Innovative educators constantly strive for better methods of instruction and more effective tools to drive student growth. The same is true for Iowa’s New London Community School District, as they have discovered an effective solution to improved teaching and learning through a combination of transitioning to a customized standards-based grading (SBG) system and implementing the right educational technology solution to help expose student struggles and successes on core skills in order to better inform instruction.
New London transitioned to K-12 standards-based grading to better track student progress towards specific learning goals and standards in 2015 and within a year the district piloted PowerTeacher Pro, the digital gradebook and classroom management tool included in the PowerSchool Student Information System. Now, New London can see a visual breakdown of competency on each standard for the whole class including specific data for final standard grades for any given standard.
“PowerTeacher Pro gives us the ability to easily drill into student learning and access valuable information to help change instruction for the better,” says Allison Lair, Language Arts / Curriculum Director, New London Community School District. “Because of the program and how we’ve set up our standards, we are able to change instruction to benefit our students. It allows us to easily access student proficiency data skill by skill, and the reports allow us to drill down to see all of the supporting data in an easy-to-understand format.”
The community of New London has been educating students since 1839 when it opened a log cabin school with just 30 students. It now serves over 500 PreK-12 students in an elementary and secondary school, and the district has been a 1:1 district since 2012. It has been using PowerSchool SIS since the 1997-98 school year.
The district has completed extensive work on building its standards, using the Iowa Core standards and district standards, and forming customized “I Can” core standards. “I Can” statements are simple sentences designed by teachers and taken from the curriculum’s learning objectives. The statements empower students, provide a common focus, communicate what is important to parents, and increase motivation and confidence. They can be especially effective because they break down larger objectives into obtainable learning targets students can read and easily understand.
At the New London Community School District, teachers make their own lesson plans, starting with reviewing standards for their next day of instruction. In PowerTeacher Pro, piloting teachers view the standards in a graph, and if students are already proficient in the standards, the teacher can change the planned instruction to focus on lessons the students need. Ultimately, PowerTeacher Pro allows teachers to spend time with students in areas that students need instead of revisiting existing areas already mastered.
“PowerSchool and PowerTeacher Pro is helping the school district through the classroom graphing view of proficiency,” says Deb Broghammer of the Grant Wood Area Education Agency, which administers education technology and other education services to New London Community School District. “They are using this view at a quick glance to determine if a class is proficient in specific standards and that planned instruction included those specific standards. With the easy view available in PowerTeacher Pro, they are able to change their planned instruction based on how the class is learning and performing, which helps use instructional time more wisely and helps boost student learning.”
“Because of PowerTeacher Pro visual graphs, and because our ‘I can’ statements are so specific, we’re able to identify areas where students are struggling and spend more time and focused planning on that,” says Lair. “And we can also quickly and easily see what students are mastering so we don’t waste valuable instructional time. PowerSchool Pro will really help us streamline this process. We are excited to roll the reports out to our full staff in the 2017-2018 school year.”
The district needed a streamlined method to identify struggling students and inform when interventions were needed to help them get back on track. It had been using a variety of tracking reports but lacked consistency and the technology to do it easily.
“The PowerTeacher Pro standards progress report is exactly what we were looking for. It provides a visual report that is color-coded and shows scores so we can quickly scroll down the list to see which students we need to intervene with on particular ‘I Can’ statements. Rather than having to comb through my gradebook or endless pages in binders, I can now easily access all of the information I need through PowerTeacher Pro reports.”
New London Community School District also uses PowerTeacher Pro’s distribution report to boost communication and collaboration within the education staff. “For example, this feature makes language arts data team conversations better and more powerful,” Lair says, “Each week, all language arts teachers meet and bring n one assessment based on an ‘I Can’ statement that students are struggling with. I also bring in student data pulled from PowerTeacher Pro, the student assessments, and the results. Then we talk about what we need to do to bring students up to mastery level. We also discuss ones they’re doing well at, and that report saves us time. Rather then working with spreadsheets, all of the data is at our fingertips. It allows us to have more time for the invaluable conversations.”
With PowerTeacher Pro, students at New London Community School District are receiving an improved K-12 education experience while teachers are empowered with innovative educational technology tools to enhance their standards-based grading efforts.
“PowerTeacher Pro is saving us time on data collection so that now we have time for the real learning conversations,” Lair says. “Before, it was taking me 20 minutes in the school day to build a standards report, but now with PowerTeacher Pro, the report is done instantly and I can spend that 20 minutes on giving students feedback or creating more powerful classroom assessments or interventions—things that affect student learning. Embracing technology like PowerTeacher Pro will help us transform education away from the treadmill model and into a model that allows us individualize education to better help all students grow.”
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