Colonial School District principals, curriculum supervisors and special education supervisors recently became the students in order to gain a better understanding of "Visible Learning." Kristin Anderson, CEO of The Brilliance Project, led the first of several full-day sessions where Colonial's leadership team will be exploring what is most effective in the classroom.

Six adults talking at tables


"I'm here working with Colonial, because Colonial School District is dedicated to excellence. They want to continue to strive and push forward to ensure they're meeting the needs of all learners and exceeding growth goals for every student," said Ms. Anderson. 

Visible Learning looks at hundreds of influences related to six areas: the child, home, school, curriculum, teacher and teaching strategies — and determines each factor's effectiveness by pulling in data from research that involves more than 80,000 studies and 300 million students. Ms. Anderson shared a handout with the effectiveness of more than 250 of the more popular influences on student achievement, where the leadership team can see effectiveness numbers for everything from untreated ADHD, working memory strength and family involvement to one-to-one technology, studying phonics and homework. 

"I think the key is looking at what matters, what doesn't matter as much and focusing on what gives us more bang for our buck," said Plymouth Whitemarsh High School Assistant Principal Maico Azcona. 

"What we need to do now is give ourselves permission to 'weed the garden' if there are some things that aren't going to be as effective — especially if they're taking a lot of our time," added Ms. Anderson. "We need to ask if we have the foundation we need for the most growth and the most flourishing, and we need to build that base." 

The session also provided time for the team to look at how leadership affects the classroom and what skills effective leaders need. 

"It's good for us to reflect on our current practices and refocus our lens to let the research help us be more effective leaders and provide what's best for students," said Dr. Liz McKeaney, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for Colonial School District. 

Ms. Anderson and the leadership team will meet again in late March to continue looking at influences and collecting data in Colonial that will help the team to act on its findings in the fall.