"KickUp is essential to target and personalize our professional learning."
Missouri’s Columbia Public Schools needed a system to track and assess the professional growth resulting from the district’s instructional support activities. KickUp provided an instructional inventory to gather data and feedback from informal walkthroughs and coaching, plus an Impact Cycle-aligned hub for coaching supports — and that’s just the start.
“As a district, we wanted to really focus on instruction. Not from an evaluation lens, but to understand what was taking place across the school district, identify the best practices that were happening or not happening, and support teachers in using them,” says Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education De’Vion Moore.
Columbia’s system at the time was “nonexistent,” according to Moore. “We had started using [Student-Centered Instruction by] Diane Sweeney, but there was no resource for system-wide documentation. Our superintendent was new to the district and his question was, ‘How do I know what’s actually happening in school buildings?’ We didn’t have any way to capture that outside of our then-current evaluation system, and we needed something that was separate.”
That fall, Moore struck up a conversation with KickUp about classroom practices. “[Our KickUp representative] being a former teacher gave us a wonderful opportunity to discuss the platform from a teacher's perspective,” he says.
“We looked at several other platforms and felt like KickUp provided more long-term customization. It also has the ability to expand in the future to meet more of our professional learning management and evaluation needs.”
Customization was a chief concern from the outset of Columbia’s partnership. While they used Diane Sweeney and Jim Knight’s coaching models, they also needed the ability to tweak walkthrough forms to the specific indicators that would indicate success.
“We were able to customize questions and specify the things we wanted administrators to look for as soon as they walked into the classroom,” says Moore.
The data yielded some surprising insights right away. “What it did was let us know when our teachers and our community are saying ‘We're tired,’” says Moore. “We also saw an overwhelming amount of teacher-directed practices in the classroom. So knowing that, we knew to talk about student agency in our professional learning. And from there, the classroom observations reflected an increase in the amount of student-directed action or agency.”
But the progress didn’t stop there. Columbia’s Foundations setup also includes instructional coaching, which Moore and his team could tailor to their needs on the fly.
“When we started the year off, we drafted a version of the coaching cycle and set it up. But after the first semester, it wasn’t working. We weren’t getting at the substance we needed,’” says Moore. “But with the flexibility of KickUp, we said, ‘Let's change this’ and it was fixed. So when we came back in the second semester, those impact cycles were extremely thoughtful, helpful, and beneficial to seeing not only growth in our teachers, but the impact on students.
“Including the coaches in the recalibration process really made a difference. They have ownership in it. They contributed to it. And they love seeing the impacts for their teachers.”
One of Moore’s first-year teachers saw particular benefits from the new supports. After going through a coaching impact cycle targeted to her unique needs, she not only saw her students’ achievement rise but received a nomination for First-Year Teacher of the Year.
“That was really exciting for us, because in previous years we wouldn’t necessarily understand what led to a nomination,” says Moore. “With KickUp, we can actually go back and look and say, well, here's what this cycle was for this teacher. Here are the conversations she had, here are the action steps she took, what evidence she used. KickUp’s data lets us clearly see what’s working and how to replicate it.”
With one year of success under their belt, Columbia is already looking to the future. ‘What we're attempting this year is to make sure we bring it back to student outcomes,” says Moore. “As I’m filtering down to the teacher level, I can pull out what’s happening for that teacher across coaching or instructional walks. Then I can also pull up our local assessment and say, clearly, what is the effect size of this teacher academically on their students.”
“That’s where we have the opportunity for the a-ha moment: here are some practices that I continuously see highlighted in [a highly effective] teacher's classes.”
Principal and coach supports are ramping up as well. “The more our administration and coaches are in the learning space with students, the greater the impact is,” says Moore. “This previous year allowed us to establish our baseline. Now, we want to see more. I’m not asking you to go do a million walkthroughs. But we know what our baseline is, and I want it above that. That’s our real target: let’s be better than we were yesterday.”
“Going into next year, we’re looking at elements like Teach Like a Champion or Get Better Faster and asking ourselves, ‘How can we enhance student agency?’ KickUp is essential to target and personalize our professional learning to achieve that goal.”
All in all, says Moore, “I would absolutely recommend KickUp. Number one, if you are a district who does not have a way to capture instruction, you need one. Number two, you need the ability to customize it like KickUp allows you to. But if you have a vision for your data, a vision for using it in a way that’s supportive to teachers, the effort is well worth it.”
You can't trust everything you read on the internet.