Goochland County Public Schools serve 2600 students outside of Richmond, VA. The district implemented PowerSchool Analytics in 2012 to more easily monitor student subgroups, meet federal objectives by tracking school and district performance data, and better meet the needs of all students by identifying exactly when they started struggling.
They had an assessment tool, but what they didn’t have was insight into how subgroup students were performing on all of their assessments, like MAP, PALS, WIDA, and CogAT. Without visibility, it was nearly impossible to catch and correct learning gaps immediately.
“By emphasizing growth, achievement comes naturally.”
–Sean Campbell, Division Data Analyst, Goochland County Public Schools
During the 2010-2011 school year, Goochland County Public Schools began looking for a solution to their challenges. Although the district was using a classroom and benchmark assessment tool, they were lacking a way to see how students were performing on all assessments like MAP, PALS, WIDA, and CoGat.
According to Sean Campbell, Goochland County’s Division Data Analyst, another challenge they faced was that “we didn’t really know how we could help effectively because there was no quantifiable way to determine if a student needed help or not. Principals couldn’t tell if they were missing any struggling students that needed additional help. And there was no way to track effectiveness—i.e., did the remediation work? We didn’t know.”
Teachers and administrators needed to prepare for the new school year by seeing how students had performed the year before—to determine which students needed to be closely monitored from the beginning.
Because there was no way to access data to identify and monitor struggling students, administrators were relying on two techniques: their gut instincts and a spiral-bound notebook. This meant that some kids who needed extra help got accidentally left off of the list to be monitored because there was no data to identify them.
Still, even if a student was identified to be monitored, there was no program in place to help them improve. They also didn’t have a way to organize test scores, assessment outcomes, or discipline referrals. They had five different spreadsheets to do it, but that meant they couldn’t see any trends. The process was also time-consuming—exactly what educators can’t afford.
The final straw was the failure to meet federal objectives by one of the district’s middle schools in 2010. As Campbell remembers, “it was the realization that our schools were beginning to struggle.”
STUDENT DATA WAREHOUSE
The power to have all past and present student data in one place is the foundation of the Analytics system. According to Campbell, “before using PowerSchool Analytics, our division really didn’t have a warehouse to store student information. You could go to a teacher and ask them about a specific child, however, they weren’t able to give you that longitudinal perspective of how that child did last year, or how that child did with a previous teacher. They could only tell you what that child was doing TODAY or maybe yesterday. And they were making decisions based on gut instincts.”
Not only did the student data warehouse help Goochland phase out gut decision making, but it also proved to be a tremendous time saver because it took the place of their 5-10 spreadsheet count at all times.
“The selling point was going into the Analytics system and showing our staff the data warehouse where all of the scores and assessment outcomes could live in one place instead of using a raw spreadsheet for PAL scores, attendance, and discipline referrals,” said Campbell. “Our teachers and administrators don’t have the time to pull up five different spreadsheets and match them up. No one can do that.”
WATCH LISTS AND INTERVENTIONS
When some of the middle school’s subgroups fell short of meeting their federal objectives, Campbell knew it was an area that needed extra attention. And they needed to get these struggling students up to speed fast.
The first place to start was the data—to make sure all struggling students were accounted for and being monitored. Principals replaced the spiral-bound notebooks with the digital watch list tool in PowerSchool Analytics and were able to set ‘eligibility criteria’ that would trigger an alert when a student fell below a certain threshold, signaling the need for remediation. Realizing how helpful this tool would be for their administrators, Campbell said, “the eligibility component sold every administrator. This tool made sure no child was missed.”
“Before we were literally using a piece of paper. They would say, ‘I think this is the list of all the kids’. Now we are pulling up the lists, and using the data to verify. It’s really changed the landscape and how teachers can specifically pinpoint their kids.”
According to Campbell, once a watch list criteria was triggered, they could set up an intervention program to be assigned to the student. “Now we can monitor the effectiveness of Tier I, Tier II, and afterschool interventions to see if they’re making a positive impact. We’re not just giving an intervention to give an intervention. We can analyze the data and see if it’s moving the needle.”
