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[Educator Testimonial] North Dakota Instructional Coach Talks Exact Path Success & Learner Motivation

[Educator Testimonial] North Dakota Instructional Coach Talks Exact Path Success & Learner Motivation

It’s always a proud moment when we have the chance to talk to the educators we serve, understanding and learning from the amazing and innovative ways they’re engaging Edmentum programs to support student learning. In a recent panel webinar, we were joined by three fantastic teachers to do just that.

These talented educators brought unique perspectives from different regions of the country, grade bands, and learning models—but with one thing in common: they all are accelerating unfinished learning and starting up their own contests to inspire learning. One tool supporting their efforts is Edmentum Exact Path, our K–12 diagnostic-driven, individualized instruction program for reading, language arts, and math.

In the following snippet from the full webinar recording, we’re dialing into the story of Kaye Andersen, K–12 instructional coach at Garrison Public Schools in Garrison, North Dakota. Check out the short excerpt and some of the highlights from her story below.

Who at Garrison Public Schools is using Exact Path?

Mrs. Andersen described Exact Path as being most used with 7th and 8th grade students who have been attending school this academic year, either in a face-to-face or distance setting. At Garrison Public Schools, students already take NWEA MAP Growth assessments as their interim benchmark. Exact Path allows for educators to answer: “What’s next?” by integrating those scores into the program to create individualized learning paths without further testing.

What goals does Exact Path help you address?

Mrs. Andersen shared that all middle school students cycle through a designated intervention and enrichment period in their school day, but that learning time isn’t necessarily facilitated by the appropriate subject-matter expert. Exact Path helps address the unique needs of every learner at the appropriate level of rigor—those who are struggling and those who are accelerated.

Describe the Exact Path contest you created to encourage learning in the program.

According to Mrs. Andersen, educators started by following recommendations from Edmentum about time spent in the program, encouraging 30 minutes per subject, per week in order to achieve significant growth. From there, they organized an individual-based weekly Exact Path Challenge. By making the challenge only a week in length, students who may have struggled one week were still encouraged to get back on track the next. Additionally, Mrs. Andersen noted that there’s been enough engagement that the time-on-task number of minutes has also increased over the contest period.  

How did you motivate and reward students?

Mrs. Andersen explained that deciding on the right incentives started with polling teachers and students directly. With a few guideposts in place, students came up with ideas that ranged from being able to bring their own pop and snack to school to having a hat day. Once all the ideas for possible prizes were collected and approved, they were written on wooden craft sticks, and one was drawn randomly by the principal each week. Additionally, learners received a certificate printed out from Exact Path if they met the challenge, and they were allowed to take a selfie with the principal to post on their favorite social media platform.

What examples can you provide of specific student success?

Mrs. Andersen was quick to recognize the successes of her most struggling learners. The program allows these learners to work at their level and complete their mastery and time-on-task goals right alongside their peers—something that may not be possible with on-grade-level curriculum. The NWEA MAP Growth results reflected a similar story regarding growth. In those reports, students are divided into quadrants based on their performance; a comparison between two assessment windows this year showed the lowest performers making the largest amount of growth.

Conversely, for those accelerated students who may not always find the differentiated and extension learning opportunities they need in the classroom, Exact Path meets them where they are and pushes them forward. Instead of learning feeling too light, Mrs. Andersen noticed a higher level of pride and effort applied by this group of students as they were motivated to achieve.

What have you learned that you might do differently next time?

Mrs. Andersen helped to support and regularly check in with the eight educators leading the charge in these intervention and extension periods. In her observations, the teachers who dug deeper into the Exact Path program and set up greater accountability with their students experienced the best results. Mrs. Andersen is continuing to conference with these eight educators to encourage similar practices by all.

Regarding sustaining student motivation, Mrs. Andersen noted some of the creative solutions educators at Garrison Public Schools are employing. Each quarter, they are upping the weekly Exact Path Challenge difficulty and reimagining the incentives—just this January educators have introduced a double-incentive craft stick, creating the possibility for a double-prize week!

Catch the video recording to hear Mrs. Andersen add even more color to these questions and discuss what she wishes she knew before she started, how to build buy-in with learners, and how to use the program to share feedback and create personal connections.

Want to learn even more about how North Dakota educators are making the most of their NDDPI-provided access to the program at no cost through September 2021? Check out our interview with Principal Lauren Bennett at Prairie View Elementary School in New Salem-Almont School District.

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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.