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  • Sara Needleman

Building on 10 Years of Lessons Learned

As we step firmly into our second decade of being JumpRope, we thought it would be good to look back at where we’ve been and also look forward to where we are going. Jesse shared in our June blog post some major product-based changes. The next step is to rebuild our web applications for administrators, teachers, and students. Some of that has already happened, including the release of the first of our next-generation reports. Additionally, we’re working on some major new features that will add more power to our reports: Student Demographics will provide dimensions to analyze and compare data, and Student Cohorts will add a formal layer of grade level management and enable reporting on historical "grade level when assessed." Those features and a new round of related reports are coming soon. Lastly, we've started rebuilding the teacher dashboard, and plan to make a public preview/beta available to schools throughout this fall and winter. It will carry over the core concepts of the original teacher dashboard while upgrading the look, feel, and speed to match that of the new Admin interface. Eligible customers will be able to "Try the new JumpRope" and even be able to switch back and forth during this preview.

The product-side changes are logical responses to the feedback we’ve gotten and our observations of what works best in the field. Increasingly, those changes are informed by our goal to improve teaching and learning and as such, our vision for where we’d like to see JumpRope in the future. I thought now would be a good time to share some of that vision. A recent conversation I had with Jesse and Justin became the fodder for this post. We didn’t discuss specific product-based next steps like those I named above, but they shared the ideas they’ve come to hold close, those that ultimately guide the rebuilds, additions, and the changes you see in JumpRope.

One of the aspects of working with Jesse and Justin I most appreciate is their unwavering commitment to making learning more meaningful for kids. That means helping teachers find the instructional practices that lead to deep learning and matching their assessment and grading practices to their instruction. During its earliest years, JumpRope focused on mastery-based grading. It seemed that providing educators with a grading platform that asked them to disaggregate their assessment data by standard would nudge instructional practice in the same direction. Some of our clients wanted to believe that simply having a mastery-based gradebook would effect significant change. We too were hopeful that might be the case. As time passed, however, it became clear that lasting and meaningful change would only come with effective onboarding and support. We therefore devoted time and resources to developing the Get Set and implementation processes. Working more closely with clients through each of those phases, as opposed to primarily offering support through trouble-shooting, has led to more profound and more prolific success stories. When our clients succeed, we further our commitment to mastery-based practice as a means to improving learning for students.

That commitment had a very humble beginning. Many of you know that JumpRope started with Jesse developing an excel-based grading program for the high school he first worked in. That grading program was born of his own desire to track mastery data and soon satisfied the desires of his colleagues. When JumpRope grew to a company independent of Jesse’s school, it did so predicated on a model of responding to teachers’ needs. That was a great system for a very small start-up run by a smart, tech-savvy teacher and his partner, but we’ve learned across these ten plus years that in addition to looking to customers to drive our development ideas, we are going to look more broadly at teacher practice as a whole. In the coming months we’ll be sharing more of this vision.

When tale of JumpRope success is shared in the education world, there are multiple winners. Of course, our company grows, and with our more evolved understanding of the work, product, and our ability to support customers, we see a path to scaling. We can add customers into an environment of mature resources which makes onboarding and supporting them easier than it was in the past. We see our customers as winners too. JumpRope is a tool in facilitating their excellent practice; it makes their work easier and provides them a pathway to practicing with the integrity they deserve. But mostly, we see the students whose teachers use JumpRope as the big winners. JumpRope helps them engage in their own learning process, it helps them to own it. That’s big.

Those large scale successes feel great, but it might be the day-to-day work we engage with that feels the best. Jesse shared two scenarios that most excite him. The first he described is as he steps into an initial teacher training and feels the excitement and fear in the room. There are a lot of unknowns. It’s clear in those moments that we are part of something important. He knows this will be a significant change for those educators and therefore for their students. The second scenario is the trainings he’s done for a small group of new teachers recently hired in a school that’s been using JumpRope. In those cases, he gets to see concrete evidence that mastery-based practices have firmly taken hold, that teachers and schools are doing this excellent work is a huge reward.

Justin also referenced the day-to-day work in the context of the value of mastery-based practices. He feels intensely proud of the JumpRope team and the dedication the team brings. “We all passionately believe this is a better way to teach and learn. We have a great group of educators who really understand the practice and what it takes to help people do this hard work. We’re devoted to improving education. That makes me proud.”

JumpRope’s evolution from a set of excel-based spreadsheets, to a game-changing gradebook that teachers and schools use to support student-centered, data-driven practice, in many ways mirrors the path that mastery-based practice itself has followed. There have been times when our focus was more narrow than it should have been, when we were distracted by shiny objects worthy of distraction. But with more than ten years of learning from our clients, advisors, and research all behind us, the dedicated JumpRope team is poised to make informed, well-grounded choices for the next decade.

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