Summit International School in Abu Dhabi is an American curriculum international private school. The school has 932 students from 30 different countries worldwide, and all learners are English language learners (ELLs).
Recognizing Summit International School’s Challenges
In 2017, the school recognized that they faced several challenges. These included a need for more practice in reading and math, a strategy for differentiated teaching and learning to teach to their higher-attaining students and lower-attaining students, more familiarity and comfort with the curriculum, and reliable data sources for their assessments.
Lee Dabagia, Principal at Summit International School, recognizes these challenges and says that “our school had been classified as “Weak” and “Acceptable” in the ADEK inspection ratings until about 2017. In the last four years, thanks to Exact Path and our teachers, we’ve moved the school into the ‘A’ range with the local inspection. In 2018-2019, we did away with textbooks.”
Indeed, the school chose Exact Path as it directly adhered to its vision and mission statements. The school’s vision includes providing “…every student individualized learning, opportunities for growth, and the confidence and creativity to climb higher every day.” The mission also consists of the school’s aims to “…create a happy and safe environment that cultivates individualized learning paths through active learning and reflective teaching.”
Lee agrees with the synergy between the school’s mission and Exact Path and says, “So there you have the vision and the mission. The watchword is ‘individualized learning.’ We wanted growth opportunities and for the children to know what growth means for them. We wanted to give them confidence and allow for creativity to solve their own problems. We also believe that a happy environment is a better learning environment and wanted everybody to have an individualized learning path.”
Putting the Focus on Growth & Attainment with Exact Path
After the vision and mission were created, a four-step climb was produced. Samar Barakeh, Director of Assessment & Student Services at the school, explains more: “we came up with a four-step climb that revolved around a warm-up, active learning and/or use of technology, differentiation, and a check for understanding. Here, we questioned the differentiation more because teachers have different experiences with differentiation. The challenging part was that teachers had to base their differentiation on reliable data, but our internal assessments did not reveal reliable data.”
The school soon recognized a problem with its data and needed a solution to sort it. Lee explains more: “what we discovered was our MAP® data was at one level as far as grade-level is concerned and our in-class teacher-graded levels were higher. As the students matured through the school, the gap got wider to a point where our 8th-grade students scored MAP® at a 5th-grade level. Yet, somehow, they were getting A’s in an 8th-grade curriculum marking by our teachers. We presented this data to our teachers and had some very open and detailed meetings and discussions about the journey forward. We showed them the graph of what grades were being given versus what the MAP® assessments said about the very same students in their classrooms. There was an ‘oh my’ moment.”
The school explained the results to the parents and knew they needed a solution to address the gap. Several issues were explored, such as how the school would bring students up and still teach the grade-level curriculum simultaneously, how they would teach individual children, and how they could gather reliable data. Lee says that,
“We needed a tool to reflect on data and to make the classrooms active, and the answer for us was Exact Path.
“Exact Path allows us to give the students time to catch up to their grade level and what’s going on in their classrooms at the same time. It gives the teachers data that supports them with differentiation and helps them translate the grade-level curriculum into lessons every day. That was the advantage for us of Exact Path.”
Implementing NWEA™ MAP® & Exact Path to Increase Growth & Attainment
The school had already integrated NWEA™ MAP® to measure the children’s attainment and growth. They recognized that NWEA™ MAP® was all about growth, and so the staff looked to incentivize their learners when they used Exact Path to support them with their learning.
Jeffrey Sykes, Assistant Principal at the school, comments that:
“When we partnered with Exact Path, and as you can see from our mission statement with individualized pathways, we felt like we had found a perfect partner. We had found a place that was going to take our MAP® scores and enable our teachers to see their students’ levels and what they were working at.”
Summit International School began working with Edmentum to set up Exact Path, implement it, establish what reports they would receive, and then rolled it out to their teachers. They soon found that Exact Path acted as a “life-saver” for staff and was predominantly a curriculum tool to support them. The school needed a way to increase its trust of Exact Path with the staff, which was when they decided to embed it into the school culture.
The school challenged students with a “#tothetop” trophy tournament where students from grade 1 to grade 8 were tasked to meet learning time goals. Students who completed their grade-level criteria were rewarded with a trophy, and this was when Exact Path became more embedded in the school.
