“KickUp creates a map of teachers’ learning. That has been key for teachers – and for us.”
Located near the Maryland and West Virginia state borders, Virginia’s Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) ranks among the rural state’s largest, with its 24 school sites serving 14,000 students. About two-thirds of students are white and about one-fifth are Hispanic, and about 40% are economically disadvantaged.
The district employs about 2,400 personnel, more than half of whom are teachers. Compared with other Virginia school districts, FCPS has fewer out-of-field and inexperienced teachers. According to its “Inspire 2025” strategic plan, the district prides itself on being “a learning organization where students and staff thrive in safe, supportive, nurturing environments, motivated by a culture of continuous growth so that each and every student becomes a contributing citizen in our global society.”
In 2020, the professional learning supervisor for Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) began to consider how the district might shift its professional learning management system to meet its evolving needs. As the district stated in the “Inspire 2025” strategic plan, it aims to “nurture a culture of continuous professional learning to refine and expand professional practice and support student growth and development” by analyzing data, identifying needs, and implementing personalized learning plans for staff.
FCPS leaders had previously managed PD registrations with a simple software system, but it was difficult to add broader functionality and related data. For example, state leaders require information about PD’s efficacy in exchange for federal Title II dollars. The old system could only gather simple logistics when sessions occurred and who attended – not what teachers thought about the sessions, let alone how the content impacted their practice.
FCPS leaders also considered expanding the kinds of data they tracked to include coaching and mentor logs, as well as performance evaluations. The district’s Educational Technology Plan 2021-2026 sets a goal of personalizing professional learning anchored in teacher evaluations, such that teachers would use student achievement data and their own preferences to “set goals and identify the professional development they will require to attain those goals;” then, district leaders will “aggregate these needs across schools and the district to inform planning for professional learning.”
To achieve something this ambitious, FCPS would need a robust technology platform to coordinate and manage its professional learning data.
In spring 2020, FCPS’ professional learning supervisor and other school division leaders agreed: adopting KickUp would help the district move toward a more comprehensive approach to professional learning. They rolled out KickUp Foundations and KickUp Learning in the 2021-2022 school year to manage professional learning, coaching, and mentoring. “We were impressed with the user friendliness of KickUp and it seemed logical and intuitive to use,” explains Glenn Moreland, FCPS’ Assistant Director of Instructional Technology.
Having access to all of their professional learning data in one place has enabled FCPS to make rapid adjustments to professional learning. After a recent full-day PD session, Moreland’s team was able to make real-time adjustments to the afternoon session after looking at data from that morning.
Moreland says that the ability to track information longitudinally has been helpful, so that teachers and their coaches can set goals, review progress, and self-determine the most appropriate professional learning. “We put the responsibility on teachers to complete their professional learning plan and renew their teaching license,” says Cheryl Anderson, FCPS’ current coordinator and manager of the division’s professional learning platform. “KickUp allows them to sign up, track their attendance, and stay on top of their own professional learning.”
In addition to district-sponsored PD, teachers also input external webinars, conferences, and college classes into KickUp to receive credit for that learning. District leaders rely on this comprehensive information when determining what types of learning teachers need, and what additional offerings FCPS should offer. “KickUp creates a map of teachers’ learning,” adds Moreland. “That has been key for teachers – and for us.”
Recently, Moreland replaced the dozens of Google Forms he’d created as coaching logs with new functionality within KickUp. In addition to saving Moreland time and effort, “now we’re able to keep all of our coaching data in one place,” he explains. “We make the data anonymous for school leaders [to preserve teachers’ privacy], but they can look at school data and make adjustments based on their school’s plan and our district strategic plan.”
FCPS’ strategic plan says that the district plans to “enable all district and school administrators/ leaders and teachers to become more self-directed and collaborative in accomplishing professional growth targets at three levels: district, school, and individual.”
With KickUp, teachers can set and manage their own goals and growth, which school and district leaders can then use to inform collaborative planning and to ensure that all staff is on track to improve student learning. “We pride ourselves on taking feedback and making adjustments so that professional learning becomes more meaningful to our staff,” says Moreland.
Over time, FCPS leaders hope to expand the use of KickUp to include even more data about teachers’ performance, learning, and growth. “For us to grow, we need a system that can grow along with us,” says Anderson. “For us to continue to support our teachers with the professional learning they need to support our students at the level we want to see them at, we need a platform like KickUp that allows us to house and share this data and the feedback.”
Frederick County leaders plan to expand their use of KickUp and will track professional learning data longitudinally for years to come, while adding new types of data along the way. “We know KickUp can help us in so many ways and we feel like we’re just getting started,” says Moreland.
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