Thursday, May 14, 2015

Department Rethinking Its Teacher Tech Platform

What is CIITS?

CIITS is short for the Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System (CIITS), Kentucky's online technology platform for improving teaching and implementing our statewide push toward college and career readiness.

From its launch in 2011, CIITS has been billed as a new and better way to:
  • share education resources for classroom use
  • provide online professional development for teachers, principals, and other educators
  • develop and implement school and district improvement plans
  • gather and track evidence for PGES (our new Professional Growth and Effectiveness System, designed to replace older approaches to evaluating individual educators)
CIITS has been an ambitious statewide investment, featured heavily in Kentucky's applications for Race to the Top funds and for waivers of No Child Left Behind requirements.

And CIITS may be in some trouble.

According to Kentucky Teacher, the Department of Education is now consulting education leaders around the state about which parts of the system are worth keeping and which should perhaps be dropped.  

The biggest frustrations has been over the PGES-related tools, known as the Educator Development Suite or EDS. There, recurring software problems have added technical challenges to a process that was already complicated and potentially stressful for participants. The Department has already agreed to reduce the data entry requirements. Now, the state may drop the statewide platform entirely, which would give each district responsibility for creating its own record-keeping system.

The professional development component seems never to have been a big draw. Long known as PD360 and now called Edivate, it has only attracted 9% of CIITS users over the last two years--and that one component carries a $4 million annual price tag.

The teaching resources have gotten greater attention: 66% of teachers have used the IMS (Instructional Management System) part of CIITS to develop and share at least some of their own lesson plans.  The Department publishes reports on the number of IMS log-ins for each school, so there has definitely been strong encouragement to explore that part of the platform

The final element, known as ASSIST, is a format for improvement planning by schools and districts.  Kentucky Teacher mentions that element, but does not offer a summary of what's being said about its effectiveness. (From my own limited experience studying the planning documents, ASSIST-based plans seem to include a wide array of objectives, but offer limited clarity about implementation or follow up and some definite difficulties with making and publicizing annual revisions. I cannot tell how ASSIST has been working for principals, and I especially don't know whether the online approach has made it easier or harder for school leaders to think through and act on worthwhile changes to teaching and learning.)

A CIITS decision is scheduled to be finished by May 30, according to the article. The outcome may be an important milestone in Kentucky's current work to equip our next generation for success, so stay tuned.

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