James Greene, supervisor of instruction for Harlan Independent school district, said CIITS has the capability of allowing teachers to combine a variety of resources in their lesson planning and professional growth. Photo by Amy Wallot, March 27, 2014

James Greene, supervisor of instruction for Harlan Independent school district, demonstrates how CIITS allows teachers to combine a variety of resources in their lesson planning and professional growth plans. Photo by Amy Wallot, March 27, 2014

By Brenna R. Kelly

When it works correctly, the Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System is a powerful tool to help Kentucky public school teachers become highly effective and improve learning in their classrooms.

But parts of the system, particularly the section that teachers use for the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (PGES), weren’t working right earlier this school year, said Maritta Horne, CIITS manager for the Kentucky Department of Education’s Office of Knowledge, Information and Data Services.

“It wasn’t performing correctly or like we thought it should,” Horne said.

So KDE officials and Pearson Education reworked the section of the software called the Educator Development Suite (EDS), where teachers enter much of their documentation for PGES.

“It couldn’t just be the flip of a switch,” she said, “it was taking the EDS tool back into development and fixing it over the months, little by little.”

The result: consistency, stability and functionality.

“Now I feel really good about where the program is,” Horne said.

Now KDE officials want to know, should the state continue to provide CIITS as tool for teachers, schools and districts? Or should districts create and fund their own systems?

Commissioner Terry Holliday has been asking his advisory groups, steering committees and superintendents if they believe all or part of the CIITS system should be discontinued after the current school year.

So far the response has been mixed, David Cook, KDE’s director of innovation.

“There may be parts of it they would rather have as options,” he said, “and parts that if the state dropped wouldn’t hurt their feelings.”

Most users don’t realize that CIITS is really made up of several different components, Horne said.

“Even though it’s all called CIITS there are different pieces of CIITS that they are using, there are pieces that have functioned properly and have not been an issue,” she said. “And the pieces that were an issue, we’ve done our due diligence to get those addressed.”

The Instructional Management System (IMS) allows teachers to create lesson plans, find lesson plans, align lessons to the Kentucky Core Academic Standards and administer assessments.

Teachers can incorporate more than 100,000 third-party resources from KET, PBS, Discovery Education, Thinkfinity and others into their lesson plans, she said. They can create lesson plans in the system or simply upload a tried-and-true lesson plan and align it to the standards.

About 60 percent of districts have added their curriculum with lesson plans in the system and many districts have posted their units for all teachers to use. Data shows that 66 percent of teachers have created and published lesson plans in the system leading to 500,000 lesson plans in CIITS.

“We’ve seen a lot of work in particular districts such as Campbell County, Pulaski County, Fayette County and Jefferson County is doing quite a bit as well,” Horne said.

Recently, Literacy Design Collaborative modules and core tools have been added, she said. Another improvement is a student workspace which will allow students to upload their work for their classes.  KDE is conducting a pilot using student workspace with Art and Music classes across the state.

“It can be as a simple as five pre-lesson questions to see where students are on a particular standard,” Horne said.

Another powerful tool is the school and district data section.

“It’s every single piece of data you can think about for a student,” Horne said, adding that the data can only be accessed by teachers and school administrators.

The system also has year-by-year data, so that teachers can go back and see their students’ progress.

“It’s phenomenal, what it does,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

Schools and districts can run reports to help them determine where students are lacking understanding and where instruction might need improvement.

But while teachers, schools and districts have had success with the IMS component, they have faced frustration with the EDS component, Horne said.

“The biggest headache across the state has been the Educator Development Suite,” she said. “But with the instructional management piece, it’s a very stable product. We have had very few issues at all.”

The problems with EDS came to light as teachers tried to use it to submit their sources of evidence for PGES. The program wasn’t consistent, Horne said. In one section it would auto save, in another it wouldn’t. In one section a session would time out, in another it wouldn’t.

For more than four months KDE officials met daily with Pearson officials, Horne said. Once the issues were corrected, KDE officials decided not to accept any more updates to the system for the next year, she said.

“We don’t want to mess it up,” Horne said. “What we’re hearing from the field is ‘we just want it to work.”

In addition, the Kentucky Board of Education voted to change a state regulation to allow teachers to use a method other than ES to submit that information, she said.

The new effectiveness system was part of the reason CIITS was created in 2011. The impetus for the system started with Senate Bill 1 (2009) and Kentucky’s 2010 Race to the Top application. The state was seeking to align assessments with the new standards, use data to support educators, implement a new teacher effectiveness system and provide support for the lowest performing schools.

“CIITS was the central connection point all four of those key areas,” KDE Chief of Staff Tommy Floyd told superintendents during the April 30 Superintendents’ Webcast.

Since it was created, CIITS had surpassed all of its usage goals, he added.

Data shows that every month 45,000 teachers and 3,500 administrators log into the system, Horne said. But when they do, they aren’t using all of the system.

A professional development component called Edivate, previously called PD 360, is not frequently used. Over the last two year, only 9 percent of users accessed that tool, which includes training videos showing best practices, she said.

KDE spends $4 million a year on the Edivate component alone.

“The part that’s costing us the most money is the one people aren’t using,” Cook said.

The total cost of CIITS, including Edivate, IMS, EDS and ASSIST, which is another program districts and schools use to submit improvement plans, was $7.9 million for fiscal year 2013-14. That money comes from a mix of federal and state funds.

“If the state is not providing these resources, the costs would primarily fall to the districts,” Floyd told superintendents. Districts would not receive state funding to implement new systems.

If CIITS were to be discontinued, districts would still have to submit all of the data that CIITS collects for PGES and would still have to teach and assess the Kentucky academic standards without IMS system’s help, Floyd said.

While superintendents were given the survey about whether to continue CIITS, Floyd encouraged them to get input from principals, teachers and technology coordinators.

A decision about the whether to continue the CIITS system is expected by May 30.


Maritta Horne maritta.horne@education.ky.gov
David Cook david.cook@education.ky.gov
Tommy Floyd tommy.floyd@education.ky.gov