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Coaches Guide for a Newsela Mid-Year Checkup

The Newsela Team
Jan 3, 2020

We’re already mid-way through the school year. This is not a drill! In the education world, I’ve found that it can feel like both the longest year ever and also feel like “wasn’t it just September?” 

The mid-year point is a great time to reset systems, routines, and expectations. When I was a classroom teacher, I treated the week after winter break like the beginning of the year… re-teaching every major routine and classroom expectation with my kiddos. 

Now, as an EdTech and personalized learning coach, I try to use this time to provide a reset for teachers at my school. Of course, the teachers I support don’t need an interactive model of how to do a turn & talk. But they can find use in a refresh on best practices for our EdTech tools!

Here are a few of my tips for a mid-year Newsela checkup! As a bonus, you might also find these useful for other EdTech tools, too! ✨

REMIND ABOUT AVAILABLE RESOURCES

If you’ve been a classroom teacher, you know that there are constant, shifting priorities. Some of these are immediate (like the student about to have a meltdown). And some are longer-term (are my students progressing towards our big goals?). 

Likewise, it’s easy to forget about available resources. In January, I find it helpful to send an email that targets 1-3 useful resources that teachers might have missed in the fall or a few new resources. For example, I’ve built a training hub with bite-sized modules teachers can complete for a gift card, certificate, and an email to their instructional coach, shouting them out. I call it our microcredential hub, and I add new trainings monthly. You can check it out here

I also share new Newsela resources, such as their SEL collection or Power Words, so that teachers can take better advantage of Newsela!

RESET USAGE EXPECTATIONS 

In addition to reminding my teachers about available resources, I reset expectations around usage. 

Earlier this year, I created recommended usage docs for our core EdTech programs, including Newsela.  

These documents walk through the what and the why. The what refers to the recommended usage for the program, and the why describes the impact of the program. 

For example, at our school, we ask teachers to have students complete at least one Newsela quiz a week, though many of our teachers use it much more frequently. 

And in terms of the impact, I was able to connect Newsela usage to substantial increases in students’ NWEA Map Growth Reading scores and Lexile scores. My school has a subscription to the Learn Platform, which makes analyzing EdTech program impact easy. 

If you don’t have access to such a tool, you can usually receive impact data from the EdTech provider. Most EdTech companies, including Newsela, have some data on the impact of their programs. Sharing, or resharing, this with teachers can help to build a sense of urgency around using the program to fidelity. 

CELEBRATE MID-YEAR GROWTH

The third strategy I’ve found to help reset expectations mid-year is celebrating the heck out of our progress!

My fantastic Newsela success manager was able to send me data that shows year-over-year usage. Year-over-year data makes it easy to see how teachers have improved in their Newsela usage, along with which teachers are our top users!

A two-pronged approach helps everyone feel celebrated. Instead of making it a competition with winners and losers, I’m able to generally find positive motion, be that an increase in annotations this year for one teacher or a higher quiz average for another, for instance.  

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One last note: even if you’re a few weeks into January or February, it’s not too late for a mid-year checkup! If you do it in a thoughtful, positive way, your teachers will likely appreciate the extra support. 

About the author: 

Blair is an education consultant who helps schools, districts, and companies leverage technology and logistics to work towards equity. He loves building systems, data, and instructional design that helps make educators’ lives easier. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @blairtheblur and visit his website at BlairBlur.com

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