Passion to improving education
After a distinguished career spanning 40 years in education as a teacher, principal, assistant superintendent, and completing the final chapter as the superintendent of the Blaine County Idaho School District, Dr. Jim Lewis was finally ready to retire in 2009. He had fully invested his entire career toward improving education and helping kids learn. He was looking forward to spending more time with his wife Joyce, an educator herself, their family, and enjoying the beautiful outdoors that surrounded him in Idaho and beyond. But as Jim’s retirement began, something powerful was stirring deep within his core that he couldn’t ignore. He deeply understood that the traditional education system wasn’t working for every child and needed to be modernized in America in order to give our children the finest education possible, and prepare them to compete successfully in a rapidly expanding and ever-changing global workplace. During this time the Blaine County School District was working to build the first versions of the Mileposts program with which Jim was already very familiar. Jim wanted to leave education better than he found it 40 years ago, and realized the greatest gift of retirement was that it afforded him the time to leverage his vast educational experience and leadership to bring educators together and re-imagine how teaching and the traditional classroom could be infused with helpful technology, along with the most successful instructional strategies. In this way, the most experienced “Silverbacks” in education could quickly re-distribute what they had learned in the profession to the teaching “troops”. And with the ardent support and collaboration with the Blaine County School District, Jim agreed to provide his full-time leadership going forward for Mileposts, and a new company was born.
The Start-up “Garage”
It’s uncanny how many “big ideas” that have changed the world, started in the humble confines of a garage or a college dorm room. For Dr. Lewis, and the Mileposts advisory committee of talented educators he enlisted in 2002, the start-up environment was not the dorm room or a garage but rather the classroom. Together, if they were going to re-imagine and map out how teachers could teach more effectively, it would require that they documented teacher and classroom frustrations, daily workflow, and how to add the right combination of new processes and technology to improve the process, and try it out. Over the next few years of real classroom observations, the Mileposts advisory committee brainstormed and began developing a complete modern educational system that would leverage all of the existing resource investments and align them with a complementary set of prevention, intervention, and corrective retention strategies that were focused on creating the richest personalized learning environment possible for every student.
Technology would be applied to fill identified gaps and create a dynamic student achievement system, which stores student profile information, files assessment data (both state and district), monitors student benchmark progress, as well as records documentation of accommodations, interventions and plans of all students during their school career. Together a complete system and teaching approach is capable of easily documenting all elements of the process and progress, and creates the ability for teachers, students, administrators, and parents to collaborate and share in 360° accountability.
The 360° equation requires all stakeholders to sign an Accountability Agreement every 3 years and also includes the following hinge points.
- Students take responsibility and ownership of their learning.
- Parents agree to become active partners with the school to facilitate, promote, and encourage their child’s learning, both in the classroom and at home.
- Teachers agree to keep students and parents informed of progress toward their child’s personal learning goals, provide differentiated instruction leveraging our Mileposts technology to better meet the needs of each student, and collaborate to find the best strategies and interventions to ensure growth for all students.
- Administrators vow to hire and develop the most effective teachers, align curriculum to meet state standards, and supply appropriate instructional resources and a safe learning environment.
In 2004, after 2 years of research and refinement by the Mileposts committee, the Blaine County School District implemented the Mileposts Program and provided educator training at each school. This was a significant milestone because a new teaching system, built by the teachers themselves was now enabling them to easily personalize education for each and every student in their classrooms. The initial response was overwhelmingly positive and supportive by administrators, teachers, students, and parents. Over the next few school years, evaluations and a wealth of teacher feedback dramatically accelerated refinements to the Mileposts Program and new features into the Mileposts software. The Mileposts Program had become an intuitive and seamless part of everyday life for teachers, helping them to impact individual student learning at the point of instruction and actually helping to make their jobs better and easier in the process. As positive results continued to build dramatically year after year, other school districts in the southern Idaho region expressed interest to participate. By the spring of 2007, the Mileposts Program was rolled out to six area school districts with many receiving state and national awards for achievement by 2009-10. And as more teachers are trained and use the program across the country, the feedback loop to improve the solution and features of the software continues to grow. The results are humbling and inspiring.
Teachers are teaching us and the teaching community at large how to personalize education for every student, and actually embrace the use of technology to help make their jobs easier and more rewarding.
Today and Tomorrow
Today, Silverback Learning Solutions and the Mileposts student achievement solution (StAS) has entered into national distribution partnerships with the Association of Educational Service Agencies (AESA) as well as many statewide chapters of AESA. Mileposts has already been adopted in school districts across 19 states with outstanding performance results. A passionate teacher user group of thousands is providing continuous collaboration and feedback in the tireless pursuit to make Mileposts even better.
The Silverback/Mileposts technology has always been cloud-based, helping to lower costs and rapidly becoming an online gateway to teachers, parents, and students in order to collaborate and communicate more effectively. Teachers are able to create personalized assignments and interventions, monitor achievement and gain real-time insights to improve the quality of customized instruction for group, sub-group, or individual students that flows with their daily routine in the classroom. We have entered into strategic partnerships with companies such as Gooru, the leading educational search engine with over 14 million resources fully-indexed to state standards, which has also been fully integrated into the Mileposts software user experience because teachers expressed a need for it there. We support a growing nation of talented and passionate teachers who are embracing the modernization of education in America, and we continue our pursuit of maximizing the impact education has for every child in their pursuit of their American dream. Together, anything is possible.