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How a Medium-Sized District is Closing the Achievement Gap

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November 9th, 2017

The Clarke County School District is a mid-sized public school district in Athens, Georgia with just under 14,000 students. It serves all of Clarke County, which includes the communities of Athens, Winterville, and part of Bogart.

Recognized by the Georgia Department of Education as the “number one school district for closing the achievement gap”—the disparity in achievement between upper and middle class students and those from lower socioeconomic strata—the Clarke County School District officially became a charter system district on July 1, 2016.

Charter system districts can obtain waivers from “one-size-fits-all” state laws, rules, and restrictions. In return, they are expected to use new and innovative approaches to improve student outcomes.

In 2017, the Clarke County School District set forth a strategic plan to help all students achieve their potential. The plan included a commitment to use learning technologies to enhance research, intervention, and communication with parents and guardians.

“We’ve been collecting lots of data on the children in our district, but it was located in many different places and difficult to summarize,” said Tim Jarboe, the district’s Director of Assessment & Accountability. “We knew we had a data accessibility problem.”

Because data points on students were collected in a variety of formats, managing the data created a lot of manual work for teachers. It was nearly impossible to gain meaningful insights that could help improve student outcomes.

During the 2015-16 school year, district officials decided that things needed to change. What the district really needed was a single place to house all the district’s data, as well as a system that would create efficiencies and run robust analytics.

According to education researcher Douglas Reeves, disengaged students struggle with feelings of disrespect and disempowerment, impeding their success in both the classroom and the wider world.

In search of technology that could consolidate all the district’s valuable data, Jarboe and his staff soon realized that few systems offered the kind of data analytics and distribution components they required.

Illuminate Education’s Data & Assessment system (DnA) immediately stood out because of features like Summary Assessments, which offered a powerful data analytics tool. DnA’s Form Letters feature also attracted attention, because it could be used to streamline data distribution to faculty and parents.

In addition, Illuminate enables Clarke County School District to facilitate academic intervention for the right students at the right time.

By integrating a literacy screener that is normed on a large sample of diverse public school students from the southern United States, the DnA platform is helping district administrators quantify literacy targets for every student. Teacher and administrators can see right away which students need extra help, and then step in earlier to get struggling students up to speed.

But the platform does more than match test scores with benchmarks. It gives teachers a singular ecosystem of continuous feedback to dramatically improve student performance. The platform provides teachers with a single place to build and administer formative assessments, capture and analyze complex data to inform instruction, and direct students to learning resources that support specific state standards. It’s one-stop shopping for teachers.

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Illuminate Education is a provider of educational technology and services offering innovative data, assessment and student information solutions. Serving K-12 schools, our cloud-based software and services currently assist more than 1,600 school districts in promoting student achievement and success.

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  1. Dustin on August 8, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    When you say “data” does that mean big data?

    • Logan E on October 18, 2018 at 11:12 am

      Sure. Perhaps not as big as a real-time, global IOT data set. Educational institutions produce a relatively large data stream in general. I have yet to approach an upper limit on what Illuminate can handle.

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