However, looking at the data, Jeffrey and the school saw interesting results: “we noticed that in middle school, students completing this challenge dropped compared to the lower school. So we thought about how we can connect those kids to the platform on Exact Path. So the next thing was to look at the data.”
The school set up a Microsoft® Excel® spreadsheet to report on the average time spent on Exact Path, skills mastered, and students’ passing rate. These reports could all be generated in Exact Path. They saw a trend in statistics from week 1, the start of the school’s 2020 lockdown, to week 14.
Jeffrey comments on the spike in data from week 1 to week 11: “we took this data and began to communicate it to our staff. We switched our focus on time and focused on skills mastered. We noted what happened from week 1 to 11. In grade 1, we were mastering four times the amount of skills.”
The school also noticed that as they shared this data with staff, staff began to use Exact Path more frequently. When seeing the data, parents used Exact Path more too. Indeed, Jeffrey states: “parents began to catch on to conversations that were driving Exact Path use at school and why we were using it as part of our curriculum, and they supported children in using it.”
Embedding Exact Path in School Assessment Policy to Support Attainment
To drive usage and as a result of the school seeing growth, they also embedded Exact Path into the assessment policy and made it a part of the assessment component. Samar explains more:
“Part of how students are evaluated and assessed includes the Edmentum reports. Assessment using Exact Path applies to students from grade 1 to grade 9. For transparency, the assessment policy is on our school’s website. Fifteen percent of a student’s final reporting grade goes to Edmentum reports; 10% is how many challenges students complete, and 5% is the skills they master within their learning pathway. As a result of this, our students and teachers take Exact Path very seriously.”
The school began to create a triangulation of data by using the NWEA™ MAP® reports to track students’ attainment and progress, using Exact Path for skills mastered and the number of challenges completed, and aligning it with internal assessments. Samar says that due to this, “our questioning techniques are now more effective as we have reliable data.”
Additional Methods to Improve Growth Gains with Exact Path
However, the school is moving to a new focus to reward students for skills completed. New challenges have been created this year to improve growth. These new challenges are described by Ian Power, Exact Path Expert, and Grade 5 Teacher: “What we’ve learned is that we needed to incentivize the kids a little differently, so we’ve come up with new challenges this year. Each week, we still do our time challenges. Each term, we do ten time-based challenges, which equates to 10% of our “report card.” However, we wanted to see more learner progress, so we introduced two different challenges based on skills mastered. Each fortnight, we have a bi-weekly champion, and this is just inside the class. We have a winner for English and a winner for math. The rewards range from homework passes to sitting in the teacher’s chair. The children really became enthusiastic about it.”
Rewards have progressed since then for success too, as Ian says, “the rewards do vary, but traditionally, they get to have a movie party in the month. These results are significant, and incentivizing the kids is really working.”
Improving Students’ Growth & Attainment With Exact Path Reports
Teachers also recognized that they could use Exact Path to support them with personalized learning in particular. When a MAP® test is completed, the school uploads their NWEA™ MAP® data to Exact Path, generating a learning path. Ian says that “I can click on my skills report, and I would know 63% of my class are not ready for grade 3 number sentences, so I would need to move down a level. These reports, moving forward, will help teachers with their planning and being able to see different students’ progress.”
Teachers also show Exact Path reports to parents as it shows what level students are working at and influences the way they teach.
Ian particularly thinks the curriculum is ideal for Exact Path. As an Irish teacher who has moved to the UAE, Ian says, “many teachers would not be familiar with the curriculum, but Exact Path shows you all you need to know. It’s on Exact Path clearly and simply – it helps you enormously and does the hard work for you.”
Success with Exact Path at Summit International School
Finally, all the methods implemented have meant the school is seeing success from using Exact Path.
Following the momentum the school saw in trimester 3, they did not want to lose the momentum of Exact Path and the growth they had seen. Therefore, the school introduced the “Summit Summer Exact Path Challenge.” The challenge was time-based, and students had seven weeks to complete it over the summer. Students were tasked with completing 420 minutes in grade 1 in math and English, and grade 8 students were tasked with completing 800 minutes. Ian comments on the success of this challenge: “we managed to have 167 students complete it throughout the course of the summer.”
Indeed, to reward these students, Ian created videos to send to the school and asked those students to give him photos where they were celebrating “success.”
Furthermore, Lee has said that Exact Path has further been a success in their school for growth and attainment and comments that: