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Have you heard of Indistar®?  How about RisingStar (Illinois), NativeStar (Bureau of Indian Education), MILE (North Dakota), or WISE (Idaho)?  No?  Well, it’s time.

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Currently deployed in 26 states, Indistar® is a web-based tool that guides a state, district, or school team in charting and managing the continuous improvement process.  It’s been around, rather quietly, for five years, and began in the most organic of ways: with a member of Virginia’s Department of Education running down CIL’s Sam Redding at a federal conference. He’d presented about indicators for school improvement and the potential to map the improvement process online: she had to know HOW to deploy a mechanism for this in her state.  And she wanted Sam and his crew to do it.  Mission accepted.  And accepted again and again and again as this tool has been tailored to meet the specific improvement needs and processes of these states.

So what’s been the draw?  Well, school improvement is complicated: we know this.  And lots of people want to help.  That’s good. However when “help” translates into complicated efforts that aren’t well-aligned, either to each other and/or to what the evidence says is likely to work, the attempt to reach goals can turn into a series of blind alleys, wrong turns, and confusing intersections.  And often we don’t reach our destination.

When data-driven decision-making became part of our awareness, it helped us understand where we needed to go and why.  But how?  No, it didn’t tell us that.  And it didn’t give us a guide.  Think of a family vacation…old school.  Everyone in the car knew we were going to Disneyland, but the roads to get there were varied and obstacles along the way were unknown.  Everyone had an idea of what was best.  As unexpected challenges were thrown in, such as construction, sudden needs for pit stops, detours, or forgotten children at rest stops which required back tracking (don’t ask…..), we dealt with the related stress and ongoing need to renegotiate our path.  Open map once again. Analyze.  Gain consensus. Move on.  SCREAM.

Now, of course, we have the GPS, which shows us where we are relative to our destination, provides us with detailed routes and options, and even adjusts along the way if we make a mistake (“re-routing”) or advises us if barriers are in our midst (traffic, accidents, police officers).  Regardless of the changing circumstances, the GPS is informed by a wealth of data, functions in relation to our performance, yet keeps the destination constant.  Indistar® is the PPS: Performance Positioning System for school improvement, guided by the evidence (indicators of practice) for what moves the dial for student learning at the classroom, school, district, and state education agency levels.

Over the next two days, this PPS has guided 160 educators from across the country to Albuquerque for the annual  Indistar® Summit to discuss just how this tool is being leveraged in their states.  This time, no need to take a left at Albuquerque.  We’re staying right here to provide daily updates.

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