Five Critical Questions to Ask Any Provider of School/System Change or Professional Learning and Development.

1. What shifts have you been able to achieve for students so far, and how long does it take to see them?
Always ask to see the actual evidence. This is always a relevant question, even if the initiative is targeted primarily at teachers.

2. How well does your approach work for the students who have historically been underserved by our education system?
A service provider who’s concerned about equity is important, but it’s not just that! We know that by targeting the learners who have been having the hardest time, we are able to create shifts throughout the system that benefit all learners.

3. What student outcomes do you track to see whether the change is working?
What gets measured gets focused on. Whatever you’re doing and whoever you’re working with, it’s important to make sure that you’re tracking the outcomes that will tell you that you’re being successful, not just tracking what’s easiest to measure.

4. How do you triangulate what you see (i.e. cross-check to make sure it’s real)?
Best practice is to always use several sources of evidence when making a decision (this is called triangulation), never just one. Deliberately use a wide range of evidence sources together (e.g. qualitative, quantitative, different sources and perspectives), because the strengths of one help make up for the weaknesses of another. And yes, all assessment tools/outcome measures have weaknesses.

5. How do you make sure the change is sustained after you finish working with the school or district? Can you show me some evidence of that?
If you’re hiring someone to make change, the improvements you see should last even after they’re gone. If you only see improvement while the provider is present, they’re just giving you support, not creating change.

And, as always, make sure they can give you evidence!