Grades Six Through Eight Curriculum Coordinator
Setting, meeting academic milestones
Beaufort County Schools seeks the best education for students
Beaufort County Schools in Washington, NC, wanted to take the guesswork out of determining which children need tutoring, which seventh graders are ready to take algebra in eighth grade and which teaching methods are most productive. With SAS EVAAS® (Educational Value-Added Assessment System) for K-12, Beaufort County Schools can predict success probabilities at numerous academic milestones and better measure interventions.
Every time we find a new way to look at the data or analyze the data, I say 'I know I can use this'. Data is concrete. It helps to tell a story.
The state of North Carolina tests students in grades 3 through 8 in reading and math yearly, and also requires state tests in several high school subject areas. Beaufort County, with 7,239 students at 13 schools, used to compile test results in Excel spreadsheets.
"We would do it by hand and it was a monster,"' explains Ashley Padgett, Beaufort County Curriculum Coordinator for grades 6 through 8.
SAS EVAAS® for K-12 builds on the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) methodology developed by Dr. William L. Sanders and his colleagues at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Value-added assessment eliminates the possibility of a distorted view of effective schooling by following the progress of individual students. Additionally, SAS EVAAS for K-12 offers a rich environment for educational research. Delivered in a user-friendly and secure Web application, it provides teachers and administrators with a powerful diagnostic tool.
With SAS EVAAS for K-12, Beaufort County:
- Recognizes the students most likely to need tutoring services early in the year. By looking at a student's trajectory on testing, schools select true "at risk" students. Placing students in tutoring based on one test score, or teacher assumptions gathered from the first few weeks of class, can be detrimental as some students don't need the extra tutoring and can actually be hurt by it (if they're missing regular classroom time or begin to assume they aren't good students).
- Identifies and increases the number of students taking algebra in seventh or eighth grade. Building on more than 20 years of research, SAS EVAAS for K-12 looks at end-of-grade test scores in all subjects over several years to identify students most likely to succeed in middle school algebra. The number of students recommended by SAS EVAAS for K-12 is typically much higher than classroom teacher recommendations. The seventh grade enrollment for algebra has doubled in the last three years because of EVAAS data. The enrollment in grade 8 algebra has increased by 20 students.
- Distinguishes teachers and teaching methods that are particularly effective. Beaufort County does not rate teachers using SAS EVAAS for K-12, but Padgett will look for teachers whose students show exceptional growth from one year to the next and ask them to share their methods with other teachers.
- Discovers which subgroups of students aren't making as much growth as predicted. Padgett recently found a school that was doing a great job with weak and advanced students, but struggled to help average students excel.
SAS EVAAS for K-12 pokes holes in education myths
Padgett had to convince some teachers to use the At-Risk Student feature of SAS EVAAS for K-12 because teachers feared it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The software provides schools with a percent score of the likelihood of a child passing an end-of-grade test, and Padgett saw that schools that immediately intervened for students at high risk dramatically changed the outcome for those children. "It was almost as though SAS EVAAS for K-12 was wrong,'' Padgett said. But she knows the prediction was correct because at schools that ignored the at-risk report, students failed in percentages closely aligned to what the software predicted.
SAS EVAAS for K-12 is also a terrific tool for convincing parents that a certain intervention or placement is the right option. For parents hesitant to let their child take algebra in seventh or eighth grade, the software's prediction can help encourage them to enroll their child in that class.
SAS EVAAS for K-12 is also great at busting myths about which schools do a better job of preparing students for the next level, and looking at transition gaps as a whole. The transition to middle school in grade 5 has been tough for a large number of Beaufort County students across all the middle schools. "So we know this isn't an issue with teachers,'' says Padgett.
What was more interesting was when she looked at grade 9 performance and mapped it back to the middle school attended. The school that was perceived to be not as rigorous actually had the better-prepared students, Padgett adds.
Taking metrics to the next level
Padgett currently has projects underway to find ways to use SAS EVAAS for K-12 to find students who haven't been identified for academically gifted and talented programs. She also just used it to study the outcome of a mastery-based approach at one middle school, where teachers used mini-assessments to move to the next study area when the class was ready (as opposed to spending a certain number of days in that area). "The approach didn't yield the test score improvement the teachers hoped to see the first year, but in the second year the improvement is remarkable," Padgett says.
"Every time we find a new way to look at the data or analyze the data I say: 'I know I can use this'," Padgett says. "Data is concrete. It helps to tell a story."
Required a system to identify students that are most at-risk for failing, make sure all children are making adequate yearly progress in core subject areas, as well as identify students who are capable of taking challenging math courses in middle school.
- Can now measure student progress objectively and accurately to improve instruction.
- Strategically plan equitable learning opportunities.
- Employ a system for evaluation and support of teachers and principals.
- Enable more rigorous longitudinal analysis of student test results.