Student Performance Improves on Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments in Rochester, MN

Lincoln K-8 Choice School is part of Rochester Public Schools in southeastern Minnesota. The urban school serves 400 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. “In 2006, it looked like our school would not make AYP [Adequate Yearly Progress] in a couple areas,” said James Sonju, principal. “Fortunately, that was the year we began using Study Island. Study Island changed our whole mindset about our state tests. It sharpened our focus on students’ performance on our state academic standards and gave us a tool to motivate students to achieve. We made AYP that year and have made AYP every year since.”

How They Did It

As part of a districtwide initiative at the middle school level, Lincoln first implemented Study Island in fall 2006. Today, all Lincoln students in grades 3 through 8 work on Study Island in math, reading, and science.

“Study Island is something students really enjoy,” said Sonju. “It builds their confidence and makes them feel like they’re in control of their performance in school and on the state tests.”

With real-time reporting on student achievement, Study Island helps teachers quickly identify learning gaps as they relate to state standards. “Teachers can look at the Study Island reports and see where students are doing well and where they’re coming up short,” said Sonju. “This allows teachers to adapt their instruction and spend more time on the skills students actually need to work on. As a principal, Study Island lets me know we’re providing students with exactly what they need to succeed on our state tests.”

According to Sonju, student progress monitoring is critical to the school’s improved performance. “We run a spreadsheet for every grade level that shows each standard and the percentage of children achieving mastery in Study Island. Teachers review the spreadsheets in their team meetings, so they can identify areas of need and regroup students to meet those needs.”

The school also displays each class’ progress on a wall at the front of the school building. Students and teachers can see how each grade level is doing, how many questions students have answered, and how many Blue Ribbons students have earned in Study Island.

To create a positive focus on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA), Lincoln also holds schoolwide pep assemblies. “Before I joined the school, there were negative associations with the state tests. Both teachers and students were stressed about the tests,” said Sonju. “So, we created the ‘Rock Town Tour’ to rally kids to do their best on the state tests. Our school band, orchestra, choir, and leadership groups present music and skits and dancing — and the kids love it. They see these students promoting academics, and they want to jump on board too.”

Students who wish to participate in the Rock Town Tour, which also tours four other schools in the district, must earn at least 44 Blue Ribbons in Study Island. “It’s quite a bit of work, but the kids feel it’s worth it,” said Sonju.

To accelerate student learning, the school encourages students to use Study Island outside of the school day as well. According to Sonju, about 80 percent of the school’s Study Island usage is outside of regular school hours. “Students wouldn’t spend that much of their free time on it if it wasn’t making a difference,” he said.

Study Island is available to students in school computer labs during lunchtime and as part of a tutoring program that runs twice a week after school. “The labs are at full capacity every lunch period,” said Sonju. “Even after school, kids really enjoy it, and it’s been a great boost for their academics.”

Lincoln also uses Study Island’s parent notification system to simplify communication between teachers and parents. “All parents automatically receive notification updates about their child’s performance, which they really appreciate. It empowers parents and creates an academic partnership,” said Sonju.

Sonju and several teachers access Study Island from home as well. “Every night, I send messages to students to congratulate them on their work and the Blue Ribbons they’ve received because I can see their progress in real time. It’s a great way to provide feedback and let students know we’re paying attention. ”Thanks to the school’s efforts, students now feel confident about the MCAs. “Every year, I ask, ‘How’d the test go?’ And students say, ‘Study Island made it so easy. We feel like we’ve already seen the things that are on the test. We can’t wait until the next test tomorrow.’”



Since implementing Study Island in 2006, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards on the MCAs has increased in math and reading, and the school has made AYP each year.

“Our results have been amazing,” said Sonju. “In 2008 and 2009, in several grades, we had the highest growth in MCA scores in the district. In 2006–07, when it was predicted that we would not make AYP, we blew our state test scores out of the water. It was awesome. With normal curve equivalent (NCE) scores, the expected gain is typically 1 or 2 points in a school year. Our school’s average NCE gain in math was 7 points. There weren’t any other changes in our curriculum or our program, so we believe Study Island was a key factor in our scores going up.”

Sonju raved, “There are a lot [of] educational software programs out there, but Study Island has been the most effective program for us. It’s worth every penny. Students are engaged, they’re having fun, and they’re achieving results. Study Island has become the fabric of our academic excellence. All schools could benefit from this amazing program.”



Targeted Remediation in New Castle, IN

Smaller schools can find it challenging to provide remediation services for students who are falling behind the pace of their classmates. With limited resources and instructional time to dedicate to students’ individual needs, Blue River Valley Junior-Senior High School in rural New Castle, Indiana, started searching for a solution.



The school, which serves just under 300 students, took on the challenge of carving out dedicated time for remediation early on. What it lacked, however, was a means to identify a student’s learning gaps in order to make the most efficient use of that time.

“We needed a tool to provide the data and feedback to help inform our decision-making as we regrouped our students and provided targeted individualized instruction,” said Blue River Valley Junior/Senior High School principal Adam Perdue. “With Study Island, we could do both whole-group and individualized instruction.”

