A clear path to K-12 student success
Pennsylvania Department of Education
SAS helps students and teachers reach their full potential with analytics.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education uses SAS® EVAAS® for K-12 to make sound instructional choices and foster student growth
Education requires an understanding of what drives students – and how to get the most from often limited resources. That’s why today’s most effective educators use data to continually improve their methods to promote academic success.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education oversees 500 public school districts and more than 170 public charter schools. Its mission – access to a world-class education for every student. The department relies on SAS EVAAS for K-12, which provides valuable diagnostic information about past practices as well as students’ likely success at various academic milestones.
SAS spoke with two Pennsylvania principals to get an in-depth look at how their schools are using SAS EVAAS for K-12, referred to as “PVAAS” for Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment System.
There’s less reliance on hunches or assumptions. Stacey Cherny Principal of South Side Elementary School Pennsylvania Department of Education
What challenges were you trying to address with PVAAS?
Stacey Cherny, Principal, South Side Elementary School (Dauphin County): We initially focused on the school value-added report, looking at how we are growing students at the fourth- and fifth-grade levels. Each year, we’ve added a little more, digging a little deeper. Now, we can look at different groups of students and their achievement levels to see where we’re doing a good job nurturing our students.
Aaron Taylor, Principal, Waynesboro Area Middle School (Franklin County): One of the biggest things that the district administrators and I were interested in was determining a better way to place our students into math classes, particularly pre-algebra and algebra. Once students were enrolled in those classes, we wanted to make sure that we were supporting them appropriately to ensure their success.
How did you use PVAAS to place students in the ideal classes or services to meet their needs?
Taylor: One predictor of student performance is based on students’ PSSA [Pennsylvania System of School Assessment] scores. Students begin taking these end-of-grade tests in the third grade. By the time a child reaches middle school, there’s several years’ worth of data that goes into PVAAS. That's a good indicator of student success – and which students need some support to change the upcoming projection.
We started to use that information to make decisions about who was going into our pre-algebra and algebra sections, specifically the students that we were accelerating. And we’ve had a lot of success. Since we began using PVAAS to help place students in the ideal math class, 90-96 percent of our students have been proficient or advanced on end-of-course exams.
How are teachers benefiting from your school's use of PVAAS?
Cherny: My answer is twofold. First, we use PVAAS data to ensure we’re playing to the strengths of each teacher so they can have the greatest impact on their students. Second, we use PVAAS data as a motivator to show teachers that their hard work and commitment is making a difference in student growth.
We begin by reviewing PVAAS data at the whole-school level, then I review it individually with the teachers. We dig down into the data, and we make decisions based on what the data is telling us in terms of who needs extra support in their instruction. We’re looking at things like: Is the teacher developing their students as expected? Then we look at the teacher's strengths in terms of growth for high-, middle- and low-achieving students.
We've moved teachers to different grade levels based on what we've seen. For instance, I have a fifth-grade teacher who is phenomenal at growing advanced students. Sometimes we find that it's more of a challenge to grow the advanced students because not all educators know how to keep them growing. So having one teacher who really understands how to do that – and has demonstrated through the data that they can do that well – allows us to make different student placements.
Prior to PVAAS, our teachers felt like they were at a disadvantage because we're getting kids coming in the door two or three years below grade level, and it’s impossible to catch a kid up three grade levels in one year. And you can't really plan for it – it's so transient, students are coming and going. With PVAAS, teachers feel like they're at an even playing field, because we really stress that we're not going to focus on how behind students are. Instead, we're going to focus on how much we can grow them. And if we continue to just focus on growth, the proficiency will eventually come.
Pennsylvania Department of Education – Facts & Figures
Public school districts
How has student performance improved since implementing PVAAS?
Cherny: One good example I can share pertains to fourth-grade science. For a couple years, our end-of-grade test scores were low. The teachers were following the district curriculum, so we didn’t know why the scores weren’t reflecting the teaching effort. We looked at our state standards, reviewed the curriculum and saw how we could work a little smarter. We discovered that the district curriculum was written off of a program that the district had purchased, and not necessarily state standards. We began aligning our curriculum more toward the state standards.
After they made that adjustment, we went from around 50 percent proficiency on the PSSA up to 73 percent proficiency in one year. Ultimately, PVAAS prompted us to take a deeper look, because that was the only subject area where we were below the mark across the board.
Taylor: We’re better positioned to challenge academically gifted students as well as those students who are at the opposite end of the spectrum who need more support. We've made some changes to our schedule, and we've created a program we call “WIN,” which stands for “What I Need.” It’s a 40-minute period where all of our students – gifted students, supported students and remediated students – receive some individual support every day. This encouragement and one-on-one attention goes a long way.
In addition to math acceleration classes for our academically gifted students, we've also created some advanced science and English language arts (ELA) courses. We really want to try to accelerate the curriculum, because a lot of our students are reading at post-high-school levels. PVAAS has helped us find the “cream of the crop” so we can better cultivate their academic progress.
What advice would you give to other principals who are considering using SAS EVAAS for K-12?
Cherny: It’s about helping everyone reach their full potential. The solution can help improve things for your school, for your teachers and for your students. The diagnostic information can help identify the various needs of your students, helping you foster their growth and development. There’s less reliance on hunches or assumptions – by applying sound data, you can address both professional development and student development.
Taylor: Some people find data intimidating at first. I recommend starting in a place that you believe you can make an immediate impact. Where is the biggest glaring need? And what group or department would be most willing to change? Focus on one thing that you want the data to do for you – for instance, projection reports to help with class scheduling. Soon, folks will see the great potential and power the solution provides to enhance their academic programs.