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Assessment: Garland Quarles Elementary

December 05, 2016

Garland R. Quarles Elementary School Increased 3rd Grade Reading Achievement by 14% in 9 Weeks Using PowerSchool Assessment

Garland R. Quarles Elementary School in Winchester, Virginia serves 500 students, 40% of which are English-language learners (ELL), 20% are transient, and 80% live in poverty. The school implemented PowerSchool Assessment in 2013 to provide teachers with a tool to collect student performance data, prepare students for summative assessments, and give administrators a broad view of student performance.

“This tool has helped me tremendously with my instruction as a teacher. It allows me to pinpoint exact skills that have not been mastered based on the Standards of Learning (SOLs). It allows me to look at trends across data not only with my class but as well as across the grade level. PowerSchool Assessment also allows me to ask appropriate higher-level thinking questions based on Bloom’s Taxonomy. It also shows students a variety of question formats such as multiple-choice questions, drag and drop, and fill in the blank. This allows students to show mastery learning in all areas of their learning.”
–3rd grade teacher at GQES

Overview: The Challenges

In 2011, Garland R. Quarles Elementary School was identified by the Virginia Department of Education as a school accredited with warning, meaning it was “not within a narrow margin of, nor making acceptable progress toward, achieving the adjusted SOL pass rates required for full accreditation.” To work towards full accreditation, meeting the commonwealth’s high expectations for student learning and achievement, school principal Joanie Hovatter began searching for a solution.

Hovatter says that in addition to the demographic challenges associated with being a priority school, they also didn’t have a way to collect student performance data or have students track their own progress. Administrators also lacked a “big-picture” view of student performance, making it difficult to give teachers specific feedback to help propel student growth.
Lastly, the composition of its student demographics was 80% poverty, 40% ELL, and 20% transiency.

The School’s Goals

In order to get the school back on track, Hovatter laid out five goals for its new solution:

  1. Help teachers create and use effective formative assessments
  2. Use data to inform instructional decisions to improve learning
  3. Share successes and re-think what is not working by looking closer at the data
  4. Help students track their own progress
  5. Become an accredited school

Hovatter explained that the results from her school’s Academic Review helped her to understand the need to “see the big picture”. She went on to share, “From my position as principal, I needed to know the summative effect of how well our instruction was being delivered.”

The Solution

After choosing PowerSchool Assessment as the solution to meet the school’s goals and challenges, staff began to work swiftly to implement the new tool.  This time Hovatter was met with a challenge familiar to many administrators: getting everyone on board. “There was one non-negotiable,” she told us. ”Everyone was to use the tool. Some of my teachers were more technologically savvy than others, so I needed to help lessen fear by promoting opportunities for teachers to network, utilize, and maximize this tool’s capabilities.”

Hovatter focused on specific ways to encourage all teachers to embrace the new tool as their student-growth solution. “There were several times when we clicked ‘buttons’ and discovered, rather joyously, that we could learn more about each other’s classes; Webb’s Depth of Knowledge, Bloom’s Taxonomy Levels, as well as individual and class mastery of standards and skills. We learned that we could click on each item’s answer choices to see where the instruction was in need of improvement. We built a culture of support so teachers didn’t feel alienated by the administrators,” she said. She also shared that they used “PowerSchool Assessment to inform, instruct, and even inspire student learning.”

With the successful implementation of PowerSchool Assessment, Hovatter followed a seven-step strategy to use alongside the tool that resulted in her students’ incredible improvement:

  1. Establishing Goals
    By creating goals together, like how often they’d check on student progress, staff were able to focus on accomplishing a single mission and march forward to
    its success.
  2. Setting Weekly Check-ins
    Having the administrators and teachers sit down to meet each week to examine the data was helpful in making sure they were on track to meet the established goals.
  3. Developing Assessments
    After creating assessments and sharing them amongst teachers, they reflected on what instruction worked and what had not.
  4. Tracking the Reporting
    The ability to review student assessment results by mastery of standards, cognitive complexity, and class was helpful in identifying areas of weakness and excellence. Teachers also loved how they could glance at the color-coded reports to quickly see where a student fell in regards to performance.
  5. Using the Data to Inform Instruction
    Examining the data to uncover learning gaps that could be closed by re-teaching helped teachers guide instruction for continuous student growth.
  6. Building Student Achievement
    Fostering a culture of support meant that the teachers and leaders acknowledged small wins along the way as they worked together to increase student achievement.
  7. Celebrating Results
    “Recognizing positive progress is a huge part of the journey! Make sure to recognize your staff for their hard work,” Hovatter explained.

The Results

Garland Quarles Elementary was able to discard its previous classification as accredited with warning and have remained a fully accredited school every year since implementing PowerSchool Assessment. Using PowerSchool Assessment, Quarles teachers are not only using data to inform instructional decisions to improve learning but are also using it to accurately predict student performance on summative assessments. Hovatter said that because students are able to practice taking assessments in the software, they “feel prepared and confident with the technology and format of summative assessments.”

The school also achieved impressive results in mathematics where they were able to increase third grade achievement by 32%. Hovatter also shared that they “made a 14% increase in the school average in reading after less than nine weeks of using PowerSchool Assessment. This knowledge and first-hand experience of working side by side with teachers using this tool to create and administer their formative and summative assessments and collaboratively analyze the student data has inspired all of us at GQES and allowed us to continue to be a fully accredited school.”
Additionally, teachers loved the variety of question formats and higher-level thinking questions available to build assessments.

PowerSchool Assessment has helped the Quarles leadership team and teachers meet their goal of being able to view “big-picture” data trends across students, classes and grade levels. Following the incredible improvement at Garland R. Quarles Elementary School, the Winchester Public Schools district moved forward with implementing PowerSchool Assessment in the rest of its schools.

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