BRADENTON -- With training manual in hand, Silvana Ianiska encourages Manatee County principals and other school leaders to think incrementally about their own specific needs and goals in their schools.
"One size fits all doesn't work here," said Ianiska, the Manatee County school district coordinator of research and program evaluation in the district's department of planning and performance management.
On Monday, the district began the first of eight two-day data team training sessions to help school administrators and teachers use and analyze data to make smarter classroom decisions. About 36 people are participating in each of the eight sessions, which will run through early August.
Ianiska presented participants with a leading and learning chart. She asked officials to identify where they thought they fell on the chart, which could help identify problems and where to start making strides. Ianiska went through a number of steps for school administrators to take to help keep their goals on track.
"You have to link everything back to your needs and your goals," she said.
Ann McDonald, the principal at Daughtrey Elementary School, said one of her big focuses is on English Language Learners. Daughtrey Elementary, on 63rd Avenue East in Bradenton, has one of the highest population of Hispanic students, McDonald said. The school was recently awarded a letter grade of a C from the state, but was also listed in the bottom 300 schools when it comes to reading. The school now must hold an additional hour of reading instructional time for the 2014-15 year because of falling into the bottom 300 category.
Although McDonald worked with district officials last year on implementing assessments, setting benchmarks and watching changes take place month to month, she is looking forward to the formal training to help get everyone on the same page in her school.
"Any time you can put anyone on the same page is a good thing," she said. "We're sharing our ideas and our information."
During the session Monday, school administrators watched a video produced by the Leadership and Learning Center that showed a meeting of an elementary school using the data tools. The culture and respect shown by leaders in the video while discussing how one classroom had made better gains than another was touted by Diana Greene, the district's deputy superintendent of instruction.
"They've had a lot of team building and trust building to get to those solutions," she said. "It's very important for that trust in those collaboration meetings."
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.