Missouri’s Park Hill School District (PHSD), with 15 schools and more than 10,000 students, has seen a 17 percent increase in enrollment over the past decade. Teachers used classroom assessments, but the district lacked the capability to track data on student progress toward state standards, and also lacked predictive assessment data.
Park Hill struggled to measure its performance in the Missouri Grade-Level Expectations (GLE) and needed to help bridge the gap between everyday classroom instruction and the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP).
From 2002 to 2005, approximately half of PHSD students in grades 3-8 passed the MAP grade-level assessments in communication arts and mathematics.
“We were tired of being surprised by MAP scores at the end of the year,” said Jeff Klein, executive director of research, evaluation, and assessment for PHSD. “We would try to use MAP data to target instruction for incoming students in the fall but, during the year, teachers didn’t have a sense of whether they were making a difference toward those end-of-year standards-based outcomes.”
During the 2006-2007 school year, PHSD implemented the CTB/McGraw-Hill Acuity InFormative Assessment solution. Acuity helps classroom teachers diagnose students’ strengths and instructional needs while predicting student success on state assessments. The solution integrates predictive and diagnostic assessments, reports, instructional resources, item banks, and item authoring, all of which are aligned to state standards and designed to improve student achievement.
“Park Hill adopted Acuity as a means of increasing agility in monitoring student progress toward GLE proficiency,” said Klein. “Acuity was selected because it is aligned with our state test, the MAP, and because of its psychometric properties. The technical quality of the Predictive Assessments was a critical factor in our decision. We believe Acuity is the best benchmark predictor of the MAP that is available.”
In PHSD, all students in grades 3-8 take the Acuity Predictive Assessments in communication arts and mathematics three times a year. Students in grades 5 and 8 also take the Predictive Assessments in science. The assessments provide immediate information about student progress and growth, and allow educators to predict student performance on the MAP test. This information helps teachers prioritize their instructional action plans and concentrate efforts where students most need instructional intervention.
The Predictive Assessments also help teachers prepare students for the annual grade-level assessments using item content that mirrors the content on the MAP.
“Many commercially available tests are only loosely correlated with our state standards. Acuity aligns well and assesses the standards in a similar way to the type of items students experience on the MAP,” said Klein.
Like the MAP, the Predictive Assessments include both selected-response and constructed-response items.
“Previously, our students struggled with demonstrating their knowledge and skills in the constructed-response item format. Acuity lets them practice and prepare for these type of items,” he said.
Instructional Resources and Custom Assessments
To help teachers intervene early and effectively, Acuity provides online instructional resources and the opportunity to build custom assessments with an item bank and item authoring tools.
“The instructional exercises and custom tests are optional for our teachers. We use these to varying degrees at different schools,” said Klein. “One school also uses the Diagnostic Assessments in grades 3-5. They liked the assessments so well that they want to use them again next year.”
To help educators easily measure student progress and growth throughout the school year, Acuity features dozens of reports at the student, class, school, and district levels.
PHSD uses Acuity results in several capacities, including progress monitoring toward GLE proficiency and predicted proficiency of the MAP.
“The standards-based reports let our teachers and principals evaluate their instruction by standard,” said Klein. “Students’ weaknesses can be identified and monitored as instructional interventions are implemented.”
The district also uses Acuity to determine how much progress students must make to exceed the previous year’s MAP scores.
“When we give the first Predictive Assessment in September, we use the scale scores to set goals and then track students’ progress,” Klein said. “If, for example, last year’s third grade class finished at 65 percent proficient and they want to reach 70 percent this year, they can see how much progress each student will have to make to accomplish that goal. Acuity has helped us move from working on hunches to working with concrete numbers.”
Acuity results are also used in students’ own goal setting. “In many classrooms, teachers engage students in setting individual goals,” said Klein. “If we have a goal for a student to improve by 10 scale points, that student might set a personal goal to improve by 15 scale points.”
According to Klein, the scale scores allow educators to accurately assess growth throughout the year and from year to year.
“Acuity is a well-designed set of grade level assessments that accurately predicts future state test performance,” he said. “In addition, because Acuity Predictive Assessments are scaled within and across years, I feel confident about the inferences I make regarding students’ growth. This is the only grade-level expectations-based product for which I could make that claim.”
• Improved MAP scores
• Increased quality of instruction
• Increased motivation and focus on state standards
• Improved data-driven decision making
“Our state test scores have improved since we began using Acuity, and I am confident that Acuity has facilitated the improvement of our instruction,” said Klein. “Our focus has moved toward an emphasis on growth rather than just the end-of-year score. Teachers want to see how much a student improved over the course of a year, not just where they ended.”
During the 2007-2008 school year, for the eighth year in a row, PHSD earned a perfect score on its annual performance review from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and earned the prestigious “Distinction in Performance” award for academic progress and achievement.
“From an organizational perspective, Acuity helps keep everyone motivated throughout the year,” he added. “Previously, people would get excited in the month before state testing, but we wanted that kind of excitement and focus on the standards year-round. Acuity has helped push that to the next level, because the more often you’re looking at the data and how it relates to the standards, the more often you’re thinking about teaching and learning in those terms.”
In addition, Klein reports that Acuity has helped the district make improved and timelier decisions about programs or strategies it is piloting. “We receive quick, reliable feedback that helps us understand the impact of the new program or strategy,” he said.
“Overall, Acuity has helped Park Hill take the next step into the world of standards-based education,” said Klein. “It has helped teachers move from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning. As a result of Acuity, our teachers are not only more knowledgeable about Missouri’s standards, but can also measure progress toward proficiency on these standards.”