The Branchville Elementary School community has been featured on the website of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education for its innovative work with a process called Data Wise. Developed by Harvard University, Data Wise is a collaborative data inquiry process designed to help educators examine student data to transform the teaching and learning process.

In August 2017, the Ridgefield Public Schools director of K-12 humanities, Dr. Alison Villanueva, spearheaded the Data Wise work and training in the district.

At Branchville Elementary School, Principal Keith Margolus, elementary supervisor Val Cooper, literacy coach Alison Carmody, reading specialist JoAnne Galdo, math specialist Prajakta Oppel, and fifth grade teachers Kristi Byrne, Megan Livolsi and Lauren De Lan were trained on the program via satellite by professors at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. The weeklong virtual training session and the online course that followed enabled the team to access the course materials and daily video support provided by Harvard, all while remaining in Ridgefield.  

“The collaborative nature of the Data Wise process and the open-mindedness of all of our schools is a perfect synergy to capitalize on all of the great work being done in the district to better each student experience,” Dr. Villanueva said. The faculty and leadership at Branchville, with Keith’s deep knowledge of Data Wise and the staff’s work with the pioneer team over the summer, made for a remarkably smooth segue into the Branchville community.”

It hasn’t been merely a smooth segue — it’s been a home run. The team at Branchville Elementary School began implementing the process with students just this year, and their efforts have been so successful that the school has been formally recognized on Harvard’s website.

“They haven’t had to travel to us and we haven’t had to travel to them, But we’ve learned together as the team’s work has unfolded,” said Dr. Kathy Boudett, director of the Data Wise Project and a Harvard University School of Education faculty member. “It is exciting to see how technology is creating opportunities for scaling instructional improvement that just weren’t available when Data Wise was first published.”  

“We are fortunate to have outstanding teachers, and I am grateful that the Harvard Graduate School of Education recognized us in this way,” said Branchville principal Margolus. “The team willingly entered into the Data Wise process that asks each teacher to critically examine student data and their own teaching practice openly with colleagues. This is not easy to do, but the team was committed to improving student learning, their own learning, and to the growth of our school.”