Using Data to Find the Right Approach in Winder, Georgia
Using Data to Find the Right Approach in Winder, Georgia
Kennedy Elementary School - Winder, Georgia
Ryan Butcher, Principal
Grades Pre-K to 5
15% English language learners
17% special education
In 2014, Kennedy Elementary School (KES) in Barrow County, Georgia, was facing its fair share of challenges. As a Title I focus school, it needed an instructional program that could help prepare students for the Georgia Milestones Assessment System, address the needs of the bottom-performing 25 percent of students, and promote parent involvement in student learning.
Kennedy Elementary School in Barrow County, Georgia, initially turned to Edmentum's Study Island as a way to engage parents in student learning while addressing the needs of the bottom-performing 25 percent of students. Now, thanks to the incredible enthusiasm and effective use of data from both Study Island and Exact Path by teachers at KES, students are not only more comfortable and confident when it comes to taking NWEA MAP assessments, they are also achieving real growth on the Georgia Milestones assessments.
How They Did it:
The first challenge that Principal Ryan Butcher and the faculty at KES addressed was parent involvement. The search for the right program eventually led KES to implement Edmentum’s Study Island in grades 3–5 in 2014. The standards-based, K–12 practice, and formative assessment program provided practice to support classroom instruction and help students prepare for the Georgia Milestones and featured tools to engage parents. Using Study Island, teachers assigned lessons and activities for students to work on at home where parents could provide support and monitor progress. Also, teachers utilized Study Island’s parent notifications to keep parents in the loop about missing assignments, low scores, and more.
Mr. Butcher was thrilled to have found a solution that fulfilled the needs of the school’s parent engagement program and even more delighted to see that his teachers were utilizing other Study Island features to support classroom instruction as they became more familiar with the program.
“As we got into Study Island and saw what was available, we started using it to support assignments,” Mr. Butcher explained. “My teachers started using it as whole-group instruction, and kind of monitoring and going through the lessons to support the instruction that they had, and walking students through sample assignments and sample lessons.”
In 2017, KES teachers also started to use Study Island to address learning gaps identified by NWEA™ MAP® assessments through Edmentum’s partnership with NWEA.
“We can upload the students’ MAP scores into Study Island, and then it assigns specific tasks based off the needs of the students—it just pinpoints that instruction that these kids need, which makes it so much easier on the teachers,” said Mr. Butcher. “The reporting allows them to differentiate their instruction based off what the kids need.”
After a few years of successfully using Study Island for grades 3–5, KES added Edmentum’s K–8 individualized learning solution, Exact Path, to support students in grades K–2 in 2017. As with its Study Island implementation, KES wanted a program that students could work on from home and one that would provide students with age-appropriate content, deliver meaningful data to help guide instruction, and support teachers with lesson resources.
“Exact Path did two things,” explained Mr. Butcher. “It gave us something that the students enjoyed and the teachers liked, and it gave us the reporting that we needed to monitor what was going on.”
While parent engagement remains a key piece of the school’s Study Island and Exact Path implementation, educators utilize both programs extensively to supplement and support classroom instruction regularly. Students are expected to use Study Island or Exact Path a minimum of 40 minutes total per week. Every six days, KES students go to the computer lab where they spend at least 25 minutes working in Study Island or Exact Path, and teachers try to incorporate at least 20 minutes of reading or math practice in the programs during class time each week.
Teachers use reports provided by the programs to track student progress and better tailor instruction to student needs. According to Mr. Butcher, the data reports have been extremely helpful not only in saving teachers time but also in keeping students motivated and engaged in their learning.
For Study Island, there are two main reports that the faculty relies on.
“The reports we’re looking at for Study Island are the Blue Ribbon report and the Class Summary Report,” said Mr. Butcher. “We use the Blue Ribbon report as kind of our incentive for usage, and then I send in the Class Summary Report [to teachers]. The Class Summary Report gives them a little bit more insight. . . . They see the percentages, and they look at the lessons and then say, ‘What exactly are the students missing?’”
For Exact Path, teachers closely monitor student learning paths and track real-time progress.
“With Exact Path, teachers are looking at the skills that students are missing and then trying to adjust their instruction accordingly,” Mr. Butcher explained. “The nice thing about Exact Path is that it will group their kids for them. The teachers are pretty aware of where their kids need to be, but Exact Path gives them a little bit more. . . . It confirms they’ve got them in the right spot.”
Mr. Butcher said that reports from Study Island and Exact Path have been extremely helpful to teachers tailoring their supplemental instruction to support student needs.
“NWEA Map is such a good predictor of how students are going to score on our state’s assessment,” he said. “Now that Study Island will take the RIT scores and set them on the path for success and Exact Path is also helping set students on the path for success, it actually is just making our supplemental instruction so much better.”
Now that Study Island will take the RIT scores and set them on the path for success and Exact Path is also helping set students on the path for success, it actually is just making our supplemental instruction so much better.
In 2017, KES showed tremendous growth, particularly in mathematics, within its College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI), the measure which the state of Georgia uses to rank how well schools, districts, and the state are preparing students for the next educational level.
“We were the only school [in the district] that had [a score] in the 90s,” recalled Mr. Butcher. “We had the highest achievement in math, 5th grade math. We were in the top 15 percent of schools in the state of Georgia in math, but we had seriously high growth, so I think Study Island and Exact Path had a lot to do with that.”
Georgia updated the way CCRPI scores are calculated as of the 2017–18 school year, so scores from 2018 forward are not comparable to prior years. Even so, KES has continued to perform well in mathematics.
To the delight of Mr. Butcher, students at KES are also more comfortable and confident when taking NWEA MAP assessments, thanks to Study Island. During a post-assessment conference, a few 5th grade students shared with Mr. Butcher how they felt Study Island has helped them during their MAP assessment.
Mr. Butcher explained, “Some of the students were saying, ‘I saw some of that on Study Island. That really helped me get prepared for this. I went up 31 points. I went from a 205 to a 230, and now I went from yellow to green, which means I’m predicted to be proficient on the Milestones.’ And, we asked them what happened, and they said, ‘Well, the teacher helped me with this, but I saw it on Study Island.’”
Buy-in from teachers and students at KES has been key when it comes to the impact Study Island and Exact Path have had on the school according to Mr. Butcher. He credits the school’s recent growth and achievement to the teachers’ enthusiasm and effective use of the program.
“I love Study Island; I love Exact Path. They’re great support and supplement to instruction, but I can’t give them all the credit,” said Mr. Butcher. “A lot happens because of what the teachers do.”
My 4th and 5th grade teachers—if we did not have Study Island—they would riot.
When it comes to the school’s use of Study Island and Exact Path, Mr. Butcher said that he believes KES has the right approach.
“Teachers have to understand that it’s a supplemental program—it’s not just a program to put kids on to keep them busy,” he said. “I would definitely say that implementing Study Island and Exact Path is something worth doing, especially if you’re going to be using MAP as an assessment. . . . It’s really, really good.”
Mr. Butcher is also optimistic that KES will continue to see growth when it comes to MAP scores now that his staff is more familiar with Study Island and Exact Path.
“My 4th and 5th grade teachers—if we did not have Study Island—they would riot,” Mr. Butcher laughed.
Kennedy Elementary School plans to continue to utilize Study Island and Exact Path in the future, not only to continue using the NWEA MAP integration and at-home support but also to support additional subjects.
“Study Island is a good support,” Mr. Butcher said. “Our state has gone away from assessing 3rd and 4th grade in science and social studies, so we’ll continue to support that with Study Island. It actively helps engage the parents. I’m excited to continue to use it and see how it evolves and leads to more success for our kids.”