The Danville Area School District is located in the scenic Susquehanna Valley of Pennsylvania, and is the sole school district in Montour County. Approximately 2,500 students are served by an experienced and qualified staff of over 210 teachers and 17 administrators. The district’s strategic plan emphasizes how technology can facilitate more effective learning by engaging students in the content and empowering them with more responsibility for their academic careers. Part of the district’s challenge, however, is implementing this strategic plan across its academically diverse student population, at all levels, while simultaneously and accurately monitoring student progress.
In 2009, Danville Area School District (DASD) implemented Study Island as its technology solution for students in grades 3–12. Study Island has had a profound impact across the district’s student population. It has implemented the program as an enrichment tool for advanced learners, a remediation tool for struggling learners, a grade-level benchmark solution, and a progress-monitoring tool for individualized education programs (IEPs). The program has helped DASD become a district where instruction is truly data driven.
Study Island’s benchmark assessments are used with students beginning in the third grade, and the results of those benchmarks are used to target instruction and provide remediation and enrichment where needed. As Dawn Brookhart, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction put it, “Study Island enables us to administer meaningful benchmark assessments. More important, it provides a prescriptive solution that addresses individual student needs.”
Study Island serves as an effective progress-monitoring tool for DASD’s special education teachers. “This has been a critical component in our ability to close the achievement gap,” Brookhart said. The district uses the program to benchmark IEP students against grade-level standards and provide remediation content as needed. Study Island also helps DASD serve the needs of its advanced students by providing material that is above grade level, keeping accelerated students engaged. Advanced Placement® teachers at the district’s high school leverage the program and frequently make use of Study Island materials as “bell-ringer” activities at the start of class.
In 2013-14, DASD students achieved 80 percent proficiency on the literature Keystone Exams, by far the highest in central Pennsylvania. Algebra I Keystone scores have also reflected high achievement, with 73 percent proficiency in 2014 and 79 percent in 2013. Prior to the implementation of the Keystone Exams in 2013, the district’s Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) scores for grades 11 and 12 also increased steadily since it began using Study Island. In 2008, before adoption of Study Island, the district’s PSSA scores in reading were at a 78.7 percent proficiency rate, and math scores stood at 60.6 percent proficiency. By 2012, reading proficiency increased to 87.6 percent and math proficiency increased to 85.6 percent.
In 2014, Danville Area High School was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School. The high school had the highest scores in the region on the statewide School Performance Profile—92.7 percent and 92.9 percent in the past two years—and was recognized by U.S. News & World Report as being in the top 3.5 percent of best high schools in the nation.
However, DASD’s success has been about more than numbers. As Brookhart reported, “Our story is that of creating a common belief system, a shared leadership model, and a systemic approach to aligning our curriculum, instruction, and assessment to the Pennsylvania Core and Common Core standards.” She goes on to say, “Study Island played a key role in the transformation of our schools by providing our teachers with the tools necessary to assess, remediate, and enrich all learners.”
Success breeds success, and Danville Area School District plans to continue using Study Island to raise achievement for all students at all levels. Because of the success the district has experienced with Study Island, it decided to also begin using Edmentum’s Reading Eggs for its youngest learners as a foundational literacy solution in 2014. In recognizing the need to provide a comprehensive educational system that holistically addresses the needs of the learner, the district will continue to make use of technology that teaches transferrable skills and offers differentiated and personalized learning for every student, in every grade, at every level.
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