A high school in Bulloch County, Georgia, proves that an innovative teaching approach, combined with the right technology tools, can add up to significant gains in math proficiency.
About Statesboro High School
Located fifty miles from Savannah, Georgia, Statesboro High School (SHS) serves a diverse student body of approximately 1,500 in Bulloch County. Founded in 1901, SHS strives to be a model of excellence in public education, and to ensure that each of its students is uniquely prepared to enter the workforce.
Most educators recognize the fundamental role math education plays in preparing students for college and career opportunities. Like many of their counterparts nationwide, however, students at SHS were struggling to grasp foundational mathematics concepts, like those found in Analytic Geometry and Algebra. While the 38 percent End-of-Course (EOC) math proficiency rate the school posted in the 2013-14 school year bested the state average, its math instruction team, led by Jake Collins and Diana Johnson, believed their students could and needed to do better. They decided to sit down and review how the tools they had at their disposal could be better used to help a higher percentage of their students reach proficiency.
One of those tools was Illuminate’s Education Intelligence Platform.
Understanding the EOC Assessment System
The EOC is a state-administered, 71-question math assessment that consists of algebra, geometry, statistics, and number sense questions. Requirements vary state, but Georgia law stipulates that EOC results count 20 percent toward the student’s final grade.
Assessing the Problem, Defining the Challenge
Math education has long proven to be a trouble spot for Americans students and educators alike. Drawing from their own classroom experiences, Collins and Johnson concluded that the factors inhibiting greater math proficiency at Statesboro High School could be boiled down to four critical issues:
- Student volume.Student volume. With most math teachers responsible for 100+ students, and despite the implementation of a co-teaching model, the expectation that every student be given the personalized attention they need to learn at a high level was unrealistic.
- Data deficiency. Without the aid of data-informed instruction, students waited days on end to receive their latest test results and lacked the means to take greater ownership of their own learning.
- One size does not fit all. The absence of flexible grouping resulted in re-teaching that impeded the progress of the student majority. At the same time, general reviews of material failed to serve the individual needs of students with a wide range of competency levels.
- Access to relevant material. Students weren’t being exposed to questions that reflected the rigor of the EOC test, leaving them ill-prepared for this important year-end assessment.
A Three-Tiered Approach, A Single Critical Objective
Taking advantage of Illuminate’s data and assessment platform (DnA), Collins and Johnson established a three-tier, technology-enabled data inquiry approach that targeted each of these problem areas. In each instance, the team sought to leverage Illuminate’s innovative system to drive instruction, foster greater collaboration, and improve overall student performance.
TOTAL IMMERSION INTO A PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITY
The team’s first step was to create a professional learning community (PLC) to promote greater collaboration among teachers. Supported by Illuminate’s targeted data capabilities, instructors were able to work with their peers to improve teaching methods and strategies, even as they maintained autonomy over their individual instruction styles. Illuminate’s powerful DnA platform enabled common assessments to be established and delivered, ensuring that test results were measured accurately across each classroom.
UTILIZATION OF ITEM BANKS
To better prepare students for year-end testing, Collins and Johnson made use of Illuminate’s item banks. By relying on these formative assessments, which better reflect EOC testing rigor because they are more clearly mapped to state standards, SHS instructors were able to expose advanced students to higher-level questions. It also enabled them to be more readily aware of which students had mastered a specific standard and which students needed further instruction.
“The item banks were essential to what we were trying to achieve,” recalls Johnson. “The ability of students to take tests on Illuminate and for teachers to get immediate feedback made it possible to personalize classroom instruction in ways we never could before.”
Another benefit of Illuminate’s web-based platform was that it facilitated the increased use of flexible grouping. This allowed some students to participate in enrichment activities on their own, while others who needed extra help were able to receive it. At the same time, students were empowered to pursue their own individualized Enhanced Learning Targets through video resources and online practice.
“With Illuminate’s data and assessment system at our fingertips,” says Collins, “Instructors were able to shift their focus away from simply teaching the material to understanding whether or not students had actually learned it.”
The Proof Is in the Proficiency
Statesboro High School implemented Collins’ and Johnson’s three-tiered approach at the start of the 2014-15 academic year. That same year, the school’s passing percentage on the EOC climbed from 38 percent to 70 percent – an improvement of 84 percent. Not surprisingly, a higher percentage of students passed the class.
No less important, student engagement in the learning process itself improved dramatically. Students were able to use their phones to access information that related to their individual learning goals. They sought out their instructors for help with specific standards. They assumed greater responsibility for their own learning goals.
“By taking advantage of Illuminate’s capabilities, we were able not just to improve proficiency scores but to foster an environment that made learning itself more enjoyable,” recalls Collins.
“The goal was to give students greater control over their own education,” adds Johnson. “Illuminate provided us with the resources we needed to make that possible.”
Statesboro High School’s students continue to make great strides. Diana Johnson has since departed the school, but Jake Collins and fourth-year teacher Russ Winters have continued to use Illuminate to collaborate and tweak the common assessments used with students at all levels.
They’ve been joined by first-year-instructor Corrie Hicks, who relied upon the DnA platform’s data-driven, easy-to-share system to get up to speed with both her students’ needs and the assessments that were being used by her peers. Illuminate made life easier for the department’s newest team member, and her students never missed a beat.
“The more you know about a student’s history, the easier it becomes to meet their needs.” Hicks says. “What I like about Illuminate is that it holds me to a certain level of rigor. It gives me the real-time feedback I need to ensure my students are being taught at the level they should be, so they can make the kind of progress they’re capable of.”
Empowering students and teachers is a process. Illuminate is an ideal catalyst. Its combination of rigorous data analysis and flexible, real-time reporting, in a simple-to-use, easy-to-share platform, facilitates both student and teacher growth, and takes learning to a whole new level.
Illuminate provides pre-built reports within DnA that show teacher growth and student performance. In a span of eight months, Corrie’s students showed drastic improvement in student mastery by jumping from 12.5% to 53.8%.