In fall of 2017, a school district with four elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school agreed to test the validity of the second online version of VitalInsight™ (VI) as an effective diagnostic tool to accurately identify priorities for improving performance of the district and each school. The Pilot School District and LeadershipEnergies (LE) identified internal and external stakeholders for the district and for each school and LE prepared the dashboard to report the results of assessing the existence and performance level of a large number of best practices related to improving performance.
Location: A school district with six schools covering grades PK-12.
Project Type: Test capabilities of VitalInsight™ to recognize different expectations among stakeholder groups and their impact on schools, to accurately diagnose priorities for improvement planning, and to select appropriate prescription options to improve school, employee, and/or student performance.
Earlier versions of the diagnostic inventory were validated through paper and pen and online administrations of VitalInsight™ and analyses of feedback from small groups of stakeholders (board members, administrators, certificated staff, non-certificated staff, students, parents, and community groups). With improvements made to the inventory and changes in reporting formats, this pilot helped meet the challenge of assessing the accuracy of diagnoses produced from stakeholder input and the appropriateness of recommended prescriptions for the priorities identified. The challenge also included handling a larger number of stakeholder respondents for the district and each school, and the reliable use of dashboard reports for the development of improvement plans.
Stakeholders had two weekends and the work week in between to respond to approximately sixty inventory items. On a scale of one to five, from not evident to, rarely, sometimes, often, and always evident, six hundred forty-five stakeholders among eleven groups assessed the quality of these sixty best practices. Within two days of closing the portal, a variety of reports were available to district and school leaders. VitalInsight™ representatives met with the superintendent and assistant superintendent, then with all district and school administrators, and then with the board’s strategic planning committee to analyze report findings and to provide guidance on how to use reports to best advantage. There were seven sets of reports, one for each school and one for the district office. Each set contained a summary of reports for each of the seven, plus background information about the inventory items and their relationship to improving performance. Reports included diagnosed strengths, diagnosed vulnerabilities, prescriptions for the vulnerabilities, and numerous strategies and activities recommended for improving performance.
Each set (district and each school) of reports contained five diagnosed strengths and five diagnosed vulnerabilities. Among the five vulnerabilities, the lowest two vulnerabilities by stakeholder group ratings were examined and for each of the two diagnoses that stood out as priorities, a number of prescription options, strategies and activities for each option were provided to guide the development of improvement plans. Findings included similar and different vulnerabilities among district and schools. Findings suggested that district office and schools should establish a common improvement goal with the prescriptions implemented at all levels of the district; and that there was sufficient evidence for each school to address vulnerabilities unique to its own circumstances. Representatives of VitalInsight™ received encouraging feedback about the benefits of using VitalInsight™ from district office and school administrators. Very helpful suggestions for improvements from users were provided as well. The most frequently made comments are reported below.
- The selection of district and school strengths and vulnerabilities was very accurate, much more accurate than expected.
- Stakeholder ratings and priorities were sensitive to issues in the district and each school. Stakeholder ratings reflected timely concerns.
- We have assumed that specific community-based concerns at the high school were still a negative influence; however, these concerns were not reported by stakeholders. We are relieved.
- In a very short period of time we received an enormous amount of data that helped us understand our strengths and opportunities for improvement.
- We received direction for our planning work and next steps before implementation will take very little time to complete.
- The reports provided many suggestions for improvement and options for our use are clear.
- The reports provided many suggestions for improvement and possibly too many options for our use.
- There was too much background reading material in reports and that made it difficult to decide which options to implement.
- Representatives of VitalInsight made the process of selecting and notifying stakeholders and providing stakeholders with access to the diagnostic inventory an easy task.
- Some stakeholders using VitalInsight™ reported that they were unfamiliar with the practices described in the diagnostic inventory.
- Representatives of VitalInsight provided excellent guidance to material in the Dashboard and reports. With their explanations, we had no difficulties. However, if their help was not available, I’m not so sure our experience would have been as enjoyable and profitable.