Virtual School Quality Reviews

Why Schools Must Evaluate Quality, Especially Under Atypical Circumstances

First Things First
Let’s start with some sincere, heartfelt admiration. Kudos to all the school teams across the country who devised and implemented short-term solutions for distance learning in the wake of unanticipated prolonged school closures. Kudos to the teachers who quickly learned and utilized new learning platforms. Kudos to the school leaders who rapidly forged solutions to feed, educate, and care for student populations. And kudos to the administrators who worked tirelessly to find ways to connect and enable diverse populations of students to learn. As we continue to say to ourselves, ‘Who would have ever thought…?” it has become increasingly clear that this work is, unfortunately, not done. The Fall of 2020 will present itself with a new set of dilemmas.  

"The challenge has shifted from, ‘How do we do this?’ to ‘How do we do this well?’"
- Kim Perron, President of SchoolWorks

As schools forge plans to adapt operations to minimize risk for students and staff, measuring the effectiveness of refined efforts is integral to long-term success. To ensure quality, school teams must be able to answer questions such as these:

  • Is the school delivering high-quality instruction (in-person, online, or otherwise)?
  • Is data continually monitored, analyzed, and used to inform decisions in classrooms and across the school?
  • Do parents understand how to access learning systems? Are factors at home impacting remote learning?
  • Do students understand what is expected of them? Are they adequately challenged? Do they know how to ask for help? Do they feel safe?
  • How is the overall morale of the school staff? Do teachers feel they are adequately trained for their changing role? Do they feel that they have a voice?

This vital feedback can help school teams refine processes and systems in order to improve overall quality. A virtual school quality review can help answer these questions, and more.

A virtual school quality review employs a transparent, research-based set of standards linked to positive student outcomes in order to evaluate the effectiveness of academic programs across all settings – remote, in-person, or hybrid. It is conducted 100% virtually, through a combination of document review, surveys, interviews, focus groups, and remote observation of classroom instruction. Similar to an in-person site visit, a virtual school quality review utilizes multiple methods to collect and triangulate evidence in order to objectively identify what’s working at the school, and what isn’t.

How does the Virtual School Quality Review process work?
The process takes place in three phases: pre-work, evaluation, and reporting.

During the pre-work phase, the review team meets with the school leader to set a date for the review, provide an overview of the process, request documents, and answer questions. During this session, SchoolWorks review teams take the time to understand how learning is being delivered (in-person instruction, online “live” instruction, online recorded instruction, asynchronous learning assignments, at-home packets, etc.) in order to define a process for rating all forms of instruction using the SchoolWorks observation tool. After this session, dates are set for the virtual review, surveys are administered to students and parents, and the review team engages in document review.

During the evaluation phase, the review team facilitates a two-day period of interviews and focus groups. Classroom observations are conducted through a predetermined combination of 1) “live” observation of virtual instruction, 2) evaluation of recorded sessions, and 3) review and analysis of asynchronous learning assignments. The SchoolWorks Team provides an oral debrief of findings to the school leader and/or leadership team at the end of Day 2. The school receives a written report that includes detailed findings with supporting evidence approximately four weeks after the review.

If the virtual review will be used to inform improvement planning, the school team may decide to engage in a prioritization session following the review (on Day 3). During this 4-hour virtual session, the SchoolWorks team will unpack the findings of the review and assist the school leadership team in thinking through areas for improvement that are most important and most likely to impact student outcomes. The end-result of this process is 1) a data-based prioritized list for improvement planning, ranked according to impact potential, and 2) an action plan of next steps, including strategies, dates and benchmarks for measuring ongoing progress.

Experience is Key
SchoolWorks has conducted almost thirty virtual school quality reviews since March of 2020. As our typical process relies on in-person site visits, our team members (and particpants) have expressed a universal appreciation for the remarkable effectiveness of virtual reviews.  

"We have experienced the highest level of focus and input from administrators and staff participating in virtual reviews. It is entirely comparable to the in-person experience, and also a time-saver for schools. The process has yielded invaluable insights for school teams as they adapt to changing circumstances."
- Kate Wheeler, Director of Project Management of SchoolWorks

For more information about our virtual reviews, check out this fact sheet, or reach out to schedule a call. We are here to help!

Stay healthy, and let’s keep talking!

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