Hope, self-reliance, and perseverance were predominant themes when Homestead Elementary School was built in 1934, and they’re still at the heart of the school’s accomplishments. Homestead has been honored by the Tennessee Department of Education as a Reward School for two years in a row. The distinction recognizes this Title I school as ranking among the top five percent of the state’s schools in performance, as measured by overall student achievement levels.
“Renaissance products have provided a strong foundation of success at Homestead,” says Principal Robin Perry. “Maintaining accountability through data analysis and providing feedback is crucial to everything we do.”
Interim assessments identify needs
Homestead uses Renaissance Star Reading®, Renaissance Star Math®, and Renaissance Star Early Literacy® to screen all students three times per year. These formative assessments enable teachers to identify strengths and areas of growth for each student, and then develop a plan to challenge or remediate instruction as needed. Instructional Planning Reports guide differentiated instruction in the classroom.
After the second universal screening and before the high-stakes state test, data from the Growth Proficiency Chart and State Performance Report is analyzed to help predict performance. Any specific state standards requiring intervention are targeted in advance to keep students moving forward. Last year on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP), Proficiency/Advanced scores in third- through eighth-grade reading and math exceeded state goals, with all annual measurable objectives achieved.
“Our teachers are comfortable using data to drive instruction and find Star reports invaluable in these efforts,” says Perry, noting that teachers attend Renaissance professional development often and share new information during staff meetings. “Their commitment to the success of every student and their knowledgeable, consistent use of best practices and research-based instruction are all key ingredients for academic achievement.”
Homestead has been especially focused on closing the gap between special education and general education students, and they’ve made a remarkable impact in the area of Response to Intervention (RTI).
To fully inform instruction, testing is done every one to three weeks with intensive intervention RTI students. The resulting data and Diagnostic Reports help the RTI team determine specific skills requiring reinforcement. For Katy McClellan, a technology instructor at Homestead and Star Coach who helps with RTI, this ability to target key difficulties is one of Star’s greatest benefits.
“For example, the report might indicate that a student has trouble with rhyming words or blends, so we’ll provide extra support for that skill,” says McClellan. “This allows students, through extra instruction, to master a skill.” The RTI team works with students in small groups or one-on-one for about 30 minutes daily to re-teach or practice specific skills.
Monitoring progress drives growth
Progress monitoring is an integral part of the data-driven approach at Homestead. The RTI team watches the Annual Progress Report, which includes a graph that McClellan calls “a great tool for a quick check.” For general students, teachers check Diagnostic Reports weekly and Screening and Growth Reports multiple times per year.
In her role as “motivator and accountability partner,” Principal Perry keeps an eye on it all—analyzing reports, checking the dashboard weekly, and discussing progress during monthly grade-level meetings. She says establishing routines and setting goals enable students to maintain the Homestead Elementary School standard of high expectations.