Newton hosts Cultural Proficiency for School Leaders presentation


Terrell Davis and Phyllis Cottner from Data Driven Education are introduced by Vice Principal and Career and Technical Education (CTE) Director Ben Reed. Photo Courtesy.

Lucy Buller, Reporter

On Mar. 30, Terrell Davis and Phyllis Cottner from Data Driven Education presented Cultural Proficiency for School Leaders to the NHS administrative team. Larry Lee from the Newton Community for Racial Justice organization also sat in on the presentation. According to their website, Data Driven Education is an educational consulting firm with a focus on school improvement, school turnaround and school climate. Their consultants have proven experience and success in supporting staff with professional development, implementation of research-based turnaround strategies and support of administrators and teacher leaders. 

Principal Caleb Smith says that the hope is to have Davis and Cottner back in the future to present to teachers and students. 

“The presentation was all about building a culture that all of our students feel welcomed and supported at Newton High School regardless of their background,” Smith said. “Specifically, they provided some training and direction to better support marginalized groups of students.”

Data Driven Education’s goal for students in grades 6-12 is to shift the emphasis from learning to read to reading to learn. According to the Data Driven Education website, standards across the nation often include expectations that students are able to analyze, make claims, reason and defend their thinking based on information they have read. Data Driven Education’s professional development program equips teachers to use comprehension strategies that support students in going beyond surface level knowledge of reading to understand the depth and complexity of literature. 

While presenting, the consultants from Data Driven Education projected a slideshow presentation highlighting important information. Photo Courtesy.

“Davis and Cottner focused on culture and relationships from both an interpersonal and data perspective. They focused on supporting our students without pushing a political agenda,” Smith said. “I can not speak for the others in attendance but for me, it was refreshing to hear a perspective that was not divisive and focused on student success.”

The mission of Data Driven Education is to create environments of educational excellence. Data Driven Education consulting provides school districts and independent schools professional development support by creating an effective and positive school climate and culture, equity, diversion and inclusion, school improvement and school turnaround, strategic planning and customized workshops. 

“Most of the time people get along well and respect each other at school but there are also people that feel the need to put others down and start fights,” sophomore Brilee Davis said. “I think that we could do things to help with mental health like having more access to counselors, having numbers for emergencies and maybe the teachers could step in and do little things.”

For freshman Zach Ruth, the atmosphere at school is very positive and supportive, but could also use some improvement. Some things Ruth thinks could help are more support in cases of bullying, expanded awareness of the stress and mental health issues school can cause and working with teachers to be more open and supportive rather than trying to be strict and controlling. 

“Inclusion in school seems to be primarily from participation, you are not really included by just showing up and doing nothing, which I think is kind of a good thing,” Ruth said. “The things we do should be based on giving opportunities and the option to make what you wish of high school, rather than being forced into things unnecessarily.”