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Michelle Knight-Manuel to Partner with MA District on Developing Outcome Evaluation

The following article, written by Cliff Clark, originally appeared in Sentinel & Enterprise News.

Leominster Schools Take Initiative on Teacher Techniques

LEOMINSTER -- In an effort to gain a better understanding of how to better prepare its students for success in college and beyond, the city's public schools are taking part in an initiative to evaluate the effectiveness of new teaching techniques.

"We are constantly developing innovative strategies to prepare students for college and career, and we are beginning to collect data that indicates we are moving in a positive direction," Superintendent of Schools Jim Jolicoeur said.

"Our challenge is to continue to sustain our innovative and entrepreneurial work to meet our objective of preparing every Leominster student for success," he added.

Jolicoeur said a team of local educators traveled to Boston University in early March to begin the project, which will be led by Patricia Woodliff, a school-to-career specialist with the district.

"We will be continuing to work on moving the dial on getting our students ready for college and career," Woodliff said.

The most important piece of the initiative, she added, is what is called the Individual Student Learning Plan, or ISLP.

Describing it a "living document," Woodliff said the ISLP will be used by the team to leverage ways to follow students through all four years of high school to track how successful they have been in postsecondary education or in the career field they have pursued.

Woodliff said using the data collected from the tracking process will allow researchers to determine what is effective now and what needs improvement for the district to best prepare students for their "self-designed career and life goals."

"Not all of our students are going off to four-year schools following graduation, and we recognize this," she said. "This project will help us meet the needs of every student in the area of college or career readiness regardless of that path they take. I'm really excited about what we're doing."

To assist with that process, the district will receive assistance from a skilled university researcher for the next three years through a partnership called the Massachusetts Institute for College and Career Readiness.

Michelle Knight-Manuel, a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, will partner with district educators to design and perform rigorous outcome evaluations, Jolicoeur said.

The project will also help Knight-Manuel and other researchers sharpen their skills to identify research questions and translate them in ways that are accessible to local communities and policymakers.

The initiative is co-led by Boston University's Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy, and MassINC., and is funded by a $1 million grant through the U.S. Department of Educations' Institute of Education Sciences.

Published Thursday, Apr. 9, 2015