Research has long connected learning outcomes with students’ socioeconomic backgrounds. Learn how Georgia’s Tattnall County School District has used data, a “whatever-it-takes” attitude, and i-Ready to overcome barriers to success.
A vast body of international research connects learning opportunities and academic achievement with students’ socioeconomic backgrounds. According to Sue Thomson with the Australian Council for Educational Research, “There is some discussion about the size of the effect. However, the relationship between a student’s socioeconomic background and their educational achievement seems enduring and substantial.” Thomson goes on to write in Achievement at School and Socioeconomic Background—An Educational Perspective that even with a half-century of research, solutions to break through those barriers have been in short supply.
But at Georgia’s Tattnall County School District, the size of their motivation matches the size of their challenge. Despite their 100-percent free and reduced-price lunch eligibility, students in Tattnall County are experiencing growth that exceeds expectations.
Timely Formative Assessment Data
Nestled among the pines in rural southeastern Georgia, Tattnall County School District had big ideas to overcome obstacles. District leaders recognized the importance of using data to inform their instructional goals. To push back on the challenge of socioeconomic status, they needed a tool to provide timely, formative assessment data across multiple schools. Leaders took the initiative by researching what successful blue ribbon schools were using. “We prioritized finding a tool that had been successful in other schools and that we could use and activate at the district level,” says Starla Barker, principal of Collins Elementary. After a lengthy search, Kristen Waters, curriculum director, recognized a pattern of success using i-Ready. The students’ assessment results provided an early piece of evidence that gave principals confidence in the decision. Collins Elementary committed to piloting the program during the 2018–2019 school year. When the results were in, the decision was made to move forward with implementation and expand i-Ready resources across the district in Grades K–8.
Continuous Professional Development and Support
To challenge the status quo and achieve the results they wanted, school leaders in Tattnall County knew training would be a critical first step. They invited the i-Ready Professional Development team to guide teachers and administrators as they learned to use their i-Ready resources with fidelity. “The presenters who work with our teachers to use the interim data are really the number one factor for us,” said David Tucker, principal at South Tattnall Middle School. When teachers could see the value of using i-Ready to support differentiated instruction, buy-in was easily achieved. They liked the ability to provide personalized reading and math instruction and deliver targeted support to students who needed it. They began to see the importance of the Diagnostic data and how it fuels the lessons between assessments.
The real test for i-Ready came when school closures sent students home to continue through distance learning. Serving lower-income families in a rural area added a new challenge to provide instruction for all students regardless of internet connectivity limitations. Teachers were relieved to find Curriculum Associates there to support them through the pressures they faced. Families with internet access relied on the intuitive and user-friendly online platform. They were seamlessly using i-Ready as a differentiation piece. Students in homes where connectivity was unreliable were also supported with paper i-Ready at Home packets provided by Curriculum Associates.
Sustainable Results That Exceed Expectations
Despite facing multiple challenges related to socioeconomic status, the commitment in Tattnall County reaped exemplary growth results. In reading, students across multiple grade levels met or exceeded the Typical Growth benchmarks, and at least 45 percent of students improved their placement level in each grade. In math, students exceeded Typical Growth in all grade levels, and at least 50 percent of students in each grade improved their placement level. And those numbers keep showing up year over year.
Students were motivated to take more ownership in their learning journey as they began to feel the confidence that comes with growth and achievement. “We do the growth checks every month, and students track it on a chart and have conversations about it with their teacher,” explains Barker. “Even those students below grade level see the growth. The kids always enjoy getting up and marking the big chart. It becomes more student driven than anything, which is nice for us to see.”
It’s clear the teachers, administrators, students, and families in Tattnall County Schools live up to their motto and do “whatever it takes.”
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