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Proven Intervention Strategies to Support Struggling Students

Using data to transform mindsets at Westport Elementary

Westport Elementary is identified as a “Focus” school, which means it’s ranked among the lowest performing 10 percent of Title I schools in the district, as determined by the Missouri state assessments in English, language arts, and mathematics.

Two years ago, numeracy coach Colleen Dorsey and her team set out to close learning gaps for K-5 math students in Westport Elementary and get them on track to meet state standards.
They introduced their students to DreamBox Learning in the 2015/2016 school year, setting a goal of 60 minutes per week, per student. With access to only a handful of desktop computers, getting every student the recommended time they needed on DreamBox proved a formidable challenge, one that teachers managed by collaborating with a technology teacher who deftly scheduled precious computer time for each class.

This year, the district delivered for Westport Elementary big time—equipping each student in grades 3–5 with Chromebooks and supporting K–2 students with eight new iPads. The challenge is no longer getting kids to log their 60 minutes on DreamBox, it’s getting them to scale back their usage from 120 minutes. It seems once they get going on lessons, it’s hard to pry them away. Math proficiencies are on the rise for two years in a row. And, for the 2016/2017 school year, Westport demonstrated 98 percent growth in student standards. So, how did they do it?

Creating a shift in school mindset
In a recent live webcast (now available on demand), Colleen Dorsey explained how her school was able to implement and scale a dynamic Response to Intervention (RtI) plan by:

• Targeting areas for improvement and support
• Using data to monitor and measure ongoing student progress
• Understanding the characteristics of an effective math formative assessment program
• Using data to differentiate instruction and build teacher capacity

Today, students at Westport Elementary are no longer just participants in their education: they’re actually in the driver’s seat. Teachers facilitate the learning, but it’s the students who set the goals and determine the pace. Educators no longer struggle to engage students who aren’t ready to participate. Instead, they’re now exploring new ways to manage learners that want more—and Dorsey thinks that’s a great problem to have. She sees it has a harbinger of good things to come, including increasingly higher academic achievement and a new growth mindset.

Four keys to effective and meaningful math assessment
Dorsey explains four ways her building is using DreamBox to drive meaningful math assessment and transform mindsets:

  1. Timely feedback: Students working in DreamBox get immediate feedback—in the moment, and they in turn provide teachers with feedback. In fact, Dorsey says that teachers can often hear the excitement in their student’s voices. Students will either tell them when they complete a lesson, or they’ll move markers on a chart set up in their classroom. Even when the feedback points to an error, the impetus is to persevere. The new mindset teaches students that it’s okay to mistakes.
  2. Independent learning: With DreamBox, students understand that they have to do the work themselves. They know they have X number of lessons and standards to complete in order to succeed and advance to the next assignment or next level. Dorsey says they know what their next goal is—and they’re always ready to learn.
  3. Personalized learning: Adaptive software makes it easier and easier to personalize instruction. Teachers use the AssignFocus™ tool to create short- and long-term assignments based on rich, real-time student proficiency data. So, each student gets exactly what he or she needs when they need it. In fact, students at Westport Elementary actually look forward to getting assignments in DreamBox because they understand that the lessons assigned were chosen especially for them.
  4. Collaborative implementation: Not only does Dorsey’s district provide the resources her building needs to succeed—including materials, equipment, and funding—but they’ve created a culture that supports collaborative implementation. Teachers use DreamBox’s embedded professional development (PD) modules to establish their own professional learning path. They even use it to help bring parents into the fold and empower them to better understand what their children are doing in class. DreamBox is actually helping to bridge gaps for parents and students alike. One parent recently commented after a 1:1 conference with a teacher, “The new math isn’t as hard as I thought it was.”

If you’d like to learn more about Westport Elementary’s winning approach to RtI, watch the 60-minute recorded session entitled, Proven Intervention Strategies to Support Struggling Students.

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