Mona Lise Dickson
Lady’s Island Middle School
Can analytics help students succeed? Yes
Student growth information leads to improvements in student achievement
It’s a quandary every principal has likely faced. A teacher develops an alternate curriculum with the goal of helping students learn more than the standard curriculum. But how does a principal know if it's working? For Lady’s Island Middle School Principal Mona Lise Dickson, the answer is simple: Examine multiple years of student growth under that teacher to gauge the value of that curriculum.
Principals are always on the hunt for good practices that help students stretch their skills, but if the creative curriculum efforts aren’t working, “I can show the teacher that what they are doing is not as effective as our standard curriculum,’’ explains Dickson. Lady’s Island is one of several schools in South Carolina that use a comprehensive, value-added reporting system to measure student progress. Rather than look simply at how many of a teacher’s students pass or fail state tests - or how their scores compare with other students - the reporting system shows how much students have grown during the year.
Each school in the program receives an interactive reporting system that includes reflective, diagnostic and predictive tools for teacher and school improvement. This type of data “toolkit” looks back at three years of trends and allows educators to drill into results based on various student characteristics and achievement levels. But the data alone doesn’t catalyze improvement. The schools need to use the data to support teachers’ professional growth through differentiated professional development, meaningful evaluation conferences and goal setting.
One teacher said they were teaching in the dark until SAS® EVAAS® for K-12 helped show them their weak areas.
Mona Lise Dickson
In action, the growth model helps pinpoint the types of students that might fall through the cracks - whether they are gifted, of average ability or struggling - and alerts staff to pay more attention to how they are working with them.
The results: Students at Lady’s Island are performing better on the state PASS tests. The percentage of students at the “met” or “exemplary” performance levels increased by 10.6 percent in sixth grade English language arts and by 15.7 percent in sixth grade science. Dickson said this resulted from school leaders and teachers taking ownership over their effect on student growth and sharing it in a culture of trust.
“Many teachers embrace the opportunity to grow themselves and their students. They are open to changing the way they teach,’’ Dickson says, adding, “One teacher said they were teaching in the dark until SAS® EVAAS® for K-12 helped show them their strengths and weaker areas.” .
Success across the state
Lady’s Island isn’t the only school that has benefited from a valued-added approach to understanding how well students are growing.
Bell Street Middle School Principal Brenda Romines helps teachers understand how well they do with different populations of students. “For instance, if a teacher shows growth with high-achieving kids, but less growth with low-achieving ones, we can look into what factors may contribute to that. I can also use that information to place teachers where they can have the greatest impact on student learning,’’ says Romines, whose school is in Clinton, SC.
Romines says the information can be a support for difficult conversations. “Sometimes we have weaker teachers, and we try to pair them with a stronger one. We don’t want a child to sit in two weak teachers’ classrooms.” It has also given Romines proof to present to teachers who believe that some students can’t be taught. “We have proof that there are teachers who are successful with these students.” Romines is beginning to see results: The percentage of students achieving “met” or “exemplary” performance levels on the state PASS tests (across all grades and subjects) increased by more than 7 percent.
Provide teachers with feedback on their teaching tactics that are successful in helping students learn and identify those that could be improved.
Schools are showing increased growth on state-mandated tests and teachers are receiving more targeted information to help improve their practice.
The who and how of value-added assessment
Teachers: Measure student progress objectively and accurately to improve instruction.
Principals: Strategically plan equitable learning opportunities.
Superintendents: Employ a system for evaluation and support of and for teachers and principals.
Policy Makers: Enable more rigorous longitudinal analysis of student test results.