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[Pennsylvania Future Ready PA Index] Balancing Student Growth and Achievement

[Pennsylvania Future Ready PA Index] Balancing Student Growth and Achievement

Balance! It’s a tricky feat for educators to achieve when it comes to the delicate dance of determining how to measure student growth and also ensuring that you’re providing sufficient practice for standards-based benchmarks. And, specifically in Pennsylvania, with the Future Ready PA Index score taking both metrics into account, finding that balance plays a huge role in the score or rank that schools receive.

Just to ensure that we’re grounding ourselves is sound definitions, here’s an explanation from the Pennsylvania Department of Education on the difference between achievement and growth data:


  • Measures a student’s performance at one single point in time
  • Highly correlated with a student’s demographics
  • Compares student performance to PA Core Standards
  • Critical to a student’s post-secondary opportunities


  • Measures a student group's growth across time; i.e., across years
  • Typically little to no relationship with students' demographics
  • Compares performance of a student group to their own prior performance
  • Critical to ensuring students' future academic success
  • By measuring students’ academic achievement AND growth, schools and districts have a more comprehensive picture of their own effectiveness in raising student performance

So, what can educators do to help students achieve academic growth and see that growth reflected in Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment System (PVAAS) results? One approach is to leverage individualized online programs to facilitate a deeper, more effective learning experience for students that hands instructional time back to classroom teachers. Edmentum Exact Path is one tool that can help provide that individualized approach through meaningful diagnostics and assessment-driven learning paths, empowering educators at all levels of the learning process with actionable data, standards-aligned curriculum, and instructional resources to make growth possible.

Learning paths in Exact Path offer a pedagogically sound sequence of 100-percent mobile-optimized lessons and activities designed to build your students' skill competencies at their own pace. Early research shows that when learning paths are used in focused sessions of just 20 minutes per week, per subject, students could experience growth.

Examining How Schools Across Pennsylvania Use Exact Path

Schools utilizing Exact Path for individualized learning start by administering the program’s built-in universal screener, the NWEA™ MAP® Growth™ assessment, or the Renaissance® Star® assessment to all students early in the school year to pinpoint current proficiency levels and identify learning gaps. Whether students assess below grade level, on grade level, or above grade level, Exact Path automatically generates a learning path aligned to the Pennsylvania standards for each student that addresses individual, specific needs. Educators then identify time for students to work in their respective learning paths. The amount of time set aside for students to spend in Exact Path varies based on school framework, but it is often incorporated as part of an intervention block, in a before- or after-school program, as homework, or during station-rotation time in classrooms.

Beyond providing individualized instruction for students, Exact Path was also designed with educators’ needs top of mind. Many teachers particularly like utilizing Exact Path’s grouping tool to identify common needs for groups of students so that they can provide targeted small-group interventions. Teachers also have the ability to assign grade-level content in Exact Path to students at any time in addition to their learning path lessons. This provides the flexibility and resources to help educators balance working toward individual needs and grade-level standards for all students. 

Unpacking Exact Path’s Partnership with NWEA MAP Growth and Renaissance Star Assessments

Assessments like the NWEA MAP Growth and Renaissance Star provide educators with some incredibly valuable data about their students. However, answering the question of “What’s next?” once those assessment scores come back can be easier said than done. Exact Path’s integration with these two assessments is designed to make the data they provide meaningful and easily actionable for educators, and it empowers students with an engaging, tailored learning playlist of robust curriculum that is designed to give them agency over when, where, and at what pace they learn.

Integration with NWEA MAP Growth

By uploading NWEA MAP Growth assessment Rasch Unit (RIT) scores to Exact Path, students receive an individualized pathway of content just right for them.

Integration with Renaissance Star

Using a seamless integration, Renaissance and Edmentum programs communicate with one another to automatically drive the creation of individualized learning paths in Exact Path, without manual uploads or data entry.

Ensuring Growth with Data-Driven Skills Progression

No matter what diagnostic assessment data drives the creation of students’ learning paths, these individualized playlists ensure that students build upon existing skills so that they’re always ready for the next step. The illustration below provides an example of how no more than four skills are presented at once and what curriculum components each lesson module might contain.

Supporting Achievement on PSSA and Keystone Exams

By providing four standards-based benchmarks at a time, Exact Path allows educators to compare apples to apples and assess student progress toward meeting PA standards, and it provides valuable information to inform instruction. Educators can rest assured that Exact Path lesson content is aligned to the Pennsylvania Academic and Core Standards and produces real results on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) and Keystone Exams. Educators can also take standards-based practice one step further by incorporating Study Island alongside students’ Exact Path learning paths. Study Island Benchmarks have demonstrated strong predictive validity for the Pennsylvania state summative tests, showing statistically significant effects for students in English language arts and math, resulting in higher test scores and proficiency-level classifications.

Overall, this holistic approach of offering individualized learning paths in combination with standards-aligned practice can help Pennsylvania educators prepare students for high-stakes exams, identify curriculum gaps, and answer important questions like:

  • Did I teach this content in the curriculum?
  • Have I taught this content, and did my students NOT understand it?
  • Is this content NOT in my curriculum?

As the Future Ready PA Index requires districts to increase student growth through the PVAAS and strive for grade-level proficiency on state PSSA and Keystone Exams, the challenge arises for every educator to balance grade-level and individualized instruction in the classroom. Exact Path and benchmarks in Study Island and Edmentum Assessments can provide an intuitive solution to equip educators with the tools and resources necessary to find that balance and meet the needs of students working below, on, or above grade level.

Want to find out more about partnering with Edmentum to fulfil Future Ready PA Index requirements? Check out this blog post for details on Our Alignment to the Future Ready PA Index!