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3 Teachers’ Simple but Smart Exact Path Implementation Strategies

3 Teachers’ Simple but Smart Exact Path Implementation Strategies

Lake Weir Middle School (LWMS) in Summerfield, Florida, turned to Exact Path—Edmentum’s K–12 diagnostic-driven, individualized learning program—to address academic gaps through targeted intervention. Since beginning their Exact Path journey in August 2021, instructional coaches at LWMS led the charge on developing an implementation plan that prioritized building teacher and student buy-in throughout the process. Let’s take a closer look.

What needs does Exact Path help you address?

“Our why at our school is very, very simple,” said Ed Helfrey, blended learning coach at LWMS. “Sixty-eight percent of our learners are nonproficient readers. We need to think outside of the box and come up with creative ways for how we are going to fill in those gaps for our learners and not just what we can offer them during core time but what little bits of extra time that we do have—how can we fill that with remediation to fill in the gaps that they've missed over what is now the third year of this whole COVID thing.”

Helen Hamel, instructional coach at LWMS, added that Exact Path has helped teachers target intervention time to meet the unique needs of each learner through personalized and adaptive learning pathways: “The path is designed by their diagnostic results to meet [learners] where they are, which was a huge hurdle [before Exact Path]. Our teachers were trying to overcome on their own previously, and Exact Path has given them a resource.”

How have you structured intervention around Exact Path?
Create or Repurpose Built-In Time

Mr. Helfrey remarked, “We decided as a leadership team that we would repurpose our silent sustained reading time, or DEAR [Drop Everything and Read] time, into more purposeful remediation time.”

Since acquiring Exact Path, all students are expected to work on the program during the repurposed DEAR time, which is now called Talon Time. Mr. Helfrey explained: “In conjunction with Talon Time, one of the things that we are focusing on as a school is having our learners mentored by all of our staff on campus. So, at the same time that Exact Path is going on, we have our teachers having powerful conversations with our learners.”

Ms. Hamel reported, “Talon Time provides the protected time for the student to work on it without sacrificing instructional minutes from that core classroom, which for us was very important.”

Because Talon Time might occur during a non-core class, core teachers have also utilized bellringer time as an opportunity to offer direct support.

Tammy Shelton, content area specialist in mathematics at LWMS, shared, “Some of our teachers are actually, instead of doing a bellringer. . . . putting the kids on Exact Path for [around] 20 minutes just so that they can see where their learners are during that lesson time, and they're able to go around and help them with that. . . . So, we've been able to utilize it that way and actually plan lessons and plan other bellringers based on where the kids are in the path.”

Set Clear Goals

The school’s goal is for learners to have 20 minutes a day in Exact Path, with one day out for mentoring, totaling about 80 minutes a week in their Exact Path routine.

Ms. Hamel noted, “Research shows 30 to 45 minutes of targeted intervention a week is what you need to show growth.” She recommends having more minutes than that planned into the schedule to create wiggle room as teachers and students require it.

Ms. Hamel remarked, “We've been doing this now about eight weeks, and every week our data looks better; our minutes on task look better. So, we're hoping we're getting closer to that goal.”

Set the Tone for Collective Responsibility

Both core and non-core teachers are involved in the process, but at first, it was a challenge deciding how to implement this plan with personnel.

Mr. Helfrey recalled, “Was it just going to be core teachers, or were we going to get all teachers, all staff members, involved in this time to ensure that implementation of this program was done with fidelity across the board?”

Ultimately, the option of involving all teachers became the school’s go-forward strategy, feeding into a culture of schoolwide collective responsibility. According to research on collective teacher efficacy, collaborative effort drives greater student achievement and correlates to higher academic performance.

“It is important to know that this is going on in every single classroom across the campus at the same time,” said Ms. Hamel. “So, our ag teacher is doing that Exact Path time for math, reading, ELA. They may not be the expert in that subject area, but they're providing the time for the learners to be in their path, while also doing mentoring.”

Develop an Instructional Framework

To keep things simple, Talon Time is structured around a rotating schedule in which every week, schoolwide, students work through a specific subject area in Exact Path. The next week, the focus area rotates.