How They Did It

Blue River Valley Junior-Senior High School’s remediation strategy is centered around what it calls Targeted Assistance Time (TAT), a block of 45 minutes built into four school days per week. During that time, all students receive targeted instruction in either math or language arts depending on their needs. Every three weeks, students are regrouped based on the data provided by Study Island. Math and English departments have identified “power standards” and prioritized those topics for students at each grade level.

“Teachers help students interface with content and practice using engaging, interactive lessons, pulling their resources and activities from Study Island,” explained Mr. Perdue. “Teachers utilize data from Study Island’s assessments and import data from NWEA’s Measures of Academic Progress to plan activities catered to student needs. After the three week assessment, students are regrouped as needed based on the data. Our data coach, teachers, and administration all have a voice as we discuss the needs of our students in collaboration data meetings.” At the end of each three-week period, the school celebrates the students’ success through a reward system based on Study Island’s Blue Ribbon mastery-tracking functionality.


In the 2015–16 school year, Blue River Valley Junior-Senior High School raised the letter grade it received from the state for the first time since 2010—from a C to a B. Its ongoing NWEA™ MAP® assessment data continues to improve, and Mr. Perdue believes it’s only a matter of time before Blue River Valley Junior-Senior High School is an A school.

“We continue to strive to be the best school in our area, and Study Island has been a great resource for our students and teachers,” said Mr. Perdue. “Our school letter grade went up when a lot of schools went down.”

The district is currently investigating expanding the use of Study Island to the elementary school’s 5th and 6th grade students in order to better prepare learners for the rigors of the promotion to Blue River Valley Junior-Senior High School.



Plato Courseware Helps Students Stay on Pace for Graduation in Dublin, OH

Dublin Scioto High School is one of four high schools in the Dublin City School District, located in a northwest suburb of metropolitan Columbus, Ohio. As a Title I school committed to providing a top-notch education for all of its students, Dublin Scioto seeks to challenge its highest achievers while also supporting its struggling learners to be the best that they can be.


With a significant at-risk population, the teachers and administration at Dublin Scioto understand that keeping up with coursework can be a challenge for some students. The high school has pursued an effective solution for those who are falling behind and would benefit from a strong credit recovery program with the help of Edmentum and its online learning programs. By implementing these solutions, Dublin Scioto strives to provide effective support and opportunities so that these students can stay on pace with their peers and graduate on time.

Dublin Scioto chose Plato Courseware to serve this important need by offering rigorous, relevant curriculum that engages students with interactive, media-rich content. Students seeking ways to recover missing credits are able to work on the courses in one of two computer labs in the building. The labs run for seven class periods daily, and teachers are assigned to each lab to assist students. For students requiring more in-depth, one-on-one attention, they are paired with a teacher in the subject area of the Plato course being worked on. “We try to customize the lesson to fit the needs of the students,” said Dr. Donis Toler, principal at Dublin Scioto.

While the school has benefited from using Plato Courseware as a tool for credit recovery, it has also utilized the product for a variety of other purposes, from its response to intervention program to its special education and English as a second language services.


Plato Courseware has helped Dublin Scioto’s struggling students stay on track and attain the goal of graduation. The school adopted Plato in 2012 and has maintained a four-year graduation rate well above the Ohio state average and seen an increase after just one year.

The school has also been able to ensure that nearly all of its students meet the state’s benchmarks, with between 97 and 99 percent of its seniors testing proficient or higher in the core subjects of reading, math, science, and social studies from year to year. “Used correctly,” Toler said, “Edmentum is a powerful program to meet the various academic needs of all students.”



Providing Flexible Credit Options in Middlebury, IN

It’s safe to say that blended learning is opening up doors to innovative opportunities that weren’t available just a few years ago. For students in need of flexibility in credit attainment, one middle school has found a way to create instructional options that are keeping students in the district who might otherwise have been leaving for homeschooling or a virtual schooling option outside of the district.

Northridge Middle School (NMS) in Middlebury, Indiana, has created a special home for students in its blended learning lab, led by teacher Lauren Bailey. NMS identified a need to supplement its existing curriculum by offering more online options for a student body with diverse needs.



“We realized that Edmentum could also serve to provide our current students with hundreds of additional course offerings and meet some of their own unique learning needs,” said Dr. Robby Goodman, assistant superintendent.

NMS was also seeking to provide an alternative for students who have trouble finding success in the traditional classroom environment, including those who have severe anxiety, those who are homebound, and those who require alternative scheduling.

“We really focused on where students were going and targeted how to get them here, while thinking how to collaborate with their worlds and expectations for learning,” said Bailey.


How They Did It

After intensive research and a successful pilot, NMS decided on implementing a suite of Edmentum solutions – Academy to provide virtual courses that are otherwise unavailable in the school’s existing curriculum, Edmentum Courseware to provide curriculum for students who are more successful in an online environment, and Study Island to provide remediation support and standards reinforcement in math.

“Our model of blended learning allows a great deal of flexibility,” explained Bailey. “A lab is available, and some students come every day for a certain time period away from their other public school classes. Otherwise, students may come a few days a week on a schedule that meets their family needs, and some students come in as support is needed.”

