Nearly 13,000 students attend K–8 classes in the Broken Arrow Public Schools (BAPS) district in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. District educators expect each student to achieve reading and math literacy, actively engage in extracurricular activities, and ultimately graduate on to higher education or careers. Jennifer Peterson, BAPS executive director of Elementary Administration, says that since 2014, when the district first set out on this bold journey, school communities have embraced the challenge. “We believe it’s a realistic goal and work as a team every day to ensure each student stays on track to achieve learning targets.”
“Across the district, we use Renaissance Star 360® to analyze skill levels and progress monitor as well as for guidance in adjusting instructional plans. Star 360 provides vital information that is used by all of our stakeholders, from administrators and principals to teachers, parents, and even the students themselves. Using Star 360 in conjunction with Renaissance practice solutions, we’re able to more quickly identify individual learning requirements—then take action with personalized instruction strategies. Watching our progress on Star 360 visuals motivates everyone to do more. We’re making huge strides and won’t quit until we reach that 100 percent goal.”
The challenge: Improve skills assessment and quantify progress
The Broken Arrow Public Schools first adopted Star 360 as part of the district’s transition from a discrepancy model to a response to intervention (RTI) model for better identification of at-risk students. Existing assessment tools were limited to grades K–2 and did not produce the scaled scores, percentile ranking, and student growth percentile scores that educators requested.
Peterson says that Star 360 met all requirements. “Star 360 gives us sufficient breadth and granularity of data to isolate learning issues and inform instruction. Another differentiator is the depth of research behind the Renaissance program. The fact that the system is used in K–8 schools nationwide also gave us confidence that the solution would stand up to the rigors and scale of our own districtwide implementation.”
Beth Johnson, a BAPS instructional technology specialist, adds, “Star 360 lets us quantify progress across all K–8 grades. In the past, our teachers knew when students were experiencing learning problems, but they didn’t have sufficient data to pinpoint and target specific skills that needed work or to readily set up tiered-instruction groups. Star 360 gives them that data as well as the ability to easily develop custom assessments. At least one teacher in every grade uses Star Custom to create five- to ten-question Common Formative Assessments that they share with other classes.”
Today, the district has standardized on Star 360 across its 14 elementary schools and 5 middle schools. At the BAPS Freshman Academy, Star 360 assessments help identify struggling learners. District schools are also long-time users of other Renaissance solutions. All middle schools and a number of K–5 schools have adopted the Renaissance Accelerated Math® practice program, and BAPS K–5 schools districtwide use the Renaissance Accelerated Reader® reading practice program.
The results: Improving skill levels, consistent growth, and assessment accuracy
Faster promotion to higher instruction tiers
Within the district’s RTI model, many schools have established multi-tiered intervention and prevention programs, utilizing Star 360 data to place students in appropriate levels of tiered instruction. Nathaniel Hutchings is the principal at Arrowhead Elementary, one of the district’s eight Title I schools that serves a predominantly low-socioeconomic student population with some 60 percent currently qualifying for free/reduced-price lunch programs.
Three Title I teachers conduct most of the school’s Tier 3 instruction. Hutchings says those teachers rely heavily on Star 360 assessments to probe mastery of specific skills, using the data as a basis for assigning children with like needs to small learning groups of four to six students. “Star 360 lets us much more quickly and easily access performance data and in turn take action with intense, targeted intervention. In only our second year of using Star 360, we’re seeing enormous growth in Tier 3 to Tier 2 graduation rates. We started this school year, for example, with 59 Tier 3 students. By the end of the first semester, 15 of those learners graduated to Tier 2. We’re experiencing measurable progress across all tiers and special education classes.”
A mindset for growth and action
BAPS educators typically run weekly Star 360 progress reports. “We use those reports to develop instructional strategies during RTI processes and professional learning community meetings,” adds Hutchings. “Star 360 data helps us understand schoolwide progress and serves as a non-subjective conversation starter for productive strategy sessions among educators and during parent-teacher conferences.”
“The ability to derive timely and accurate assessments is especially important when you’re serving an increasingly transient population. Another benefit of standardizing on Star 360 is that students moving within the district take their data with them. By the time they reach high school, as much as nine years of valuable skills and progress data will be available to help teachers address their individual needs. Across the BAPS district, we’re committed to moving students in a direction of growth, ensuring that every single one graduates with math and reading literacy. The Star 360 program has really helped us develop a schoolwide mindset for growth.”
Johnson, now the district’s Star 360 administrator, recalls the results of an early assessment. “One of our first ‘aha’ moments occurred when Star 360 assessments predicted with 99 percent accuracy our third-graders’ performance on upcoming state tests. Of the 1,400 students benchmarked, Star 360 accurately predicted results for 1,393. Oklahoma’s Reading Sufficiency Act requires that all students read at grade level by the end of the third grade. Having that Star 360 data ahead of state testing gave teachers, students, and parents critical preparation time. The value of that single benchmark was enough to garner full program support from district leadership.”
Peterson affirms that the entire school community makes use of Star 360 data. Principals, teachers, counselors, and even school psychologists closely monitor progress information to ensure that every school and student stays on track to achieve the learning objectives. “For placement and instructional planning decisions, it’s not our only data source—we generally look for agreement across three sources, typically Star 360 assessments, classwork, and another source such as state tests—but Star 360 provides extremely timely, accurate information to a wide variety of stakeholders. Star 360 data helps us drive growth, ensure accountability, and stay focused on our goal of 100 percent student literacy and graduation—we know that’s doable!”