Tolbert Elementary School is located in Gordon County in northwestern Georgia in the small town of Resaca with only 774 residents. Four out of five students come to school from an economically disadvantaged home. Like many districts and schools, resources are tight, and the challenge was no different for Tolbert Elementary.
“We needed our students to have more real test experience,” said Tolbert Elementary principal Kederia Angland. “In particular, we knew that our science and social studies scores were low because of lack of vocabulary. We wanted to expose our kids to as much vocabulary as we could.”
In 2010, Study Island was brought in to help address these perceived shortcomings in the students’ skills with English language arts, math, science, and social studies. But it wasn’t initiated by the district.
“It wasn’t until the 2015–16 school year that the county provided us with Study Island,” informed Angland. “Before then, it was our PTO [Parent Teacher Organization] who purchased the product. And what a difference it has made!”
Tolbert Elementary uses a positive support system called Tribe Tickets that operates as the currency of the school. On designated Tribe Ticket Trade Days, a highly anticipated school event, students turn in their tickets for various rewards of value. Students earn tickets for good behavior and grades but also through earning blue ribbons on Study Island.
“Once we implemented the competition for blue ribbons in science and social studies, our scores were on the way up,” reported Angland.
Demand has been so great for opportunities to earn blue ribbons (from students and teachers alike) that Study Island has wide usage across the curriculum. Students are working on it at stations in classroom, in a designated computer lab, and at home as well.
Gordon County School District as a whole takes family involvement very seriously—to the point of employing two full-time family involvement coordinators. A certain percentage of Title I funding is withheld for the specific purpose of funding outreach events, all in an effort to engage parents in their child’s education and turn schools into communities.
The Tolbert Elementary parents’ investment in Study Island has paid off. Since 2010, the school has increased its proficiency scores in every subject tested. The targeting of science and social studies has been particularly effective. In both subjects, more than a quarter of Tolbert Elementary’s students were not meeting expectations in the 2011–12 school year. In 2013–14, that number decreased to only 10 percent.
Students at Tolbert Elementary answered just under 102,000 questions in March 2016 and spent 5,728 hours in Study Island in 2015–16, which is roughly 32 cumulative hours per school day. Georgia moved to a new assessment system in 2014–15 that is incompatible for comparison with the previous years, but Tolbert Elementary scored above both state and district averages in every subject.
“We truly believe that Study Island helps prepare students for EOG Milestone testing [the new Georgia assessments],” said Angland. “Our science and social studies scores have vastly improved over the years.”
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