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Getting the whole picture

For several years, North Clackamas School District has been reviewing the key performance indicators that are linked to our strategic plan—which included a focus to assess the whole child through an equity lens, rather than solely by academic factors and achievement. Equity is a critical component of our district’s plan and focus, and we feel strongly that one way to achieve equity is to utilize data to pave the way to meeting this critical goal. 

However, we didn’t have a centralized data dashboard, which left a huge hole in the work we were undertaking. Like so many other districts, the only information we had was either state-level data or whatever we could pull out of our student information system in a raw form. That meant we spent a lot of time taking that raw information and trying to make sense of it, grouping students in different ways to produce reports that allowed us to measure progress against our KPIs. 

When additional funding became available from the state, we began exploring different tools that would allow us to see data sets from both instructional and non-instructional measurements side-by-side. We wanted to be able to measure student academic progress as well as their growing abilities to manage emotions, achieve goals, and grow relationships. 

To access that holistic view of each student and student group, as well as automate and improve the impact of processes we already had in place, we adopted the multi-measure dashboard tool Schoolzilla. Now, we can identify whether a student is struggling or excelling with a broader perspective. This combination allows our district to identify issues with non-academic factors like absenteeism and behavioral concerns that may be affecting academic performance. 

Identifying achievement gaps, patterns in student behavior and engagement, and chronic absenteeism gives us a clearer picture of the potential root causes of academic performance by student groups as well as individual students. Once we analyze the data, we can strategize logical ways to improve entire grade levels, specific groups of students, or individual students in specific areas, as well as the ability to recognize students at risk before they fall behind.  

Using Schoolzilla and Star Assessments, an assessment suite that provides universal screening and student progress monitoring, we can decide how to ensure that students remain on a progressive track that leads to credit attainment as they go to 9th grade, which is a strong indicator of whether a student will graduate high school on time or not. The pairing of these two tools allows us to better understand how non-academic factors are affecting achievement and growth and then make changes in our curriculum or how we provide support. Being able to do that mid-year rather than waiting to the end of the year means that we can help students catch up, rather than just spotting the ones who were left behind.

More importantly, we can also see our student achievement through an equity lens. Maybe our district is doing well overall, but we can see that specific groups of students are struggling in a particular area. We are currently managing this process at the district office and have begun the process of school leaders utilizing these tools at their sites in order to identify and respond to student needs in their buildings.

We want them looking at grades, but we also want them looking at attendance and discipline. If they can see a list of students who are at risk according to whatever criteria we set, they’ll be able to act on that data in a way that will help each school meet its KPIs—and help every student get the support they need to succeed. 

Leigh Anne Scherer is an assessment and accountability coordinator for North Clackamas School District in Oregon, where she uses Schoolzilla and Star Assessments to gather actionable data on students.

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