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#EducatorFirst in Action: Connecting Two Pennsylvania Schools Pursuing Personalized Learning

#EducatorFirst in Action: Connecting Two Pennsylvania Schools Pursuing Personalized Learning

Connecting good people with other good people is easy to do when you work with incredible educators every day. At Edmentum, we’re passionate about intentionally and consistently facilitating opportunities for educators to learn and grow together (see our Educator Network). So, I was very excited about the opportunity to bring together teachers and administrators from two outstanding partner schools in Pennsylvania at a recent “lunch and learn” event. The goal was to connect educators from Cedar Crest Middle School in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and Northeastern Middle School in Mt. Wolf, Pennsylvania, to share best practices and walk through specific features of Edmentum Exact Path program for personalized learning.

Along with our local teammates in Pennsylvania Edmentum wanted to bring educators from these two schools together because they have faced similar challenges, and we knew they could learn much from one another. Northeastern Middle School just started an Exact Path pilot with Edmentum in December 2018 after a need arose to empower teachers with better access to meaningful student data. The school hopes to support more data-informed instructional decision-making in the classroom and to increase PSSA and Keystone Exams scores. With Exact Path, the school hopes to more accurately pinpoint where students are and identify gaps in learning. In addition, educators wanted to focus on exposing and identifying PSSA-aligned weaknesses by assessing students on grade-level standards using Benchmark assessments and Test Packs. On the other hand, Cedar Crest Middle School has been an Edmentum partner school since 2013, and it has used multiple solutions throughout those years, including EducationCity, Reading Eggs, Study Island, Study Island Benchmarks, and most recently, Exact Path along with Flex Assignments from Courseware for science and social studies. 

The day kicked off with introductions and both groups of educators reviewing the basics of the goals and challenges at their schools. After that, Cedar Crest Middle School Principal Mariah Rackley dove right in and discussed frameworks her staff has put in place to support effective Exact Path implementation. The team from Northeastern Middle School then had the opportunity to rotate between and observe Cedar Crest Middle School instructors implementing Exact Path for reading, language arts, and math in their classrooms and learn about unique considerations for each subject. Next, Ms. Rackley shared challenges regarding her team’s initial Exact Path implementation last school year and told how instructors made adjustments for this year, including configuring the schedule to allow time during their flex period to support Exact Path implementation and allocating common time for staff to support instructional planning based on data review. Cedar Crest Middle School staff members also touched on how they are successfully using another Edmentum product, Test Packs, alongside Exact Path for additional prescriptive student practice. Finally, we concluded the lunch and learn with an opportunity for Northeastern Middle School staff members to ask questions of the Cedar Crest Middle School teachers who were observed during the classroom visits.

Throughout the day, conversation was outcome-driven and focused on how teacher-informed instructional approaches, paired with Edmentum programs, can support student growth and achievement on PSSA and Keystone Exams. Everyone enjoyed a detailed and thorough look into how to support students with Exact Path for middle school. Even more exciting than the learning that took place that afternoon were the follow-up conversations and additional professional development meetings that it sparked. Together with Mike Alessandroni, principal at Northeastern Middle School, we’re going to review the school’s Exact Path pilot, as well as its utilization of Study Island to see what structures can be adjusted to strengthen its current program, and we’ll even go over what a schoolwide implementation could look like for next year.

For me and the other Edmentum team members who got to facilitate this event, we were really excited about the breadth of topics covered and the way our initial plan for the day lead to even deeper conversation regarding program development and technology evaluation. We really enjoyed fostering an environment where both parties were comfortable in sharing their highlights and challenges in such an authentic way. 

Based on my previous experiences, I believe this kind of observation- and conversation-based, in-person event is one of the most effective professional learning formats for educators because it offers the chance to see a program directly in action. Equally important is the opportunity it affords educators to reflect on what they see and to solicit feedback from their peers. I firmly believe that educators are more willing to take risks and embrace a growth mindset if they have time to process the experience and critically consider changes to their instructional practice. Together, we really can do more, and there’s nothing more gratifying than being able to spend time with educators doing what they do best.

Interested in learning more about how Edmentum can help your school? Check out our programs in Pennsylvania, or see how Exact Path can support your middle school students.