In this series, we sit down with educators across the nation and ask them about their journeys in public education, their passion for helping students, their everyday struggles, and how they have used data to overcome those struggles. Our first guest to be featured is Michelle Blaszczynski from Greenville Public Schools. Read more to learn about her genuine story and experience as both a teacher and an administrator, and her unique insights on the use of data analytics in public education.
Q: Hi Michelle, let's start by getting to know you a little better! Can you tell us more about your current position at Greenville and what you do in your job?
Of course! My current role at Greenville Public Schools is the Assistant Superintendent. What I do in my job has a lot to do with curriculum, instruction, assessment and best practices. There are elements of negotiations, bonds, state/federal programming, pupil count, and other activities related to district administration. But the main part of my job revolves around curriculum, instruction, and assessment activities. As an example, my team and I are working on gathering accurate student growth data on both local and state summative assessment for teacher evaluations.
Q: How long have you been working in public education? What was your journey to get to where you are today?
I have been with my district for 27 years. I started out as a middle school teacher and taught for 16 years. Then I was the Principal at Lincoln Heights Elementary School for 5 years. And, I believe this is my 6th year in the Assistant Superintendent role. I have been with the district for a long time, just shy of 30 years. It has been a wonderful journey, and I am grateful for it.
Q: What motivated you to pursue a career in public education?
I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be a teacher, and it was not a surprise to me that I loved teaching. But the surprise to me was that I love leadership and making a positive difference at the administration level. One thing that I love about my job is that we can use data to lift people up; obviously you could also use data to put people down, but a good leader will focus on the positive impact of data in order to celebrate strengths and support improvements. I feel really good about where we are right now in using formative and summative data to help our teachers build capacity in students and to give kids a well-rounded opportunity at Greenville, because they truly deserve our best.
Q: What do you consider the biggest challenge that you face in your job at your school/district?
Our biggest challenge is our resources which, for us, encompass both time and money. Our access to resources is allocated based on student count, and we must be the best stewards of those resources. We need to find ways to stretch those pennies as much as possible to improve academic achievement and opportunities for students.
Q: How has data analytics helped you in addressing this challenge?
One of the ways that data from Eidex has allowed us to address this challenge is through Return on Investment metrics. I’ve been able to show our Board of Education and any other interested groups how much we spent on instructions as compared to our comp (peer) districts, and then go in and show the return on investment as defined by how our academic achievement has been compared to those same districts. What we saw was that our expenses are lower, we are not spending as much on salaries, materials, and so on, but our achievement trajectory has been consistently upward. I truly believe this was, for the most part, thanks to our educators and their skills, tenacity, and willingness to go above and beyond that we can get such a great return on investment. However, the data also shined a light on areas where we do need increased access to resources to help sustain the positive trend. This is where the data comes in to guide a strategic decision: “Look at what they were able to achieve with limited resources, how can we allocate more sources to support this great work?”
Q: How have you used PRISM to make decisions in your district? Did you find value in using PRISM?
Definitely! To be honest, I was talking to my Superintendent earlier and I think I said I could not live without Eidex now! Because everything that I prepare for my Board needs to be factual, accurate, and synthesized, and I do not have the luxury of the time it takes to gather and synthesize all that data. I need to spend my time and my team’s time on analysis and application, and Eidex allows us to focus on that. For example, when we were going through negotiations at our district, Eidex had helped us gather factual data to inform a story, a fact before talking about priorities and actions for resolution. With PRISM, I appreciate the team’s hard work on connecting to the MiDataHub to easily pull 3 years of state summative data. They were able to calculate SGPs for us and inform us where growth has exceeded, met, or not met target. This not only helped us report information externally to celebrate teachers and buildings, but also internally to reflect on areas where we could improve. To top it off, they compact this information into a beautiful report, one that I will share with my Board to honor our teachers’ efforts because you can’t just go on a feeling, it has to be facts.
Q: Anything else you want to share with us and our readers?
I just want to say that I am very appreciative of the team’s diligence in helping our district. I believe they worked over Memorial weekend to help us make sure all of our data was ready after we made the switch from PowerSchool to Synergy for our SIS. The team was patient and thorough in checking and rechecking the data to ensure that we have accurate growth scores for our teachers, and that was hugely beneficial for us in completing teacher evaluations. Thank you!