How the Renaissance Growth Alliance helps teachers use data to drive instruction

Does this sound familiar?

You’re concerned about over-testing your students. Not only does your school or district have a universal screener or benchmark assessment that has to be administered to every student, but each of your digital programs has its own separate placement test. Students may need to take a dozen or more tests before learning can even start.

You’re dedicating hours every week—sometimes, every day—to planning different lessons for different student groups. You already know that differentiating instruction is one of the most effective practices for supporting student growth, especially when you have diverse groups in one classroom. Yet finding resources at all your students’ different levels, and then organizing them into teachable lessons, is eating up all your time.

You’re tired of manually compiling data in spreadsheets. The problem isn’t getting data about your students. You have all the data you need; in fact, you have more data than you know what to do with. The problem is getting all that data in one place—and all on the same scale—so you can get a clear picture of student learning and determine how best to support them.

Last year, that was the case with Ms. Joyes, a sixth-grade math teacher. And she was exhausted.

Thankfully, things are different this year.

Using data to drive instruction: Eliminating over-testing

Teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites, but Ms. Joyes can’t deny she has a soft spot for Henry. Although he’s a native English speaker, he’s the son of immigrants and often has to translate for his parents, who aren’t fully fluent in English. He says he loves math because it’s the same in every language. And he’s so excited to start his first year of middle school as part of Ms. Joyes’ sixth-grade math class.

Henry

Last year, students like Henry had to take an overwhelming number of tests at the start of the year. First there was the district-mandated benchmark test, which provided administrators with a high-level view of student trends from year to year but didn’t help Ms. Joyes very much when it came to teaching her students.

Then there was a screener used at the school level to help identify students who needed additional testing for learning disabilities. Next was the school’s diagnostic math test, which she and the other math teachers had lobbied for because it provided some insight into students’ individual skill levels. Lastly there were the many placement tests: One for her core instructional program, one for a supplemental practice program, and another for an intensive, Tier III intervention program.

And that was just math. Ms. Joyes knew a similar story was playing out across the hall in Mr. Patel’s English language arts class. After the first month of school, students were burnt out on testing—and so was she.

This year, Henry only has to take one math test: Renaissance Star Math®. It includes an administrator dashboard, so the district gets all the data it needs to identify trends in student learning. It’s also a universal screener, so her school can quickly identify students who may need additional screening for learning disabilities, while also providing Ms. Joyes and her colleagues clear insight into each student’s mastery of math skills. Best of all for Ms. Joyes, this one test places her students into all her math programs!


The difference between last year and this year is the Renaissance Growth Alliance. This isn’t a new product or system that her district purchased; instead, it’s a partnership between many of the edtech providers the district is already using. Because these companies are collaborating together, they’re streamlining assessment, instruction, and practice for educators and their students.

Using data to drive instruction: Differentiating instruction and practice

Once Henry and his peers finish Star Math—the total testing time is about 20 minutes, one-third the time of the hour-long tests they were using previously—Ms. Joyes has immediate access to their results. She sees right away that Henry is on track to meet the district and state’s benchmarks for sixth grade. His percentile rank is 59, meaning he’s performing better than the average sixth-grader but still has plenty of room to grow.

Star Math Screening Report

Example Star Math Screening Report

When she logs into her core instructional program, HMH into Math, her Star Math data is already there. For the first time, she doesn’t have to toggle between her assessment and her instructional programs as she’s planning instruction. It’s all in one place!

Ms. Joyes can see right away that most of her class needs to review some of last year’s skills before they can get started on the sixth-grade content. She thought that would be the case, but now she knows for sure—and she can plan her first series of lessons with confidence.

However, she suspects Henry doesn’t need to be re-taught fifth-grade skills and is likely to become bored during the review lessons. Diving deeper into the data via the Star Mastery Dashboard, she sees that Henry worked a lot last year on multiplication with fractions. With a little bit more practice, he’ll achieve mastery—and then she can have him help some of his peers who are struggling with the same concept.

Star Math Mastery Dashboard

Example Star Math Mastery Dashboard – Domain View

In Star Math, it only takes a few clicks for Ms. Joyes to find several different resources matched to the exact skill she wants Henry to practice. There are HMH into Math resources, Renaissance Accelerated Math® practice activities, open educational resources (OERs), and many more options to choose from. From the one screen, she assigns him practice in Accelerated Math and an OER.

On Henry’s side, he can easily see and access all his assignments in one place. He only needs to remember one login to access the activities he’s been assigned by Ms. Joyes. Math is his favorite subject, so he happily launches the first practice activity and gets to work.

