Vero Beach High School principal Eric Seymour knew that technology had progressed to the point where it could help his students who were lagging behind; he just had not found the right system yet: “In the 12 years that I have been an administrator, I have experienced several types of SIS [student information system] and LMS systems [learning management system] and had not been able to utilize the benefits of the two on a campus.” The biggest flaw, as he saw it, was that most systems relied on lagging data from previous assessments.
Seymour wanted something with formative assessment capabilities that could help his teachers tailor their classes to their students’ current abilities. In high school, every school day matters to a student in danger of not meeting graduation requirements.
The 2011–12 school year was a tumultuous time in Florida for education. Not only was the state rolling out an update to its statewide assessment, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT 2.0), but it was also transitioning to the Common Core State Standards. Vero Beach High itself was also utilizing the Response to Intervention (RTI) model. Delays in Tallahassee had made obtaining materials made for these new standards impossible.
Seymour’s first goal when looking into a computer-based supplemental solution was integration with the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, the Common Core, and RTI. Edmentum’s Study Island was that solution.
It started on the very first day of school, with Study Island’s Custom Assessment Builder creating a baseline test so teachers knew where each of their incoming students stood in relation to the standards.
“My teachers could create a blueprint of the students’ assessments in less than an hour after the students finished an assignment,” Seymour said. These assessments were strictly aligned to all the applicable standards and were much more accurate than anything else that was available.
Once the students were assessed, the research-based technology and interactivity took over to supplement the instruction being delivered in the classroom across all major subject areas. The goal was to improve student performance on the FCAT 2.0, as well as national exams like the Advanced Placement® tests, the SAT®, and the ACT®.
Seymour left the implementation of Study Island up to the individual teachers. Some had their students use the program daily, while others did so weekly. The program was made available to students at home and after school, with some teachers assigning supplemental activities outside of class. In total, 78 percent of students used Study Island outside of school at some point.
The main benefit of Study Island, as Seymour saw it, was in test preparation: “It takes away the fear. It builds self-esteem when a student experiences growth when no other process has worked for the years that a student has been assessed.”
With the students’ newfound confidence at test time, Vero Beach High experienced all-time high scores on the SAT in 2012, beating the state average by nearly 100 points.
Other students were less concerned with the SAT and more concerned with graduating. Seymour tells the story of one football player:
“This student was scheduled to receive a certificate of completion because he did not meet the requirements to receive the standard diploma after failing the FCAT reading three times. He was a football star and carried a 2.4 GPA. The last opportunity to take the exam before graduation was only three weeks away. This student spent 30 minutes a day (Monday through Friday before football practice) in the school athletic computer lab. This student is now at a junior college, maintaining a 2.8 GPA and is expected to graduate with an A.S. degree.”
Seymour was so confident in Study Island’s methodology and data that he validated the program as a record of proficiency so students could use their records from the system when applying to college.
Overall, 78 percent of the school’s struggling readers in 9th and 10th grades made learning gains on the 2012 FCAT.
With another year of Study Island under their belts, Vero Beach High’s teachers and administration expect further improvement in all categories, especially with their lower-performing students. This high-performing school can see a future where the achievement gap has been closed for these students, thanks to Edmentum’s Study Island.
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