Sure - happy to give some initial thoughts as to why we went with Whetstone. As background context, we have 17 schools, and for a while now we’ve had at least 17 different ways of observing teachers and providing teachers. And so, we haven’t really had any KIPP DC-wide standard for such work, not even within each grade band (EC, ES, MS, HS), let alone all 17 schools. We’ve dabbled in some platforms like TeachBoost and Torsh (which serve different purposes as several of you may know), but nothing ever truly consistent.
We’ve recently brought on some major instructional leadership in the form of a new CAO for our secondary schools, new managing directors of literacy and STEM across our K-12, and so there’s a renewed push for such standardization/consistency. One area we’re now focusing on is around teacher observations/feedback for our secondary schools (to start with, likely to spread down to ES etc). Our MS principals recently went to a Relay school leader PD, and teacher observations was a big part of the covered issues. Relay has a partnership with Whetstone, and their platform is very flexible and able to adapt to rubrics, language, structures, really the philosophy behind observations/feedback that was presented at Relay. So that was definitely a big piece of it.
More generally, we at headquarters also took a guided tour of Whetstone and played with a demo. We hadn’t gone to Relay so we weren’t indoctrinated with that work (or pre-conditioned to like it), and yet we also loved the platform for its flexibility, adaptability, intelligent workflow — for those of you who know the new STEP online assessment system, I think that’s an elegant platform with really smart design… Whetstone was similar in how well it was designed for workflow, communications, observations, etc. We could make it work for us, and it also has a robust API ready to go, which was attractive to us. We are still using TeachBoost in many of our elementary schools, so we are approaching this year as a time to compare the two as they get implemented in different schools. I think we’re likely to drop TeachBoost and go with Whetstone more broadly. We’re committed to trying Whetstone for the next 3 years in our middle schools, so we’re really at the very beginning of this process. Happy to share more as we get there. I can say right away that their team is terrific - well organized, quick to respond, smart… the contract negotiations and the roster set up process was refreshingly professional and efficient. So that’s a good start and indicator of the org overall, I think… and that’s coming from someone who’s a little skeptical of ed tech/assessment orgs overall based on past experience.
Feel free to email me separately (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’re interested in hearing more as get more into the implementation.