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Online tool identifies classroom needs


November 13, 2007

Elizabeth Kozleski has spent more than 20 years and $25 million in federal grants working to improve schools, and to help students with cultural and language barriers who struggle to learn in the classroom.

Now her two decades of work are converging into one innovative online leadership tool to help school principals identify special needs in their classrooms, provide immediate training and support to teachers, and analyze data.

Kozleski’s Leadscape is designed to support leadership for school change, improve curriculum, incorporate research-proven strategies and monitor progress to ensure student success, and reduce the number of students referred to special education.

“It is a culmination of all the different projects I have ever done,” says Kozleski, a professor of curriculum and instruction with the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education, and director of the National Institute for Urban School Improvement (NIUSI).

Kozleski garnered a $1.45 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education to develop the NIUSI Leadscape software that is helping principals create inclusive schools so all students meet or exceed state academic standards and assessments.

Thirty principals from five school districts in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Tennessee are part of a two-year “beta test,” during which they are using and helping develop content for the Web site www.leadscape.org. About 300 more principals will be added in the third year with the goal of reaching the nation’s 15,000 school systems in subsequent years.

“We’ve got people who are really motivated to make this work,” Kozleski says. “They are really thrilled to be part of the vanguard members of networked principals.”

The goal of Leadscape is to change how principals view their schools to ultimately change how teachers work with their students – and particularly students who struggle in the dominant culture and expectations of their school.

Kozleski, an expert in systems change for urban education, strives for schools to be inclusive for everyone, including  students whose abilities, languages, cultures and experiences may challenge their schools’ learning models.

“We are developing a piece of software that will allow principals to view just-in-time data from classrooms on student academic performance and identify classrooms that may need additional support to make sure every learner has success,” Kozleski says. “It’s like a big Google tool for schools. All the information is at your fingertips to get the most current evidence-based practices to expand practitioner knowledge and learning repetoires.”

Project coordinator Elaine Mulligan says the Web site’s tools can help principals organize, manage and engage inquiry about practice in their schools. Color-coded school maps indicate disproportionate areas by race, ethnicity or diagnosed disability based on class size, student assessments, teacher credentials, classroom resources and other variables in learning. Maps are available at state, district, school and classroom levels.

When principals see a need in any classroom, they can send a teacher links to online articles, professional learning knowledge-building modules and inquiry tools that have been developed and tested over the last decade, Mulligan says.

Kozleski says Leadscape also will help educators become more proactive when working with culturally and linguistically diverse students. With early intervention services in general education classrooms, the number of students referred and placed in special education can be reduced, and outcomes can be improved for students who are being underserved by the school systems.

“Some kids are at risk for being sent to special education not because of disability, but because schools don’t know what to do to meet their learning needs,” she says.

Participating principals can access many academic experts, as well as free technical assistance and assessment tools through other government-funded education projects. They can learn about data management, leadership, professional development and outcomes, and they also can network with other principals to share information and experiences.

The site’s nine modules focus on principal leadership and evidence-based practices to help students excel in literacy, math and science using school-provided data for early intervention and to monitor response and progress. Online school improvement plans help principals sustain their focus on continuous learning and improvement.

Verina Martin, verina.martin@asu.edu
(480) 205-6352
College of Education