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Meet Exact Path Skills Champion Red Level Elementary

Meet Exact Path Skills Champion Red Level Elementary

Over 500 elementary schools competed, but only one came out on top! Meet Red Level Elementary in Red Level, Alabama, the elementary school champions of Edmentum’s 2019 Exact Path Skills Challenge competition. I had the chance to talk with Kristi Hildreth, reading specialist at the Red Level Elementary, and discuss how the school is using Exact Path uniquely in each grade level, why Exact Path works for the school, and how the school plans to celebrate its victory.

Congratulations on the big win! You must be so proud of your students for coming out on top in this national challenge. How did you motivate them during the competition?

Once we saw the leaderboard and realized that we were in third place, [word got around the school] and I said, “You all realize that here we are, a little, bitty, small school in south Alabama, and we are in third place? It's a national challenge, and here we are—we're in third place.” And we looked at some of the schools—you know, when they were in places in big cities in Texas and one out in California. And the kids were like, “Cool! We're going to win this.” And that right there was the turning point for a lot of these kids. They were like, “We're going to get this; we are going to win this. Nothing's going to stop us.” And they just really got on the ball. After that, it was every chance they could get: “Can I go get on the computer? Can I go get on Exact Path?”

And I said [to the students], “OK, we just have to work. You have to do your work, and you need to do your best on your work.” And it was that motivation to get their work done and do their work correctly. They wanted the bragging rights. Our kids—we didn’t have to push them anymore. They wanted first place.

Were your students excited when they heard the news that they had won? Do you have any special plans to celebrate?

Oh, when I went around and told them, they were just screaming. You just hear them yelling when their teacher told them. They are full of excitement, and they are so looking forward to the plans that we have for the pizza party. We're going to do it like a block party. We're going to block off the parking lot and get a boombox with some music, and we're just going to let them dance and play and have a good time and eat pizza. They are looking forward to it.

Red Level Elementary is a rural school located in Covington County, Alabama. You’ve been using Exact Path since last year to support instruction for both special education and general education classes. What does that implementation look like at Red Level today, and how has it evolved over the past year?

We implemented Exact Path last year as a way for us to track progress, most specifically with our RTI students for both math and reading, as well as our special education kids to work with them to bridge the achievement gap. Our special education teachers are able to write their students’ IEP [Individualized Education Program] from showing the skill levels that they're at and what they're working on. Teachers have also been able to use that data to drive daily instruction and identify some of the skills where students need remediation. And one thing we like about the program is that it kind of mirrors the Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program (ACAP) that we're going to be doing in the spring. The layout—the format with technology-enhanced questions—all looks very similar is what my teachers are telling me. 

Using Exact Path is helping to catch students up on those missing skills and then helping those students who are above grade level to advance and move forward without having wait on the other kids who are somewhat behind. Exact Path is very useful for putting each kid where they need be in order to close any achievement gap or, if they're already ahead, to keep pushing them and to keep challenging them.

 What are some of the unique ways that teachers are motivating their students in each grade level?

The 2nd graders use Exact Path during their remediation and their RTI time. The students usually master a skill every few days, and then they're taking the progress-monitoring check once or twice per week. And the one thing that they really like is earning Trophies.

My 3rd graders use it during centers and small groups. The students are self-motivated; they actually like to get on Exact Path during any spare time that they have. They have printed Trophy pictures out on the wall, and the students color them in as they're mastering skills and working though the Progress Check list. That's friendly competition; we have very competitive students at Red Level Elementary.

Fourth grade uses Exact Path for their morning work and their small-group intervention. One way that teachers motivate students is they do classroom coupons for performing well on their quizzes, and they get a little printed [Exact Path] Trophy, and they color it in every time they master something.

Fifth grade uses the Trophy pictures on the wall as well. Students get excited when they earn a Trophy in the program, and then get to go out to the hall to color in a level on their printed Trophy and see how they compares to other students’ Trophies. If their Trophy is not colored in as much as someone else’s, they work hard to try to pass more skills. Like I said earlier, students at Red Level Elementary are very competitive.

Our 6th grade does something a little different. They have what's called a “class store.” For every Trophy they earn, they get a classroom buck. And then they have a class store that they can shop from and “buy” things like homework passes, different little snacks, different little candies, and things. So, the kids are motivated to earn that money.

Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for other educators or other schools using Exact Path around encouraging and motivating students?

I would tell them that your teachers have to buy into [using Exact Path] as well. It's not just with the kids. If the teacher is not excited about the program, the students are not going to be excited about it. However, when you are excited and you're encouraging your students, they will get excited too. All kids want their teacher to be proud of them. And the teachers—their enthusiasm for the program will also transfer over to the students being enthusiastic and wanting to use the program. What we are seeing at Red Level Elementary is that these kids are becoming more confident in the classroom. We have some that, you know, they're very shy in nature, and now, they're getting more confident because they've got some of those background skills that they were missing.

Interested in learning more about Edmentum’s 2019 Exact Path Skills Challenge champions? Meet our high school winners at the Tennessee Volunteer Challenge Academy, and check back for more winner profiles coming soon!