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[Exact Path + Study Island] When Engagement Sparks a Successful Implementation

[Exact Path + Study Island] When Engagement Sparks a Successful Implementation

Is it simplifying matters too much to say that academic expectations for 21st century learners are rising? Not only are teachers continually challenged to help students meet grade-level expectations outlined by each state’s unique set of standards, but disparate student abilities mean that educators must also close skill gaps for struggling learners and simultaneously propel learning forward for accelerated students. That’s a lot to manage, especially once you layer in the pressures of looming summative exams and school and district growth goals. Take a few deep breaths, and rest assured that in this advanced digital age we live in, you have more access and insight than ever before into how to meet all students where they are and help them reach their academic potential.

At Edmentum, we’re fiercely committed to working with our educator partners to understand the unique ways they’re approaching these challenges through technology. And, as a part of those ongoing conversations, we often find that questions arise. How do I ensure that students meet proficiency expectations AND growth goals? If I’m using multiple programs, how can they work together, and what does an implementation actually look like? Well, rather than summarizing insights from customers near and far, we thought it was time to go deep and let you hear from one such educator who’s employing two Edmentum programs, Exact Path and Study Island, to drive toward rigorous outcomes that align with her goals and her students’ goals.

In her 2nd grade classroom at Demorest Elementary School in Demorest, Georgia, 20-year veteran educator Kami Ferguson and her students weave technology into the fabric of their day-to-day learning experience. For each step of her lesson cycle, Kami utilizes technology to bring new topics to life and similarly reinforce key concepts and develop skill automaticity. And, when it comes to keeping her students learning at or above a second-grade level, Kami uses Exact Path and Study Island to ensure that students are both closing skill gaps and meeting grade-level standards.

Exact Path for Individualized Learning

Kami, who uses her Edmentum programs in a station-rotation model in her classroom, has set a clear vision for each program’s function in her classroom and employs strong classroom management and engagement practices to guide her implementation without ever wasting a moment.

 “I use [Exact Path] every day,” said Kami. “We do it five days a week for 15 minutes for each subject.”

Kami uses Exact Path to drive growth and ensure that students receive targeted instruction in a self-paced environment. She monitors the progress and skill mastery for each of her students to keep an eye on individual performance.

“I want them at least on [a 2nd grade level] or above,” she said. “So, if they've fallen below [a 2nd grade level], if they're on kindergarten or 1st, I look to see exactly what they're having trouble with, and then, I pull them over and conference with them.” Kami said she will usually try to get her students back on track using a worksheet or a one-on-one lesson. “I think that helps, so they don't get discouraged, and they're not feeling like they can't move on.”

Kami said another thing she loves about using Exact Path is the individualized learning paths, which are created for each student following the administration of an adaptive diagnostic assessment, available across reading, language arts, and math. These are given several times throughout the school year to pinpoint precise student strengths and needs and to report on student-growth measures.

“I think the kids like [the individualized learning path] too because it's something new that they're seeing, and they're not having to be bogged down seeing the same thing over and over and over,” Kami said. “I think that helps a lot as far as the kids not wanting to work, or getting bored, or not feeling like they're moving. Because they do buy into the program, and they will ask, ‘Where's my learning path?’ Or, when we do the diagnostic, ‘Did I grow? How much did I grow? Let me see.’ They do get to look at their data, and we look at it quite often together, so I think that helps push them.”

Study Island for Standards-Based Practice

In addition to using Exact Path, Kami also leverages Study Island as a way to differentiate instruction and provide targeted practice of specific Georgia standards. Her students use Study Island whenever they have a few extra minutes of class time, during intervention time, when waiting for the bus at the end of the day, and during their own time at home. She’s also developed a “fix-it plan” in her classroom, where she breaks some of her students who need extra help into small groups. She uses Study Island’s collaborative practice feature, Group Sessions, and customizable classroom tests, via Built Tests, to help them get back on track.

“With Study Island, I take [Built Test Item Analysis Report], and then I take my state standards, and then I line them up, and I put the standards beside it, so I know exactly what I need to focus on,” Kami said. “I look at the kids, and I highlight the kids' names that need to be in a fix-it [group] for that standard.”

This detailed report allows her to pinpoint precisely which questions students have missed and which state standard the standards cover. Kami then launches a quick Group Session in Study Island, where she can actively see how students are performing as they answer the questions and then pause in the moment to intervene based on their answers. Then, she and her students engage in discussion, review their answers, and go over any remaining questions.

She says the key to her fix-it plans is staying up to date on how each of her students is doing and changing up her groups regularly, based on ongoing progress data she receives from the programs.

“I don't lock them into high, average, and low groups because there might be a student in the high group who, for some reason, is having trouble with a skill, and they might need to be in my fix-it group,” Kami said. “And, one of my low kids might not need this standard, and they don't need to be in that fix-it group. The groups change a lot. I take [students] where they are and see if I can't push them to what they need.”

Data-Driven Instruction to Guide the Learning Process

But, Kami doesn’t just use data for her fix-it plans. She uses it everywhere she can to better engage her students and tailor her classroom instruction to their unique needs.

“I like to look at data,” she said. “I think data informs what I do with my lesson plans and where I move my students. But, the kids also have to look at their data. They have to see. I can't just say, ‘This is where you are.’ I have to show them.”

By including her students in their own regular data reviews, keeping them informed on their performance, setting goals with them, and engaging in meaningful conversation about their performance, Kami has created a positive classroom culture focused on applying a growth mindset in her classroom.

Incentives, both intrinsic and external, are a big key to the success of Exact Path and Study Island in Kami’s class. She uses the built-in Exact Path incentives, setting Teacher Challenges for students to earn the chance to eat lunch in the classroom with her for earning a certain number of Mastery Trophies in the program. Kami’s students can earn a special end-of-the-year party, where she provides snacks and drinks, if they earn a certain number of Blue Ribbons, the symbol of standard mastery in Study Island, and keep up their average score. But, beyond the party at the end of the year, Kami’s students want to do well because they are genuinely motivated to learn.

In Kami’s classroom, her students are excited to track their performance and open to acknowledging where they are today and where they’re headed tomorrow. With the help of Study Island and Exact Path, Kami has built a transparent classroom culture grounded in data where students are excited to learn and to grow. And, at the end of the day, like any elementary teacher, that’s all Kami really wants.

Inspired by Kami’s story? Read more about Kami Ferguson, a winner of the 2018 Edmentum Inspiring Educator Award, and her extensive success as an educator.