With so many tasks going on in one location, monitoring student success is also crucial. For that, Bailey finds the data available in Edmentum’s teacher dashboards to be invaluable. “I watch my students’ performance daily as they are completing work, then communicate that info weekly with families, students, and administration,” said Bailey.


To date, NMS’ blended learning initiative has provided over 150 high school credits to middle school students to help prepare them for the next step in their studies. Because of the diverse options it offers, NMS has also become the school of record for 25 students from other districts or online academies, providing added revenue for the school and district.

The success of the Edmentum implementation is recognized not only by Bailey but by other school staff as well. Pam Shenk, the blended learning guidance counselor, believes the blended learning classroom has opened up doors for students at NMS.

“We have seen success with our gifted students who are able to be challenged in high school level courses,” said Shenk. “They work at their own speed and aren’t limited to the pacing of a traditional classroom. Our general education students are also successful because they are able to slow down the pacing of a unit so they really understand the material.”

Another benefit the blended learning implementation has provided for NMS is the ability to offer a program other local schools were not, therefore becoming attractive to out-of-district families currently looking for other options. Once students enroll in some sort of virtual or online learning option, they also become eligible for athletics, academic teams, and other activities through the school. Bailey notes that with this draw, “Nine times out of ten, we find that once we get those kids involved in some way, they find success, and we find ways to get them here more.”

Bailey credits the NMS blended learning program with meeting a long list of student needs, even unanticipated ones. It has served students who have been in crisis, students who have lost a loved one, and students who have disabilities.

“We are able to provide one calm environment where students can take any number of courses with the support of a classroom and digital teacher,” said Bailey. “The flexibility to work from home when anxiety is too high is also powerful and alleviates stress from families without accumulating excessive absences.”

The Future

Northridge Middle School will become a one-to-one school beginning in the 2018–19 school year, and educators are currently vetting additional Edmentum solutions to see if they can provide an online environment that all students will soon have access to.

Additionally, the blended learning lab will continue to serve students with unique needs and interests. To date, Bailey is able to determine which courses to offer based on student interests, such as art or photography. Based on the number of students with a particular interest, she can decide if it is best to find a teacher for that subject using digital curriculum from Edmentum Courseware, or if the need is better met with a virtual teacher from Academy. Either way, supporting these students will continue to be made possible with the school’s Edmentum partnership.



Rigorous Courses and Expectations Lead to Success in Ottumwa, IA

Ottumwa High School in Ottumwa, Iowa has taken online learning and combined it with a Midwestern work ethic to deliver real results for its students. Plato Courseware Administrator Kevin Cochran was brought on three years ago to implement Plato Courseware and administer the OHS online learning program. “I had been running my own business, and had also been coaching for 15 years,” said Cochran. “I was at a point where the coaching led me to want to get more involved with students and their education. Joining Ottumwa High School to work with Plato Courseware was the best career decision I’ve ever made.”



How They Did It

Cochran indicated that there was some initial skepticism among the staff: “For a few, there was a sense that with online courses for credit recovery, you throw a student in, they get their credit, and they get out. The staff saw it as an easy way out. But, once teachers became familiar with the online courses, they really came to understand the rigor and complexity of the courses.” The teachers and students soon came to realize that online learning with Plato Courseware was far from the easy way out. Cochran said that regardless of how courses are delivered, students need to be committed to making the effort in order to succeed. To earn the credit, students must get at least 70 percent overall proficiency.

The teachers have become convinced of the quality of the courses. A biology teacher reported that students tell peers taking the teacher-led class, “You’d better pass this one because the Plato Courseware biology course is harder.”

A mathematics teacher told Cochran that he was impressed by how much course content an Algebra II student already knew after taking the Plato Algebra I course.

Cochran also says that the course-level assessments provide immediate feedback that helps him identify knowledge gaps and helps OHS teachers guide instruction and provide more individualized learning experiences.

As for Plato Courseware customer support, Cochran said it is excellent. He is particularly impressed with the efficiency and excellent follow-up demonstrated by the customer support.



In a school of 1,400 students, almost 400 students recovered credits using Plato Courseware, and 76 seniors in the Plato Courseware program graduated, including many that Cochran said would otherwise not have. In 2010, OHS students recovered a total of 507 credits.

Of course, inside the numbers are the real lives of students. These include one student who, due to poor attendance and a general lack of interest in learning, was at risk of not graduating. But, using Plato Courseware and the alternative learning environment it provides, she earned 12 credits. “She was at risk of not graduating, but it wasn’t because of knowledge or skill gaps,” Cochran said. “Something just clicked in her when she started using the program. I got a call from her a few months after graduation. She told me she was starting college the next Monday.”

The Future

After completing three years with Plato Courseware, OHS renewed its contract. Plato Courseware will be used this summer with about 120 students, and Plato Courseware has been adopted at OHS’ alternative school, with about 100 students. “We were excited to renew our contract and are looking forward to continuing to expand our use of Plato Courseware,” said Cochran. “For example, we are planning on using Plato Courseware as part of our special education program. That’s a new chance for success for another 160 students in Ottumwa.”