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Houston, We Have a Solution!

By: Dr. Stan Olson

On February 16-21, our Silverback team descended on Houston, Texas for the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) annual conference and the winter meeting of the Education Research and Development Institute (ERDI.)

The Last AASA Ever?

This will indeed be the last stand-alone AASA conference.  Starting in spring of 2013, AASA will combine with the National School Boards Association (NSBA) conference.  The AASA conference was quite a bit smaller this session than in previous years.  We have been attending off and on for the past twelve years and the numbers, for a variety of reasons, have visibly dwindled.   But what has not dwindled are the needs of America’s school districts, especially when it comes to improving student outcomes.

Our Silverback booth was bustling throughout the three days of the conference.  People were really interested in what we are about, particularly in relation to the impact our solution has on improving student achievement, providing intelligent tracking and reporting systems for school district Response to Intervention (RTI) programs, and creating individualized learning plans for all students. They also connected strongly with us because our Mileposts system is gaining recognition as the product in the market that is regularly used by teachers at the point of instruction to help students consistently improve.  Other booths, including competitor booths right near us, didn’t have the buzz and seemingly didn’t have the  passion for their solution displayed by our Silverback crew (except maybe the guy across the way endlessly folding and refolding his classroom partition solution for three straight days!)

While we were in Houston we had the opportunity to host the Wyoming Association of School Administrators (WASA) dinner and meet with many Wyoming superintendents, where we continue to gain school districts who see Mileposts as an excellent solution to drive individual student achievement and help make sense of all of the data coming out of their State Proficiency Assessment for Wyoming Students (PAWS) assessments, NWEA Measures of Academic Progress (MAP,) as well as their secondary school ACT testing suite (EXPLORE, PLAN, and The ACT Test.)

The conference also provided our team a number of additional opportunities for interface with superintendent professional networks. Participation in the AASA Century Club annual meeting, the Horace Mann League annual meeting, the winter meeting of the Urban Superintendents Association of America and the North Dakota Superintendents’ AASA reception allowed us to connect with dozens of educational leaders from around the country who expressed interest in a future Mileposts demo/discussion.

Enhanced Customer Focus through ERDI

We also had the opportunity to attend our first Educational Research and Development Institute (ERDI) in Houston,  following our AASA stint.

ERDI is one of the nation’s premier P/K-12 educational organizations that was formed 25 years ago to provide a forum for dialogue between America’s top superintendents and companies providing educational products, programs and services. ERDI’s membership is made up of selected superintendents from across the country who have, by successful practice, consistently distinguished themselves and are seen as leaders and “key influencers” in the field of education. By their participation in ERDI these superintendents are given the opportunity to influence the development, refinement and delivery of products and services impacting the P/K-12 educational setting so that those products and services can best meet the needs of all students.

Silverback’s membership in ERDI gives us two three-day opportunities each year to participate in meetings, presentations, social events and networking sessions with these superintendents to establish both personal and professional relationships and to introduce them to Silverback Nation. At both of the two annual meetings the highlight activity is a three hour focus group panel session between the “client” (us) and five superintendents of school districts from different parts of the country. During the panel  session the client gets to present their product and then receive feedback from the superintendent panelists on areas of specific client interest and/or concern.

This is an invaluable process to help us get a pulse on the industry and drive our product forward.  We were overwhelmed with the quality of our panel at the 2012 ERDI winter meeting and their focus in our solution area, including the National Superintendent of the Year for 2012, Dr. Heath Morrison from Washoe County (Reno, NV). The panel also included: Dr. Kevin Singer (Central Susquehanna, PA,) Dr. Damian LaCroix(Green Bay, WI,) Dr. Stephen Murley (Iowa City, IA,) and Dr. Phil Streifer (Bristol, CT.)

We learned a great deal from the panel feedback and in follow-up discussions at the other scheduled events (e.g. how to profile our Mileposts solution for opportunities in different parts of the country; product enhancement suggestions; new product priorities we should be considering in the next 6-12 months; potential partnerships we should be considering with other companies; etc.)  We think the feedback served as a great barometer for where we are and for where we are going. ERDI was and will continue to be an excellent resource in the evolution and continuing growth of Silverback Nation.

The second ERDI meeting of 2011 will be this July in Chicago. The Silverback team is already developing plans for full participation…and full benefit. Stay tuned!

Dr. Stan Olson
Director of Business Development
Silverback Learning Solutions


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Posted: March 23rd, 2012