Home > PUM One on One - Dr. Theodore Dwyer, Chief of Data, Research, Assessment and Accountability Pittsburgh Public Schools

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PUM One On One:  Dr. Theodore Dwyer, Chief of Data, Research, Assessment and Accountability, Pittsburgh Public Schools 

"I am an evaluator, researcher, and appreciate data. My experience spans education, forensics, therapeutic intervention delivery, and the military.  My future goals are to be involved with the use of research and evaluations in policy and decision making processes and to leverage my knowledge and experience into an ethical and productive use of research findings and evaluation results to help and support administrators, teachers and students.  Specialties: Measurement, Evaluation Designs, Research Design, Qualitative & Quantitative methodologies, Grant evaluation & reporting."






















Pictured : Dr. Dwyer serving Rita’s Ice to principals as part of Leadership Week with Dr. Hamlet and Deputy Superintendent Anthony Anderson . Click images to enlarge.


PUM: Dr. Dwyer, please tell us more about your new position as Chief of Data, Research, Assessment and Accountability. What is your immediate focus in this position?


Dwyer: As the Chief of Data, Research Evaluation and Assessment (DREA), my focus is on how the several departments within DREA can best serve our students, teachers, administrators, and community partners.  The immediate and primary focus of the division is simply put - Data.  Making sure that data is entered into our systems correctly and accurately, making sure it is available to our teachers, principals, curriculum supervisors, and district administrators, at a level and in a form that lets them make decisions that will help our students.  While the primary focus has been making sure we provide data to PPS staff to allow appropriate educational supports be put in place and improved for our students, the DREA team is also working to build public dashboards that will provide information to the public concerning the district’s progress on our strategic plan.



PUM: Tell us more about your background in this area and why is PPS a place where you can utilize your expertise. 


Dwyer: Since my entry into K-12 education, I have worked for several school districts in departments who were responsible for Data, Research, Evaluation and Assessment.  My experience working with educators at all levels helps me understand the service and support needs of the district to help our students.


PUM: As an evaluator and researcher and a person who appreciates Data, how will your office help support administrators, teachers and students.


Dwyer: We will focus on ensuring that our teachers, and administrators have data available to make fully informed decisions about the needs of our students.  In order to make sure that we are doing this there are several things that must happen:


  1. The data that we have in our student information system must be as complete and accurate as possible.  Our Data and Accountability Department works with school personnel and our IT department to ensure data are entered in a timely fashion into the Students Information System
  2. The assessments that we use are aligned to the curriculum and shared with teachers and administrators so they can use the information to help with educating our students.  The Assessment Department works to ensure that district assessments and state testing is completed and communicated to the schools, allowing teachers to collect and use information directly related to what they have been teaching.
  3. The reports and data that we provide is consistent and correct.   The Research and Evaluation Department works to ensure that data are appropriately used – in both research contexts and within the district.  For example (as it relates to administrators, teachers and student uses)the Data and Reporting group is a newly constituted group in the Research and Evaluation Department who will be working to provide reports to be used by teachers, administrators and partners external to the district.  Once this group is fully staffed and initial needs are met with schools and external partners, they will be tasked with creating front end dashboards to be published with the expectation that they will provide easily understandable information about all of the schools in Pittsburgh.


PUM:  Is there a specific area of data within PPS that you are currently studying, what are some of the various critical areas? 


Dwyer: The Superintendent has engaged in a commitment to the community in the form of our 2017-2022 Strategic Plan: Expect Great Things, which highlights the areas of greatest focus in order for the District to move toward the delivery of consistent high-quality curriculum to all of our students.  While there is a focus on improving the state test scores as one of the highly visible outcomes that will demonstrate improvement, he has also refocused the leadership on the need to provide a well-rounded educational experience to all of our students.  This well-rounded experience includes but is not limited to: experiential project based activities, re-alignment of the behavior system to focus on providing consistent behavioral interventions across the District, improving communication both within the District and with our community, purposeful use of available data at all levels of the District to be used as leading indicators for student performance and to drive systems improvement.



PUM: Tell us more about the implementation process, once your data presents findings, what happens next?


Dwyer: The intention of our office is to provide data and reports to the experts in the classroom (teachers), in the schools (coaches, principals), in the district (curriculum supervisors, district administrators, board members) and in the community. 


The district has committed to conducting program evaluations of the programs that we are putting in place in the district.  It is important to remember with new programs ensuring proper implementation is a key aspect of putting a program in place. As is often the case, implementing a program fully requires a full understanding of the program by teacher, principals and support staff. 


PUM: How are teachers able to access data about their students?   


Dwyer: The District has moved to an assessment platform which has an integrated and easy to use reporting system. 


Since this platform is new to PPS and the school year was just about to start, the IT department worked feverishly with DREA to load the last three years’ worth of State assessments and DIBELS to provide teachers a historic perspective of their incoming student’s performance.  Throughout the year more historical data will be added.


Unify by Performance Matters provides teachers with a quick access dashboard so they can quickly and easily see individual information about each student in their class - each teacher has access to a student’s testing history. There is also an easy to navigate reporting section which allows the teachers to see their class’s state test scores from prior years together with current assessment information to assist with course planning.


As students take the common district assessments throughout the year, teachers and administrators will have raw performance on the assessment and information on the student knowledge of the standards they  are being taught. 



PUM: What data is available to public to track District and school results? 


Dwyer: It is the expectation of the Superintendent and the School Board that there will be a public dashboard or scorecard that provides information to the public.

Currently, families can visit www.pghschools.org/discoverpps to learn more about our individual schools, including performance results, enrollment and budget information.  We are working to improve this platform to provide the public additional performance indicators, frequently updated.   Additional data easily available to the public are the accountability results published through the state’s School Performance Profiles (SPP).


PUM: When you are not deep into data and research what sort of fun projects do you participate in? 

Dwyer: I started my life in Pittsburgh by finding a church which helps me maintain balance in my life… once we have the DREA teams staffed and the department responsibilities aligned - I look forward to biking and hiking some of the wonderful trails I have been told about in Pgh and the surrounding parks in PA.  I am also really looking forward to participating in the Middle School Mentoring program at Sci-Tech.



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