Tuesday / June 25

VISIBLE LEARNING at Ka’imiloa Elementary School

“Courage is the commitment to begin without any guarantee of success.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

In January 2014, I had the privilege of meeting an incredibly courageous group of leaders from Ka’imiloa Elementary School on Oahu, Hawaii. They were brave, heroic, and willing to tackle school transformation head on… they just didn’t know it yet.

They approached our first Visible Learning session just like the hundreds of others that were offered to them in the past, with the skepticism and the frustration that results from deep and extensive initiative fatigue. In fact, as I recall the day I met them, I can still clearly visualize the intense glares combined with crossed arms around the room. How could they possibly take on something new (Visible Learning) when they were grappling with new standards across the core content areas, new reading and mathematics curriculum, a new state assessment, and a new educator effectiveness system that included a new method of teacher evaluation? The defeat I sensed throughout this initial encounter was enhanced by many years of declining school report card grades and plunging down the state watch list.

Have you ever experienced the feeling of doing everything you possibly could to increase student achievement (implementing 2016-04-28_184529311_0DAFB_iOSnew strategies, purchasing programs, creating positions, etc.), just to watch your cumulative efforts have an adverse effect? Ka’imiloa did!

As I have worked with schools across North America to truly learn and implement what sits at the top of Visible Learning research, it is clear that when there is exposure to the education world’s largest research database of all time with over 200 influences, 1,200+ meta analyses, 60,000+ studies, and over ¼ of a billion students, the findings beg a new conversation. A discussion about impact, what works and what doesn’t work, and the courage to esteem what we do well as a profession not just focus on what we need to improve on. As a result, the narrative cannot help but be changed!

In the Hawaiian language, Ka’imiloa literally means “seeker of knowledge.” As a result of learning the story behind the numbers of the Visible Learning research, the educators of this valiant school have now dedicated themselves to two years (and counting) of pursuing, acquiring, and translating this knowledge into action. They now see Visible Learning as the lens through which they view all activities in teaching, learning, and leadership, and as the empowering “why” behind many of the initiatives they have been mandated to implement over time. The staff has shifted from crossed arms and intense glares, to embracing and harnessing the power that lies within each educator to dramatically influence outcomes for every learner.

I hope you enjoy reading their story as much as I have enjoyed witnessing their growth and empowerment over time. The best part? They acknowledge this is just the beginning and the best is still yet to come. I recently conducted a webinar with Principal Deb Hatada to tell the first chapter of this phenomenal story. She mentioned having read one of John Hattie’s newest publications where he recalled speaking at a large event and looking out across the room at the audience and wondering, “What if I got this wrong?” She said she asked herself the exact same question when she made the commitment to expose her staff to the Visible Learning work two years ago. After watching her faculty become transformed by the powerful processes and practices within the Visible Learning Plus framework, and empowered by a shift in culture and mindframes, she created an amendment to that question and noted, “This is actually one of the only things I have gotten right!”

To read more about how Ka’imiloa brought passion back to their building, download their white paper.

Written by

Kristin Anderson is Corwin’s Senior Director of Professional Learning. You can contact her at

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