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A Path to Growth: From Below Average to Average in One Year

A Path to Growth: From Below Average to Average in One Year

McDonald Elementary School in Georgetown County School District of South Carolina began the 2018–19 school poised for change and motivated to shed its Below Average school rating. By launching a powerful intervention program coupled with an Edmentum partnership for technology and professional development support, educators and students alike have turned things around in just one year. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with school principal, Mack Burgess, who shared the school’s journey as it heads into the back half of year two. With more exciting transformation on the horizon, here is McDonald Elementary’s story:

You made some swift changes going into the 2018–19 school year in hopes of impacting student growth. Can you take me through that?

Mr. Burgess: I implemented an intervention block. So, from 7:30 AM to 8:00 AM, my students were using Edmentum Exact Path for reading and math. We piloted [the program] schoolwide. We had approximately 445 students using Edmentum every morning [across grades K–5] and then at various other times during the day. My school is one-to-one with Chromebooks. So, every student has their own technology device here at McDonald Elementary.

And, during my intervention blocks, the teachers pull some small groups. Here, we do balanced literacy. The teachers, they break the students into groups. They're able to get 20 minutes here, 20 minutes there, while the teachers are focusing on teaching small-group instruction with her students at her table.

Throughout your implementation, from initial pilot to full subscription, educational consulting has been a critical piece to help support onboarding and encourage buy-in. What did that involve?

Mr. Burgess: When we began, we had already written our Title I plan, and money was an issue in the beginning. So, we were able to try it out to see if we like it [through a pilot program in year one]. We could really put our hands on it to see if there’s something that our students and teachers would use.

We Skyped in the first professional development [PD] session just to get the teacher to learn how to print the reports and whatnot. And then, we had an in-house PD session where one of the Edmentum consultants came in and worked with each teacher for about an hour, about four teachers at a time, during our common planning periods. And with that, teachers were able to ask direct questions—dive a little deeper.

McDonald Elementary School is using NWEA MAP Growth Assessments for interim testing. How were you able to use those results to drive “what’s next” with Edmentum Exact Path?

Mr. Burgess: We take MAP testing three times a year: fall, winter, and spring. We were able to upload the MAP scores, and Edmentum [Exact Path] created a learning path for each student. The learning path is the most exciting thing about Edmentum Exact Path. It is able to focus where the students need the most help in ELA or math. You don’t have to worry about any student looking at the next computer or helping the other because each student has their own learning paths; they’re different. Some of my students who scored Advanced on the SC READY or SCPASS test—Edmentum was even able to push those highflyers, to challenge them even further, taking a deeper dive into math and ELA.

Beyond the individualized nature of the program, there are also motivational elements baked in. How are you using the Trophies that students earn when they demonstrate mastery on a skill to encourage growth?

Mr. Burgess: We’re able to create contests, and I keep the students and the parents updated on social media. We have a slushie machine, and we print free slushie passes. The teachers were able to challenge the students. We also did an Edmentum dance party where you had to have so many minutes completed and Trophies [earned] to come. We also have a snow cone machine, and we did a popcorn party. So, we just raise the level to challenge the students along the way.

Given your journey so far, what successes have you already experienced that encourage you to keep going?

Mr. Burgess: My school was a Below Average school in 2017–18. And from last year with Edmentum, we have improved to an Average school. So, our scores did go up. And my teachers say that Edmentum was one of the things that helps with challenging our students and improving our test scores.

And the students—they look forward to using it. Our students are trained to grab their Chromebooks. You can start Edmentum, and we do have some other programs as well. But, Edmentum Exact Path is the favorite.

It’s very clear that data continues to drive instructional best practices at McDonald Elementary. Can you elaborate on what’s next?

Mr. Burgess: There’s no way but up. We have to improve. We definitely pushed instruction, and data drives my instruction and decisions.

We’re excited to see where McDonald Elementary and the rest of Georgetown County School District take their implementation next. Interested in learning more about other schools leveraging Exact Path to drive intervention success? Check out this blog post on what intervention REALLY looks like at every grade level with Exact Path.

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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.