Using data to drive instruction: Streamlining data for greater insight

It’s now March and Ms. Joyes is pleased with how smoothly the year is progressing. With the data from Star Math and its integration with HMH into Math, she’s been able to deliver the right instruction at the right time to keep her students moving forward. With the flexibility Star Math offers, she can assess them anytime she feels she needs more insight into their achievement and growth—typically every eight or ten weeks.

Star Math Student Growth Percentile Dashboard

Star Math Dashboard showing SGP over multiple grades

The last time she assessed her students with Star Math, she saw more students in the at/above benchmark category and fewer in the intervention and urgent intervention categories. When she looked at students’ individual Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs), she saw that many are making above-typical growth and may yet meet benchmark by the end of the year.

However, Henry’s behavior in class has suddenly changed. He’s not raising his hand as often as he used to, and he’s stopped volunteering to solve problems on the board.


Rather than having to check his assessment score in one place, his performance on core instructional activities in another, and his results on math practice problems in a third location, then spending an hour (or more) with a spreadsheet trying to determine how the data compares and what it all means, Ms. Joyes goes to one single location: her Star Math Mastery Dashboard.

Henry’s scores from Star Math, his performance on HMH into Math activities, and his work in Accelerated Math are all incorporated in this single view. Thanks to the Renaissance Growth Alliance allowing for seamless integration across multiple programs, Ms. Joyes can actually spend her time using her data rather than calculating it.

She quickly sees that Henry is struggling with dividing fractions by other fractions, indicated by his low mastery rating for that particular skill. She selects the skill in Star Math and is instantly greeted by a list of recommended resources for Henry. This is one of her favorite features, because it means she wastes no time logging in and out of different programs to figure out which activities are relevant. Instead, she takes a minute to select and assign the resources she knows will be best for Henry.

Ms. Joyes also picks an instructional resource she can use during direct instruction. During her next class, while students are working independently, she pulls Henry aside to give him one-on-one tutoring before he starts his assigned activities.

The following week, she checks the Star Mastery Dashboard again. Because data is collected in real time, she doesn’t need to do any additional data input or calculations to see the most up-to-date results. She can already start to see the effect the additional instruction and practice are having for Henry. His mastery level has begun to tick up. He’s not at mastery yet, but it’s good to see confirmation that her quick intervention is working and he’s moving in the right direction.

Technology that deepens the teacher-student relationship

At the last parent-teacher conference of the year, Ms. Joyes is excited to share with Henry’s family how much he has grown. Although Henry has to help his parents communicate at points, she can see the joy in their eyes as she shares the Star reports that show how much he’s improved over the course of the school year. His percentile rank has even increased to 63, up 4 points from the start of the year. That’s reason for celebration.

Henry

She would never say that any of the edtech programs she’s using are responsible for his success. No, Henry’s hard work is the only thing responsible for all that he’s achieved. But the edtech programs did make it easier for him to get here—easier for her to see where he most needed help, easier for her to find resources to help him, and easier to track his progress and ensure he stayed on the right track—but only because they all worked together so seamlessly.

Reflecting on the year, Ms. Joyes thinks about all that has changed:

  • Students take one test. Only one test is needed to meet the data needs of the district, school, and teaching staff. Because that one test is so quick—just 20 minutes—she never felt like she was spending so much time on assessment that she didn’t have enough time to focus on student learning. Instead, assessment data is helping her make the best use of her limited instructional time.

  • Teachers find differentiated resources in seconds. Although she’s using multiple programs in her classroom, Ms. Joyes can search for resources across different programs from just one screen. Because resources are aligned to specific skills—which are further connected with students’ assessment and practice activities—she can focus on deciding which relevant resource is best for her students, rather than wasting hours determining if resources are even relevant in the first place. Differentiating for a classroom full of different learning needs has never been so easy.

  • Data is integrated and easily accessible. This has been the first year in a very long time that Ms. Joyes hasn’t had to manually enter data from separate programs into one spreadsheet to try to get a 360-degree view of student performance. Instead, the Star Assessment reports do all the heavy lifting for her—pulling in data from multiple programs, integrating it into easy-to-read reports, and even suggesting instructional next steps based on students’ results. Now, she can combine her professional expertise with real data to confidently meet all her students’ individual needs.

Instead of exhausted, Ms. Joyes feels invigorated. With the Renaissance Growth Alliance connecting assessment, instruction, and practice, she’s getting to do more of what she does best: Helping her students grow.

Ready to see how the Renaissance Growth Alliance can help you transform teaching and learning? Visit the Growth Alliance page today to learn more and see the full list of our partners—including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Classworks®, Edmentum, Edgenuity®, Clever, Fuel Education®, Knovation®, and more.

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