HONOR ROLLS

Going inside the numbers; District turns to analytics to improve scores

Published Saturday, November 24, 2018
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Looking Into Numbers

LOOKING INTO THE NUMBERS – Chico ISD Curriculum Director Brent Hand shows off one of his tests that will show students’ strengths and weaknesses in various academic areas. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

Like baseball and basketball teams looking to crunch numbers to produce the best team, Chico ISD is turning to analytics to make sure its students understand the material on the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exams.

Instead of practice tests developed by teachers, Curriculum Director Brent Hand has taken on that task. He’s created exams for specific units for members of the staff to give students throughout the year. The computer-generated tests provide real-time analysis of the students’ performance and understanding of specific Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) covered in the unit tested.

“It’s a little different approach to what’s been traditionally done,” Hand said. “At the end of a unit you’d give tests, teachers generally have to create those tests, administer those tests and then grade those tests. Then to get data out of them, they’d have to analyze those tests. So what we’ve done is put together a computer program so when a teacher finishes a particular unit, the kids are given a test over that unit, but the teacher doesn’t have to create it, doesn’t have to grade it and doesn’t have to analyze it.

“The reports are generated through the computer program to give the teacher very specific information on each individual student’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s taken a lot of the time away from what teachers have to do and getting a lot more pertinent data to build off of for student growth and for student remediation.”

Hand created 26 large databases for every STAAR-tested subject area in grades three through 12 with questions from released STAAR tests and standardized exams from other states.

Every question in the database is tagged to the specific TEKS that it addresses. Hand is able to go into the database and pool questions for specific units of study into an assessment test.

After an assessment, a teacher gets multiple reports – a summary of what a student got right and their scores – and then a trouble spots report, which points out if there is a specific TEK giving a student an issue.

“If there is a specific TEK causing a class a particular problem, it’s identified right away,” Hand said.

“On the back end when a teacher gets the results, they don’t get a kid made a 92. They get, ‘this kid mastered this TEK, mastered this TEK and did not do well on this TEK.’ A teacher can identify the specific area that this child needs remediation in to move their scores higher.”

Hand said teachers will know what the problem areas are within 12 hours of him running his reports to start remediation.

The hope with the information is to help more students master material and improve the district’s overall scores on the state assessments. Hand said it’s important to not only get more students past the approaches level, but also to the state’s higher two categories – meets standard or masters.

“By getting our upper kids’, our middle kids’ and every kid’s weaknesses and strengths identified, we’re shifting all the numbers up,” Hand said. “The kids that are now approaching are moving up to meets and the kids at meets are moving up to masters.”

The district was encouraged by results of the limited implementation of the testing last year.

“We piloted it last year in five subjects here at the school, and we had an 18 percent improvement in STAAR scores from one year to the next,” Hand said. “That was a small sample size. It was courses throughout the district on all three campuses.”

The district decided to try it across the board this year for all STAAR tested courses. The results this year are already encouraging.

“We’ve seen an 8 percent improvement from the first [assessment] to where we are right now,” Hand said. “If we see that again before Christmas, we’ll be at our STAAR scores from last year with another 12 to 15 weeks to continue to build on that.”

Teachers can decide when to give the assessments. Hand said some teachers are doing one every six weeks, and others have already given five assessments.

“It’s not designed to tell a teacher how to teach a class,” Hand said. “It’s me helping the teachers assess their students and give them data about how the students have done.”

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