Overall, using PowerSchool Analytics has “led to rich conversations with Principals,” said Campbell. Now when they have grade level data meetings, the Principal goes in with data. “They can, for example, say ‘let’s pull up these performance snapshots of the 5th grade reading level. Let’s look at the struggling students.’
They’ll go through the watch list and talk about each student individually. The Principal can drill down and show the team that a student is receiving a Tier II reading intervention.”
“The teachers can collaborate and tell each other how they are doing their interventions and they come up with better approaches together,” he explained. “It’s a very powerful tool that they use in all of their grade level meetings,” adds Campbell.
Administrators can check in to see if they’re on track to meeting their school performance goals by looking at the performance snapshot overview. The visual graphs include proficiency bands which provide a glimpse of students who are grouped from ‘exemplary’ to ‘off track’, according to everything from grades to summative assessment scores.
Performance snapshots have been a favorite feature for Goochland school administrators. “The administrators are jumping up and down for this feature and want to use it now. Because they see the positive outcomes and see what it can do for our kids,” said Campbell.
Even better, they’ve been able to use the data to make improvements. “We’ve seen this complete and total shift. When we look at our performance, there is no doubt it has increased across the board. Even SATs and AP scores have increased across the board,” explained Campbell. Teachers have had great success using the feature to prepare for the year ahead. As Campbell said, “Administrators and teachers love performance snapshots.”
According to Campbell, the ability to quickly view metrics and instantly see which students did not pass the last summative exam, for example, is especially valuable. “Our math teachers love it especially! They love to see the previous performance. They compare back to watch lists to make sure they’re helping all of their kids that way. Same for interventions. Then they can make sure they get special attention to make sure they can help them increase their achievement and meet their performance objectives this year.”
Campbell said that teachers came to him eager to see the data for all students. From there, the teachers initiated meetings amongst themselves to analyze trends so they could make better decisions for their students. Teachers started asking questions like, “Is there somethig wrong with the 5th grade pacing guide?” “Maybe all rising 6th graders don’t have a good grasp of probabilities. How can we help with that?”
“This was HUGE,” explained Sean. “It is a unique culture; they are constantly pushing me. They want more data.”
STUDENT GROWTH ASSESSMENTS
Another part of the platform that has helped Goochland increase their state summative achievement is student growth assessments, which are given twice a year to measure how much students have learned throughout the term or year. They’re often used as a predictor of how students will perform on summative exams, as well, so teachers can adjust instruction before the end-of-year assessments are given.
“Our school division uses Student Growth Assessments to help predict whether or not students will pass the state assessments. We use these predictions to help with identifying what types of interventions these students need, and we’ve noticed that it has helped us target specific kids so they can make their state assessment objectives,” explained Campbell.
Goochland County Public Schools has seen exceptional results across the board. In 2015 the district’s ACT scores increased from 19.7 to 21.2. In 2016, the percentages of their AP students who passed the AP exam increased 55% to 75%. The district’s graduation rate saw a 5.3% up-tick when it went from 91.4% to an impressive 96.7%. Campbell said their district was most pleased with the fact that they had two of their critically monitored subgroups achieve 100% graduation rates this year. “It’s because we were able to identify these kids and monitor them to make sure their needs were met,” added Campbell.
“Looking at the 5-year trend, we can see how our drop-out rates have decreased,” Campbell explained, with drop-outs reduced from 3.1% to 1.9%.
With the help of PowerSchool Analytics, Goochland County Public Schools culture has evolved from gut instinct-driven to data-driven. “We made a commitment to use PowerSchool Analytics for at least 3-4 years. Our teachers said, ‘okay, if you’re going to commit to it, then we’ll do the training’. We’ve reached the point now where instead of beating the door down to train staff, they’re beating down my door to say ‘when are you going to show me what else this can do?”
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