SNUG 2014: Radnor Township School District, Pa., Presents Blueprint for Positively Affecting Student Achievement with PerformanceTRACKER

Posted by Matt Berringer on November 25, 2014

During this week before Thanksgiving, SunGard K-12 Education is taking a look back at our user conference and celebrating our customers and their remarkable efforts to help students achieve. We are grateful for their dedication and their continued confidence in SunGard K-12 and our software.

SNUG 2014At the SunGard National Users’ Group conference, Joseph Cannella, Ed.D., Radnor Township School District’s supervisor of data and achievement, presented a blueprint for rolling out and leveraging the capabilities of PerformanceTRACKER to positively affect student achievement.

Founded in 1682, the Radnor Township School District has consistently been recognized as one of the best districts in Pennsylvania. In 2014, the district was rated first in academic performance on the Pennsylvania School Performance Profile and third on the list of top-performing school districts in the state by the Pittsburgh Business Times.

Choosing and Implementing PerformancePLUS to Support Student Achievement
Vital to Cannella in his role in supporting teaching and learning in the district is PerformanceTRACKER.

Part of the PLUS 360 suite, PerformanceTRACKER provides a single connection point for anywhere, anytime access to a school district’s assessment data. The software helps track longitudinal assessment results through interactive graphs correlated to state standards. Teachers and administrators have the ability to aggregate and disaggregate assessment data and use this information to establish and monitor goals, modify curriculum, and ultimately enhance the teaching and learning environment.

“I have not found a better product for helping me help teachers help kids,” he says. “We have had tremendous success with the PerformancePLUS implementation in our school.”

The district chose PerformanceTRACKER with the goal of bringing closer together their written, taught, and assessed curriculums.

During implementation, Cannella and two other curriculum supervisors took on the arduous task of doing a baseline core curriculum mapping. “We devoted the 2009-2010 school year to doing that,” he said. “We gathered every curriculum document that existed. We locked ourselves in a conference room and created the core maps for our district.”

Next, the district collected student achievement data. “We put every scrap of data that we could find into this system and created longitudinal histories for kids back until they were in kindergarten, literally creating a one-stop shop for data,” says Cannella. “I found it on discs. I found it in Excel spreadsheets. I found it at the bottom of filing cabinets. If I could find it, I got it in there because the psychologists were clamoring for a one-stop shop. Teachers were clamoring for a one-stop shop. Administrators were saying that they had information all over the place, and it’s too much for them to manage.”

Launching Initiatives to Support Student Achievement
As the district completed its implementation, Cannella was completing his doctoral studies. His doctoral dissertation, PerformanceTRACKER in Pennsylvania Schools: Measuring Implementation with the Concerns-Based Adoption Model offered insights for a successful implementation of the product at several school districts with varying demographics and achievement levels.

“I asked the questions, ‘Teachers, how is this being used in your schools? What is helpful? What is getting in the way?’” he said, encouraging his SNUG audience to do the same. “If you are in the process of doing an implementation, I cannot stress enough that you do some research on this concerns-based adoption model. The model takes a measurement of where teachers are in the implementation of something, based on how concerned they are that it impacts their practice. It is the perfect tool for evaluating whether or not something is making an educational difference. And, it ranges from zero—I’m completely unconcerned—all the way up to I am using this product on a daily basis to inform my instruction and it is helping me transform my practice.”

As a result of his findings, the team at Radnor Township launched a series of initiatives to ensure the district was getting the most out of its investment.

As a first step, Cannella and the Radnor Township team created laser-focused instruction and intervention in elementary mathematics. “We realized that where students lost points on a given assessment has instructional meaning. That matters,” he explained. “A teacher needs to know that and needs to act on that.”

Cannella said that he “broke” teachers of adding total scores into gradebooks. Instead, he had them report subtotals by skill. And where the data showed deficiencies in understanding, the teachers then began to see re-teach opportunities. “They understood that they needed to circle back,” he said. “I taught them how to drill into the bar chart and identify which students need help.”

Saying that identified deficiencies were “the prescription,” Cannella and his team began to create the “medicine,” such as practice sets and other interventions in math.

Radnor Township’s second success story was elementary standards-based progress report.

“I realized that I had already built an infrastructure inside of PerformanceTRACKER that would enable me to get out standards-based grading,” he said. “We took all of the unit assessments and aligned them to the standard that it was testing. When you do that, you come out with the 4, 3, 2, or 1 that can go onto the progress report,” he explained, noting that teachers then only need to go to PerformanceTRACKER’s built-in reports. “All you need to do is go to the Student Assessment Detail page when it’s report card time and apply standard rounding rules to the numbers.”

With the robust tools at their fingertips, Cannella says that Radnor Township educators are innovating their processes.

“Teachers took it on themselves to print the Student Assessment Detail Page and use it at Parent-Teacher Conference time. We created a similar talking point document on the Elementary Literacy side for Parent Conferences. So parents at elementary conference time get this standard letter, 'Here’s your literacy report. Here’s how to read the graph.' And, on the reverse side of it, the child’s entire literacy assessment history from the assessment history report. Parents loved it because they could see their child growing over time. They see their child in comparison with the district average. We got love notes when we did this.”

When deficiencies are identified, Cannella says that teachers have already developed a proactive plan to address. “If the child fell below the average, it was a talking point for the teacher. ‘I want to bring your child into a small group. I want to do some intervention,’” he explained.

PerformancePLUS Key to Future Student Achievement Initiatives
Over the next two years, Cannella says the district plans to develop common assessments for courses.

“If several teachers are teaching 10th-grade American Literature, you first need to be reading the same novels. Second, it may be a good idea if at the end of that novel that you both gave the same assessment about the novel so that you could start talking about student work--what worked in your classroom that didn’t work in my classroom. These types of discussions are at the foundation of a professional community.”

The district’s first common assessments were written language benchmarks at the middle school level. And there are many more coming.

Cannella offers district educators tools to support the process. “Here’s a model of what an exemplary curriculum document looks like. Here’s a model of an exemplary common assessment,” he explains. “The common assessment documents become PerformanceTRACKER frameworks.”

During this timeframe, the district will also be collaborating with SunGard K-12 to develop a process within PerformancePLUS to respond to the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Educator Effectiveness Project.

“In Pennsylvania now half of a teacher’s evaluation comes from the Charlotte Danielson rubric. The other half of a teacher’s evaluation comes from student data—whether it’s building-level student data, elective data in which teachers create their own goals, or teacher specific data.”

Topics: SNUG, PerformanceTRACKER, performanceplus