When school was ending for most principals in June, Saint Mary School Principal Nikki Raftery was heading off to more schooling – Harvard University, specifically the Data Wise Institute. This wasn't a vacation or workshop. Raftery was chosen by the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools to attend the ground breaking conference. Of the 207 Archdiocese elementary schools, Raftery was identified as a principal who has done a great job facilitating the analysis of data and using this analysis to drive academic achievement.
Data Wise is designed to support educators in both learning and applying the skills for using data. Program objectives included: understand the Data Wise Improvement Process, cultivate the Habits of Mind that improve the effectiveness of teams and foster a supportive culture of continuous improvement, experience more than 10 protocols to engage faculty in the collaborative use of data, learn five key elements of observing practice & improve it, and create a plan for integrating this process into your school and district.
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Since 2011 when Raftery became Principal of Saint Mary School enrollment has increased 15% and test scores (which were already above average) increased almost 20%. Under Raftery's leadership the elementary school of approximately 390 children preK-8th grade has developed a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) lab and curriculum, enhanced the math, reading and Spanish language curriculums and added full day preschool and a health program. For 2014-15 a partnership has developed with the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum to aid in enhancing the science curriculum and with Mobile Therapy Centers of America in order to offer holistic education to the student body.
Raftery said about her time at Harvard "I came away with some huge take-aways that will help us intentionally move our school from great to GREATER. I haven't felt like this about an institute in a long time. It is so inspiring to have concrete plans for advancing a higher level." Raftery's Harvard experience did not end when she left Massachusetts. She will continue her learning by participating in three live online follow-up sessions led by the faculty chairs and featuring the ongoing work of fellow teams through February 2016.
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