview with Dr. Gearl Loden

Congratulations on State Superintendent of the Year, Dr. Loden! Thank you for taking the time to talk with us about how you are using Classworks. 

How long has Tupelo been using Classworks?
Well, We had Classworks at Amory previously, and then at Tupelo we’ve been using it for three years.


You brought Classworks with you to Tupelo. Why did you make that decision?
My first order of business at Tupelo was to make sure there was a safe and orderly environment so learning can occur. Then, when I started evaluating our instructional needs, I knew Classworks was a program we needed. I consider Classworks our silent partner.


What is one of the things that makes Classworks stand out to you?
If you implement Classworks with high fidelity and engage students with the incentives it provides, you are going to see academic growth. It’s like having an individualized instructional plan for every child.


Can you give me an example of how Classworks supports personalized learning for your students?
The average person would say that an 8th grade student wouldn’t need 4th grade math but that’s just not always the case. We use the Classworks benchmark assessments to test students and identify the individual skills a student needs regardless of grade level. With the assessment results Classworks creates creates a customized assignment that includes those needed skills.


Why is that valuable?
It’s valuable for teachers because it provides mediating that the teacher might possibly miss. If a student is lacking certain skills it may be fine for that year, but when they get to higher grades and they are still missing that foundational skill it will affect how they perform. My teachers value that support from Classworks to help ensure their students continue to master and build on those important skills.


How are the education technology purchasing decisions made at Tupelo?
That type of purchasing is a district-level decision, but our leadership teams led by the principals, handle implementation of all of their instruction programs with their teacher teams.


How were you able to get Classworks adoption and buy in with your teachers?
The greatest resource we have are the teachers. The principals and teachers know that we don’t just go out and buy something, we commit to it. We implement with fidelity and we get buy in at all levels. This way, we can say we truly gave the product a chance when decision time comes around. The principals have a lot of freedom to decide the best way to implement and to monitor for fidelity.


What differentiates Classworks from other programs your schools have used?
Classworks is constantly evolving with the needs of our district. You continue to add partnerships to promote better personalized learning using assessment data. We are very excited about the partnership with Renaissance Learning and the STAR assessment. Also, Classworks is now an open program and LTI compliant, which means it is no longer tied to one specific system. That allows so much more flexibility for our district.


Give me an example of how Classworks as an open platform benefits the district?
For example, right now Classworks is working with us to integrate with Haiku, our Learning Management System, which will foster even more Classworks use in our classrooms. It will allow teachers to incorporate Classworks more easily into instruction throughout the day. As you continue to add assessment partners we will be able to personalize learning that much more using the assessment result.


Thank you again for your time today! You’re welcome. I’ve enjoyed having Classworks as our district partner and look forward to seeing what comes next in the partnership.