Focusing on Growth Instead of Grades Helps One Oklahoma School Achieve Both
Focusing on Growth Instead of Grades Helps One Oklahoma School Achieve Both
Millwood High School - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
100% Economically Disadvantaged
24.5% Students with Disabilities
From her time as a school turnaround specialist, Dawn Bowles has learned that if you want to make a big impact, you must make big changes. This was exactly the approach she took when she became a first-time principal at Millwood High School (MHS), a part of Millwood Public Schools in Oklahoma City. The school had struggled in the past and began the 2019–20 school year with an F rating from the state of Oklahoma. As Ms. Bowles built her plan to turn the school around, she let a singular focus guide her.
“I had one goal and one goal only, and that was that we would not be an F school by the time I finished,” explained Ms. Bowles.
To achieve this goal, Ms. Bowles and her team completely changed the school’s culture and climate and also adopted the mantra “keeping it 100,” as the school worked toward a 100-percent graduation rate.
Millwood High School (MHS) is part of Millwood Public Schools, an independent school district located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In 2019, MHS was rated an F by the state; however, with the appointment of a new principal and the hard work of the faculty and staff, MHS revamped its educational approach to a blended learning model utilizing Courseware and Test Packs from Edmentum and then seamlessly transitioned to completely virtual instruction in the spring of 2020. After one school year of implementing the new instructional approach, the school has already begun to see remarkable growth in student achievement that couldn’t even be thwarted by a pandemic.
How They Did it:
As a part of the turnaround planning process, Ms. Bowles and her team took a fresh look at the school’s current online programs. For several years, educators and students at MHS had used Courseware, Edmentum’s 6–12 online curriculum, for credit recovery but had never taken the implementation further than that. After reviewing and learning how the programs worked and seeing how they could support student success, Ms. Bowles made the decision to move forward with a schoolwide implementation of Courseware and added Edmentum Test Packs, Edmentum’s fixed assessments with individualized learning paths. Ms. Bowles and her team designed a blended learning model with Courseware at the center.
“Edmentum literally was our foundational curriculum,” stated Ms. Bowles. “The content was so rich that we didn't have to search for a supplemental text. When we were able to see, ‘Wow, this has everything you need,’ it became our actual textbook for the curriculum.”
While Courseware serves as the content that lays the foundation for core instruction at MHS, Edmentum Test Packs are used to identify and address knowledge gaps and to help students prepare for the state assessments. At the beginning of 2019–20 school year, all MHS students took the first Edmentum Test Packs assessment and then worked on their automatically generated individualized learning paths during their advisory class periods. Although each student’s assessment results and learning paths were unique, all students were working toward the same goal: to improve their assessment score in every content area by 20 percent by the end of the school year.
To help get the blended learning program up and running, MHS relied on Edmentum’s education consulting and professional learning services.
“Dr. Lymari Rodriguez (education consultant, Edmentum) was our coach,” said Ms. Bowles. “I won't say she was our coach; she was a part of our staff. She was not a separate entity; she was a part of our plan, a part of our school improvement model for this year. She's been wonderful to work with. Then, of course, everyone knows Rachel Robins (partnership manager, Edmentum). She was right along with Dr. Rodriguez.”
Transitioning to Virtual Learning
In March of 2020, schools across the nation had to close their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so administrators had to quickly develop and execute plans to meet students’ needs outside of the physical classroom. Because MHS had made the switch to blended learning at the start of the 2019–20 school year, transitioning to virtual instruction was a simple process.
“I was not stressed, worried, or concerned one bit because I knew we had everything we needed, and it was such a relief because we didn't have to learn anything new as far as delivery or platform,” Ms. Bowles reported.
MHS continued its standard alternating block schedule online, with students engaging in live instruction with their teachers two days per week and working in their Edmentum programs two days per week. On Fridays, students took mastery tests in Courseware to assess mastery of the concepts they learned during the rest of the week. The communication features built into the Courseware and Edmentum Test Packs platform also proved very useful.
“I could send out mass announcements to the entire student body—we can send out grade-level messages, classroom messages,” explained Ms. Bowles. “We were able to post recordings as well. If a student had to miss class, they could go back and watch the video recording all in one place.”
Edmentum literally was our foundational curriculum. The content was so rich that we didn't have to search for a supplemental text. When we were able to see, ‘Wow, this has everything you need,’ it became our actual textbook for the curriculum.
Students took their second Edmentum Test Packs assessment in December to track their progress toward their goals. Based on the results, nearly half of the students in the school had already met or exceeded their growth targets for the entire year.
“I'm happy to say that before midyear, we were already off the F list, with the exception of the state test because we didn't get to take that,” said Ms. Bowles. “In every other category, we had As or Bs. We worked our behinds off this year.”
In addition to achieving academic growth, MHS also achieved its graduation rate goal of 100 percent for the 2019–20 school year.
According to Ms. Bowles, multiple factors contributed to the school’s success, including her wonderful staff members’ belief in the instructional program, the products, and the process. Ms. Bowles also expressed immense gratitude for a supportive board of education, and the guidance and leadership of Superintendent Robinson-Woods.
“It was so monumental because Edmentum allowed us to become one as an academic environment,” Ms. Bowles said.
Dr. Lymari Rodriguez (education consultant, Edmentum) was our coach. I won't say she was our coach; she was a part of our staff. She was not a separate entity; she was a part of our plan, a part of our school improvement model for this year. She's been wonderful to work with.
“Next year, we will continue with it—we will improve where we need to improve, but if we did it this year, we can do it next year,” said Ms. Bowles. “If we get it this year—and everybody was brand new, novice, from the teachers to the principal—we're going to knock it out next year.”
To districts who are in the process of selecting their online learning program provider, Ms. Bowles offers this advice:
If you're looking for a company who offers not only a great product online but also wonderful, personable, skilled, knowledgeable, and passionate people, then you're wanting to choose Edmentum because I found all of those things through not just working with the program but partnering with the mission of Edmentum, and that is to educate and to empower and to bring excellence to any academic environment possible.