Standard 5: Using Results for Continuous Improvement
The system implements a comprehensive assessment system that generates a range of data about student learning and system effectiveness and uses the results to guide continuous improvement.
Overall System Rating: 3.40
Standard 5 Narrative
Based on stakeholder feedback in the system’s self-assessment, it is evident that Richland Two implements a comprehensive assessment system that generates a range of data about student learning and system effectiveness and uses the results to guide continuous improvement. The district adheres to Board Policy ADA, “To establish the board's vision for school district goals and objectives and the basic structure for developing a district performance-based accountability system and comprehensive plans with annual updates.” The SC Department of Education provides the core components of our student assessment system. The results of these assessments are used to monitor student progress toward achieving the aims and objectives established by the district's strategic plan.
Areas of Strength
Our stakeholders rated Indicator 5.1, “The system establishes and maintains a clearly defined and comprehensive student assessment system,” as a strength of Richland Two. The establishment and maintenance of a clearly defined and comprehensive student assessment system contributes to the practices and procedures related to continuous improvement. The district’s comprehensive assessment system collects and analyzes data about student learning from pre-kindergarten through graduation. The goal is to build the foundation for student success outlined in the Profile of the South Carolina Graduate.
Student achievement is monitored and shared with parents using standardized assessments beginning in pre-kindergarten and continuing through high school. The language development of students with Limited English proficiency (LEP) is assessed each year at all grade levels. The district focuses on the identification of gifted and talented (GT) students beginning in first grade and uses these assessment results for placement through the fifth grade. Students with cognitive disabilities that preclude their participation in accountability assessments take South Carolina Alternate Assessments.
In the fall of 2015, the district took a major step forward in using various assessment results for systematic, continuous improvement. Superintendent Dr. Hamm introduced Data Era 5 which focuses the system on using a variety of valid and reliable data as a systematic strategy for improvement. These data include student achievement data, school climate surveys, and the results of the eProveTM Educational Learning Environment Observation Tool (eleot®) observations.
Our Data Era 5 initiative is a systematic approach to valid and reliable data use. Each school’s leadership team meets with district staff. During these meetings, student achievement data are analyzed at the school, grade, and teacher level as well as by state content standard (if applicable) and demographic subgroups. The discussions are focused not only on identifying areas where students excelled and where they struggled, but also on the factors that may have contributed to their level of performance as well as using that data to adjust curriculum. For example, if a teacher had substantially more students scoring at the highest level on our state assessment than other teachers, the group would discuss what the teacher did that contributed to this success and how it could be replicated.
The learning environment, as measured through the eleot® observation instrument, is also discussed. For example, if Indicator G2, “Digital learning environment: students conduct research, solve problems, create original works,” is noticeably low, the group discusses ways in which students can be given additional opportunities to use technology to create original works. These discussions allow the district to do more than just monitor student learning, they also allow us to understand the “why” of our students’ performance.
Indicator 5.2, “Professional and support staff continuously collect, analyze, and apply learning from a range of data sources, including comparison and trend data about student learning, instruction, program evaluation, and organizational conditions that support learning,” was rated a “3” by stakeholders. Although the district has always used data for continuous improvement, we recognize the need to be more consistent in our approach. The district uses data collaboratively across multiple departments to assist in decision-making to provide the best allocation of resources to support our students with procedures in place to monitor their performance. These data come from various stakeholders to include students, parents, staff, and the community.
The work of the Business Services Department, for example, is monitored by external auditors each year. Resulting from their dedication to excellence, Richland Two is the only district in South Carolina to receive a “AA” bond rating from the three national bond rating firms. This department has received awards from both the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO) and the Governmental Finance Officers Association (GFOA) for excellence in financial reporting for twenty-five consecutive years.
The Information Technology Department performs quarterly audits of the data in the system’s Student Information System (SIS). They use the technology work order system each day to prioritize the work of the technicians. Data from this system is reviewed periodically and is used as evidence to support technology budget requests. The department continuously seeks to reduce its response time for work orders, and is known to be highly responsive to technological glitches impacting student learning. The Information Technology Department, in partnership with the Teaching and Learning Department, is spearheading the use of predictive analytics to identify struggling students. This emerging technology is an early warning system which gathers a wide variety of student data, including discipline, attendance, course grades, and standardized test scores to determine students who are having difficulty. Annually, the Director of Technology Integration and Innovation leads the collection of classroom technology integration data. Working with instructional and administrative leaders, the team conducts analyses and makes adjustments based on results.
Adhering to Board Policy EDE, the Operations Department continuously maintains and analyzes data from an energy management program as well as a maintenance work order system to ensure the smooth and efficient operations of all facilities. Under the direction of the Operations Department, the Transportation Department systematically and continuously assesses bus routes, monitors ridership levels and bus violations, and estimates bus fuel usage and maintenance costs. The Food Services Department (within the Operations Department) annually sets and revisits goals. The department is routinely audited by state and federal agencies and uses these data to verify that they are operating within federal guidelines. They produce monthly report cards and regularly survey students, principals, and clients on food quality and services. Based on survey responses, they adjust their menus, provisions, and support to provide the highest quality of food and services available.
