Hi! I’m Matthew Courtney. I help schools help kids, and I want to show you how to leverage the power of education research and data to drive continuous improvement in your districts, schools, and classrooms.
I will never forget the first time I set foot into my own classroom. It was a very hot July afternoon when I arrived at Mayfield Elementary to pick up my key. The hallways smelt of floor wax and you could taste the dust from the annual summer renovation floating in the air. To save money, the air conditioning was turned off making it so hot it was difficult to breathe. I met a burly custodian in the office, signed some papers, and was given a shiny brass colored key.
After wandering the halls for a few minutes, I came up to a freshly painted blue door. Someone had neatly printed “Mr. Courtney – Music” on the wall plate. I took a deep breath, intent on savoring the moment. I turned the key, pushed open the door, and entered my future.
I didn’t fully understand what was in store for me. While teaching at Mayfield, I came to understand what good public schools are all about. I met children who would shape me into the man I am today. Jonathan, a second grader who had been to so many schools in his short life that he hadn’t learned the alphabet. Sammie, the young lady who came to school primarily to eat, and later to learn. Darrell, the boy with autism who taught me the phrase “the wheel is turning but the hamster is dead.” Jocelyn, who showed me how to show love through patience in the way that she cared for her peers. Each child left their mark, and I have never been so proud as the day I ran into Chelsey, now a teacher, at a conference or the day that I saw Richie, now a professional trumpet player, on the stage.
These children, and the millions like them, are why I got out of bed every morning – and why I get out of bed every morning still. I have dedicated my life to a singular mission: using research and data to grow high quality schools for every child.
I believe that every child deserves an equitable opportunity to learn in a high quality school where the instruction is rigorous, the culture is warm, and the commitment to success is universal. At the heart of these three pillars is continuous school improvement.
Continuous school improvement isn’t for “low performing” schools. It isn’t a theoretical policy framework cooked up by folks in Washington, D.C. It isn’t the enemy of good teachers and leaders.
Research and data driven continuous school improvement is for everyone. It is a focused mindset that ensures that everybody is bringing their best to every situation – every day. It is about intentionality; doing what’s best for kids not because we think it is what’s best, but because we know it is what’s best.
If you’re struggling with a big problem in your classroom, school, or district, I have GREAT news for you! You are not alone! Thousands of other educators across the nation and around the globe have experienced the same problem. By learning to leverage existing research tools and deeply understanding your local data, you can solve any problem that your school is facing.
Throughout my career, I have worked to empower educators at every level to use educational research and data to drive continuous improvement. Whether it was providing professional development to my fellow classroom teachers, facilitating action research and building theoretical models at the Bluegrass Center for Teacher Quality, or crafting policy to increase access and usability of research in decision making at the Kentucky Department of Education, my entire career has been focused on improving opportunities for our students. I truly believe that if we can all learn to leverage the power of research and data, we can expedite school improvement efforts and make good schools great and great schools even better.
I want to engage with you on this journey. When you’re ready to start, connect with me on Twitter and Linked In. I hope you will take time to read my blog, #BeyondTheMean, where I provide weekly tutorials, case studies, and research challenges to get your mind moving. Finally, consider subscribing to The Repository. This resource library is 100% free forever and includes training videos, online data tools to speed up your data analysis, eBooks to help you dive deeply into research and data questions, and opportunities to sign up for member-only virtual events.
Let’s work together to learn and understand what makes great schools so special and share our insights with educators across the globe so that students everywhere can have a future bigger than we could even begin to dream of.