Lessons from the NYSSBA convention

They say that there’s a first time for everything. This year, it was eScholar’s first time attending the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) Convention in Rochester, NY.  My colleagues Wolf Boehme and Elissa Seto attended on behalf of eScholar. We decided to attend NYSSBA, because even though school boards are not involved in the day-to-day management of their school districts, they are integral in shaping the vision and goals of their districts. We believe that data is a key element in attaining those visions and goals.

In addition to running the eScholar booth in the exhibit hall at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center, Wolf and Elissa also had some time to attend some of the presentations and workshops. Here are the top five things they took away the NYSSBA conference:

  1. Board members want access to education data. Elissa attended a great workshop led by Central New York RIC and Fayetteville-Manlius CSD about how districts can use data to help guide decision making. Attendees in the workshop were highly engaged and recognized the value of data in education.
  2. Deliver the right data to the right audience.  A board member’s needs for data are different from the needs of teachers, students, counselors, parents, principals, etc.
  3. Having data isn’t enough; there needs to be a plan of action. In a session that Wolf attended, presenters from Penfield CSD demonstrated that there is a ton of data available for analysis. However, what schools do with that analysis is just as important as having the data itself. When data is paired with a strong implementation plan, we can better help students reach their goals.
  4. We must continue to have conversations with our stakeholders. Wolf and Elissa spoke with over 100 education leaders at the conference, including board members, superintendents, and even NYSED Commissioner of Education Dr. John King. These conversations are valuable to everyone – people talked to us about current challenges and triumphs in their own districts, and we informed them about how eScholar is able to use data to improve educational outcomes.
  5. There needs to be a paradigm shift in education.  We always emphasize this at eScholar, but it’s clear that school boards agree as well. As Bea McGarvey mentioned in her talk, the current education system in the United States is over 120 years old and designed for the industrial age. Society is clearly different now, and we have a plethora of resources that can and should be used in education. Using data to personalize services and products is the norm, and education shouldn’t be any different.

If you weren’t able to attend the conference, but want to learn more about the discussions, visit the NYSSBA conference website to download copies of the presentations. Also, check out the tweets that were posted on Twitter with hashtag #NYSSBA12.

Finally, I know the NYSSBA convention didn’t end until Saturday afternoon, and I certainly hope that everyone was able travel home safely before Hurricane Sandy hit. It was rough storm, and I hope you and your family and friends are safe.



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