The Planning Department takes innovation to the next level by leveraging the district’s Geographic Information System (GIS), a powerful computer mapping system for capturing, storing, analyzing, and displaying data tied to geographic locations. These data are used in a myriad of projects across the district. For instance, GIS is used to annually review, project, and adjust teacher allocation. Planning staff also quarterly reviews student enrollments. Future student enrollments are annually projected with the GIS using various projection methods and pre-enrollments submitted through our online central registration application. Department staff members utilize multiple geographic and non-geographic data elements to plan future school locations and attendance area rezoning. In an effort to understand the population of students with special needs, a GIS specialist in conjunction with the Instructional Support Service (ISS) Department created an innovative, interactive map based on the student’s residential address in relation to programs that aligns with their needs. This information will be especially beneficial when allocating teachers of special needs students and placement of special needs programs in schools. This map can also be used to determine the shortest amount of time in which special needs students will be transported to and from school.
Indicator 5.5 was rated a “4” by Richland Two stakeholders. Indeed, Richland Two and school principals have a reputation for monitoring and communicating comprehensive information about student learning, school performance, and the achievement of the system and school improvement goals to stakeholders. The district views informing stakeholders of student performance and progress towards improvement goals as vital to our relationship. Each year the superintendent delivers a State of the District address. The address is recorded and distributed to stakeholders through various media platforms including R2TV, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. An additional annual report provides information about the district’s strategic plan and our progress towards implementing the plan, financial and construction updates, and student achievement results. Each year the Board attends the Board Assessment Data and Instructional Strategy Review. This event provides Board members with detailed information about student performance as well as the strategies that have been developed to build upon areas of success and to address areas of concern. In addition, each school’s School Improvement Council (SIC) receives detailed information about the performance of the school’s students. Each school principal, in partnership with their SIC, publishes an Annual School Report that includes information about school performance.
Actions to Sustain Areas of Strengths
In order to sustain these areas of strength, the system will continue to seek out and develop additional innovative methods of communication to keep stakeholders informed of student learning, school performance, and the achievement of system and school improvement goals. The use of social media across multiple platforms is one method that has shown promise. The district will also continue to evaluate its assessment system to ensure it continues to provide a wide variety of data on student performance. During the stakeholder feedback meetings, we asked participants to explain what steps could be taken in the continuous improvement process to help the system strengthen the comprehensive assessment system. The specific and relevant responses provided by the stakeholders will serve as an important source of information in the system’s efforts toward continuous improvement.
Areas in Need of Improvement
Richland Two has many strengths within Standard 5. However, as part of the continuous improvement process, the stakeholders noted two indicators were in need of additional focus.
Stakeholders identified Indicator 5.3, “Throughout the system professional and support staff are trained in the interpretation and use of data,” as an area of continued focus and development. Based on this feedback, we examined our current practices and found that while we do offer a considerable amount of training and consistently use data, this is one area in which schools and district-level staff have consistently requested additional support. The district has already begun to respond to this request. One staff member responded on the stakeholder survey, “I like the constant effort our school makes to enhance the school-wide instruction...I appreciate our school making appropriate changes based on the demographics of our school.” The Accountability Department is working collaboratively with the Teaching & Learning Department on a benchmarking pilot to measure student growth and design curriculum to meet individual learning needs. Training sessions will be held to ensure that faculty are implementing this pilot with fidelity.
Indicator 5.4, “The school system engages in a continuous process to determine verifiable improvement in student learning, including readiness for and success at the next level,” was rated a “3” and identified as another area of continued focus by stakeholders. Indeed, Indicators 5.3 and 5.4 are linked as the training on the interpretation and use of data will enable staff to verify student achievement leading to readiness and success at the next level.
Actions to Improve Areas of Need
The system is dedicated to monitoring student learning, school performance and the achievement of system and school improvement goals. Several actions will be taken to ensure systemic continuous improvement.
The benchmarking pilot will enhance the monitoring of student learning. It will include short tests administered throughout the school year that give teachers immediate feedback on how students are meeting academic standards. Regular use of benchmark assessments will be another valuable tool to measure student growth and design curriculum to meet individual learning needs.
Also, the district will provide additional professional development in the interpretation and use of data by professional and support staff. The professional development will be differentiated for our specific audiences. To begin, the Accountability Department will design and implement a comprehensive systematic training schedule for all staff across the district which will address the needs of the various groups of employees respective to their roles at all levels of the system. This training will include specific procedures and practices necessary for successful interpretation and use of job-relevant data. Teachers have unique learning needs as they review various assessment reports. With respect to their teaching assignments at the elementary, middle, or high school, they will continue to receive training on how to interpret assessment reports, identify trends, and other useful information. They will also be coached during these training sessions with scenarios of how to share the data reports accurately and succinctly with parents and extended family members. Principals and administrators, too, will participate in similar training on understanding assessment reports which will, among other positive outcomes, greatly strengthen the Data Era 5 conversations. Richland Two has recently begun a partnership with Jennifer Morrison, Chief Strategy Officer for the South Carolina Department of Education, focusing on leadership through data-informed decision making for school administrators. Support staff will also be trained in interpreting and using various data applicable to their job responsibilities.
Major outcomes of this training will include professional and support staff who are well versed in the interpretation and use of data at all levels of the system. With a new understanding of various data points, professional staff will recognize when students are struggling with certain lessons. They will develop best practices to address these difficult learning concepts. Conversely, they will also readily identify when students are ready for the next level of learning. This continuous process of learning will become systematic across the district.
Once the district’s systemic comprehensive training schedule has been implemented throughout the system, professional and support staff will be fully trained in the interpretation and use of data. When new teachers and administrators are hired during the school year, the Accountability Department will provide full support to ensure that they are well versed in the valid and reliable use of data. As a result, Richland Two will have a continuous process that determines verifiable improvement in student learning, including readiness for and success at the next level.