Work over time equals power. That’s a basic equation Dr. Jim Lewis, CEO of Silverback Learning Solutions, taught students as a high school physics teacher. Later, as superintendent of Idaho’s Blaine County Schools, that equation would help Dr. Lewis create a next generation learning platform, Mileposts.
“Like so many districts, our demographics were changing from 5% English Language Learners to over 30%, and we had to figure out a way to maintain a high performing district without leaving these new kids and their parents behind.” Dr. Lewis and his team wanted to make sure every student had a personalized plan of action, every teacher had a quick way to access all available data to make critical decisions, and every parent had the opportunity to become part of the process. The team enlisted software engineers to encapsulate the process into cloud-based portfolios that could follow each student through their K-12 learning journey. The plan worked and achievement soared, for all students.
“Now everyone calls it next generation learning, but we were just doing whatever we could as educators to help every student reach their full potential every day, to see that work over time could equal power,” says Marcia Rausch, a 30-year educator who was integral to the team at Blaine and is now Director of Client Services at Silverback.
Dr. Lewis retired from Blaine and arranged a technology transfer arrangement with the school district to launch Silverback Learning Solutions. Educators joined the Silverback team and guided new features like progress monitoring with growth projections. Silverback worked with non-profit partners NWEA and Gooru to give teachers a quick way to use assessment results to drive standards-based Open Educational Resources. A behavior management module was created to integrate socio-emotional elements into student plans and interventions.
Mileposts, according to Lewis, answers the question, “Now that you have data, what are you going to do about it?” It helps teachers create individualized assignments and group interventions.
Mileposts is used by over 100 districts in 19 states including districts supporting 45% of Idaho students.
Silverback’s approach from its genesis as student portfolios built to foster achievement by revealing relevant data to stakeholders, including parents, is different from many systems that have evolved from school and classroom tools in the learning management and gradebook space. “We call it longitudinal learning,” says Lewis, “It’s the focus from day to day, month to month, year to year that brings the achievement gains.”
Schools use Mileposts to create personalized learning plans, manage interventions, monitor achievement, and gain insights to improve instruction to groups and individual students. Mileposts relies on external interfaces for assessments, assignments, and attendance. They integrate with most leading student information systems.
Bonneville Joint School District in Idaho uses Mileposts to support teachers identify middle school low-growth students on district benchmark measures. Through the intervention function in Mileposts, they served low-growth students with differentiated instruction. 77% of students progressed to proficiency.
Converse County School District in Wyoming used Mileposts as an early literacy booster. They cite an improvement of over 200% in K-2 student proficiency in 2014 curriculum-based measures of reading from winter to spring.
West-Allis West-Milwaukee Wisconsin contracted with Silverback to bring the embodiment of their district-wide vision of personalized student-led learning.
Roscoe ISD in Texas collaborates with Silverback on an innovative project-based learning portfolio for their Early College High School students. Superintendent Dr. Kim Alexander says, “For higher expectations to become a reality, teachers need more than data, they need to know where students are in relation to objectives, and how to customize learning for each student. I think Silverback came along in the right place at the right time to become a game changer.”
This blog is part of the Learning Platforms Series brought to you by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For more, stay tuned in for the final published project, Getting Smart on Next-Gen Learning Platforms and check out additional posts in the series: