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Equity & Belonging

What we learned from teachers and students at Menlo Park City School District

March 25, 2016 James DeKoven

A few days ago a group of Clever employees — Tyler, Angeli, Jamila and Cyrus— visited Menlo Park City School District (MPCSD), a small district with a big appetite for innovation. We learned about the district’s approach to technology by meeting with their tech team and Superintendent.

MPCSD believes that technology devices should be standardized, but that software should be fluid and easy to experiment with. And every experiment gets evaluated using four interesting criteria:

  1. Does it have a positive effect on student achievement?
  2. Could it go viral so other teachers see it as a “must have” for their classrooms?
  3. Does it make the teacher’s life easier, not harder?
  4. Does the technology solution do no harm? (i.e. it’s safe and complies to privacy policies.)

So without further ado, here are the team’s takeaways and favorite moments:

Angeli Agrawal, District Partnerships Team Lead
Watching curriculum, technology and administration come together to discuss improving learning outcomes really nailed home that it takes a village to raise our children. Menlo Park is known for being an innovative community, but watching how much thought goes into everything from selecting learning programs to soliciting feedback from teachers and students was very inspiring!

Favorite moment:

When we showed the team our Instant Login usage metrics, the Director of Curriculum turned to the Superintendent and said, “This is the dashboard you’ve been dreaming of!”

Tyler Bosmeny, CEO
I was most interested in how they determine if a technology prototype has a positive effect on student achievement. At first I imagined all sorts of crazy analytics. And then we learned – they ask the teachers.

After each tech pilot, the district conducts an “empathy exercise” during which they ask teachers if the program helped students learn. They know that teachers have the best perspective and hold their feedback highly. They conduct these in-person and also via SurveyMonkey. It reminded me of ideas we’ve had at Clever about helping districts better survey their teachers.

Favorite moment:

Seeing their reaction when they tested something exciting we have in the works. There was no debate about whether or not it could help them—only how soon they could get it.

Cyrus Lalkaka, Sales Development Representative
This was my first visit to a school, so I loved observing how educators evaluate technology. I was impressed how they pay attention to test scores, and carefully consider which technology can improve outcomes. But most of all, it was humbling to witness educators who are always looking for ways to improve the student experience.

Favorite Moment:

At one point I noticed the superintendent, head of curriculum and IT director talking among themselves. I could see they shared a true spirit of collaboration, which is critical for making the most education technology purchases.

Jamila Amarshi, Head of Operations, Distribution Team
I was struck by the district’s commitment to experiment. The Superintendent said that they rarely say “no” to trying new software and that the only thing that’s frowned upon is not trying new things. They embrace failure and are quick to experiment with (and also discontinue) new software.

Favorite Moment:

I loved an anecdote they told about asking an elementary class if they’d choose iPads or Chromebooks if the choice were up to them. The students overwhelmingly chose Chromebooks when they realized they could get more of them for the same price.

Tyler, Angeli, Jamila and Cyrus had a great time but, more importantly, were inspired by the spirit of the learning that filled the room. Everyone at Clever thanks the friendly staff at MPCSD –  we’d love to come back for another visit.


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