Lakeville schools employ new way to measure outcomes

Lakeville Area School District officials are promoting innovation in the classroom by taking a business approach to measure success.

The district is implementing an academic return on investment (A-ROI) system that uses data and compares per-student costs to the desired outcome of various programs or interventions.

Through the process, new or long-held programs or interventions could be expanded, changed, reduced or eliminated.

District Program Evaluation Director Jason Molesky told the Lakeville Area School Board at a June 19 retreat that the tool will help the district focus on value.

“Are we getting the most bang for our buck as we invest in a number of innovations across the district?” Molesky asked.

To calculate value, the district will divide direct and indirect costs, such as timing and administration, of programs or interventions by the number of students meeting pre-determined outcome goals.

“The value-based approach, or academic return on investment, puts a process in place that helps us focus not just on effective outcomes, but on absolute results that we identify ahead of time,” Molesky said.

He said the A-ROI will better tie data to the programs that are in place, correlate which programs are effective for which students and will give the district the ability to compare results across schools.

“We’ll identify the cost-effective programs we’re interested in,” Molesky said. “We look at the programs that we think will have the greatest impact and determine up front very clear indicators we are shooting for.”

He added that the process encourages innovation and experimentation “in a planful manner.”

Some of the programs that will be evaluated are Impact Academy, a multi-age learning community at Orchard Lake Elementary, and iLearn 2.0, a bring-your-own-device initiative, starting next year in two elementary schools: Christina Huddleston and Orchard Lake.

Officials hope to expand both programs district-wide.

School Board Member Michelle Volk suggested the district also consider evaluating for A-ROI the district’s online school, LinK12; board members also requested review of AVID, a college-readiness program.

Volk and School Board Member Jim Skelly also asked for review of all programs in the district to help the board prioritize programs and determine which ones to remove as innovative programs are introduced.

Molesky said they so intend to review the older programs, but will start with Impact Academy.

He said going back to older programs is more difficult because outcomes may not be clearly defined and they would have to go back to piece that information together.

“Our intent is to use this with any innovation that comes forward,” Molesky said. “To provide you, the board, with what the true program goals are, what the intents are, what the anticipated costs are. It also provides a framework then for my department to go back and calculate to determine what goals were met and at what cost.”

School Board Chair Roz Peterson said she is excited about the system.

“I think it’s a great way to evaluate the programs that we have, as well moving forward, so we can make sure we’re not just starting a program and don’t have the data to support moving forward.”