Ms. Hamel described, “And then, the core teacher gets the chance to look at that data, to interact with that data to decide: ‘Do I have a skill where I might need to do a pullout of a small group for this class? Or do I need to maybe pause and pull a specific resource because it connects to my curriculum, even if it's not necessarily been targeted in Exact Path?’ So, they’ve got that flexibility to look at that data and utilize what they need.”

How do you keep leadership organized and accountable?
Define and Make Goals Visible

Mr. Helfrey and the LWMS team developed an implementation action plan—a week-by-week timeline with target dates, responsible parties, and tasks—to organize major deliverables for the new program rollout.

The action plan includes items like:

  • Registering teachers for their accounts in Exact Path
  • Training educators in the Exact Path program
  • Delivering sample schedule plans to ensure fidelity
  • Informing teachers about learner expectations

Mr. Helfrey explained: “We wanted to make sure that when we go into diagnostic two that we have a plan for implementation dates of when we're going to give the diagnostic, who's going to give the diagnostic, was it going to be during Talon Time, or was it going to be our core teachers giving the diagnostic?”

Further, Mr. Helfrey stated that the action plan involves deliverables that tie in to building collective responsibility: “Going in the quarter or semester two . . . we have a running scroll on our school TV channel to get some messaging as well on there about Talon Time and maybe some of the schoolwide data we can share with [teachers].”

After all, a key precursor to leadership and teacher buy-in is thoughtful and clear transparency of implementation goals and expectations.

Monitor Success Using a Fidelity Checklist

With a system in place, leadership at LWMS set out to thoughtfully monitor how the Exact Path implementation is going by collecting schoolwide data. To assess whether teachers and students are on track for success, one tool used is a digital “fidelity checklist.” An assigned leadership team member monitors the implementation progress of each classroom through ongoing observations, checking off expectations met to denote success.

Example expectations for teachers include:

  • Teacher circulates, assists, and mentors learners while working on learning paths and progress checks
  • Teacher is mentoring learners using the Talon Time mentoring sheet
  • Teacher celebrates learner success, as is evident in the classroom (i.e., Trophy Indicator Sheet, Progress Wall, etc.)

Example expectations for students include:

  • Most learners are actively engaged with learning path activities and progress checks
  • Learners are receiving individual and/or small-group instruction
  • Learners understand learning path activities and how to earn a trophy

The LWMS fidelity checklist is not only used to monitor progress and success, but it also provides an opportunity to identify any challenges and next steps.

How do you advocate for teacher and student buy-in?
Show Impact Through Data

A key precursor to leadership and teacher buy-in is data, made easy by Exact Path’s built-in reporting dashboards.

“Where we've really seen that bar shift a little bit is when they see the results,” said Ms. Hamel.

Ms. Hamel illustrated: “And that was the selling point to really show that [Exact Path] is working and they're getting there and they're growing. And that's where I think our best motivation growth has come from—is that experience. And they're seeing that the data works—that what they're doing is working.”

Celebrate and Reward Progress

Ms. Hamel noted the importance of rewarding for progress and growth as compared to rewarding for mastery or perfection: “So, I do have some teachers who are looking [at] a little bit [of a] smaller focus. Let's just grow percentage; let's get that learning activity done. Mastery will come; let's just practice first. And so, I've seen teachers [reward students just for completing] that skill practice. . . . And if we can reward them for their effort, and then they're a little bit more motivated to go back [and] try it again.”

It’s also important to differentiate how progress is defined based on the unique needs of each individual student.

Ms. Hamel explained, “Moving that incentive goal down just a little bit to reach something that's attainable for that learner has really been important towards keeping that motivation.”

Want to learn more about how to maximize your Exact Path implementation? Visit our Exact Path Getting Started Resources page.

Jiana Khazma contributed to this post.

madison.michell's picture
Madison Michell

Madison Michell has been a member of the Edmentum team since 2014 and currently serves as a Marketing Manager. As a former Kindergarten and 3rd grade teacher during her time as a Teach For America corps member, she believes education truly has the power to transform lives. She is passionate about connecting educators with online programs, best practices, and research that improve teaching and learning for today's students.