Liwa International School for Girls (LISG) is a K-12 international school in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi. They provide outstanding international education and aim to inspire students to be self-disciplined, globally aware, and independent lifelong learners who are innovative leaders and critical thinkers. They are rated as a Band A school by the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, which is the highest inspection grade available; the school has achieved this honor within eight months of opening.
Finding a Solution to Improve Attainment
The school follows the American curriculum and has used the NWEA MAP for benchmarking since opening in 2016. Kate Hutchinson, Vice Principal (K-5) at LISG, states that the school is “continually aiming to improve, and we use a comprehensive self-evaluation process to identify our target areas. Improving attainment, especially in the MAP subjects, was identified as a key focus by us.”
They completed a thorough review of their existing teaching and learning resources, schemes of work, and lesson plans. They began identifying and evaluating potential new resources to support their improvement journey. Shakila Mohammed, Assistant Principal (K-5) has confirmed this:
“We were looking for a resource that:
- would help us raise attainment and progress;
- is aligned to the Common Core State Standards;
- contained a wide range of differentiated content and resources;
- would support the majority of our students who have English as their second language;
- would introduce them to MAP-related vocabulary;
- would support parent and student engagement;
- had digital and paper-based content; and
- would help their students become confident in being assessed via MAP.”
LISG is part of a school group; Kate and Shakila learned that another school in their group was using Edmentum’s Exact Path.
Exact Path – The Solution to Improve Attainment
Shakila quickly realized that “Exact Path was exactly what we were looking for. MAP shows you your students’ learning levels, and we were looking for something to provide us with the interventions, content, teaching, practice and mastery material that is required to improve students’ scores. Exact Path does and is, therefore, a perfect partner for schools looking to improve their MAP scores. It uses the MAP baseline scores and generates a learning pathway for each student, which is personalized to their needs and learning level.”
Additionally, Kate states, “The program takes the students’ learning levels, sets up lessons for them and gives them resources to improve on where they are at. Reports are generated for the teacher to see, so it was easy to analyze how students progressed. Now the students are automatically receiving the right content at the right time. Our teachers are receiving real-time formative assessment data and can make informed instructional decisions. The teachers were thrilled with it, and the students’ results are improving.”
Implementing Exact Path
The school began its journey with a free trial. The feedback from using the product was very encouraging, and a decision was quickly made to purchase Exact Path and make it available to all K-12 students. Kate was very impressed with Edmentum’s Implementation Team, “who provide unparalleled support, advice and guidance and develop a bespoke plan with the school needs at its centre. Exact Path is now fully integrated onto our Maths, Language Arts and Reading curriculums.”
Shakila confirms this, “We have adapted our scope and sequence to ensure Exact Path is embedded within it. Homework is completed through Exact Path too. It has become a core component of our teaching and assessment regimes.”
Parental engagement is crucial, and the senior leadership team created videos to help parents, most of whom are Arabic-speaking, to understand Exact Path and guide them on how it links with MAP assessment preparation.
At parents’ evenings, the school makes sure the Edmentum video is on a loop, so when parents enter the room, they can see Exact Path and its benefits. The parents have been “very impressed with Exact Path. It is easy for the students to use, has engaging content, is standards-aligned, and they can immediately see the progress that is being made.”
Student Engagement and Usage
Student engagement and usage are both critical components of a successful online tool. Shakila and Kate know their students and teachers are all motivated by competitions and reward usage and improvement by having awards for “best class for Exact Path” and “teacher of the month.”
They also have an early morning club where staff members work with individual students on their learning path to improve their attainment.
They have embedded Exact Path and promote its usage and benefits. As Kate says, “We just make sure we mention Exact Path whenever we can. If we see a child on a tablet, we might see if they are on Exact Path and what learning goals they are going through. It is used for face-to-face teaching, whole-class teaching and as part of station rotation.
Exact Path’s Impact
“It has worked brilliantly to support face-to-face, blended, hybrid and distance learning, all of which have taken place at different times in the last year.”
The school has also been successful in raising attainment, and Kate has confirmed:
“We’ve seen the most successful attainment jumps from term 1 to term 2 in the 2019 to 2020 academic year, which we are really pleased with. A major part of this success is our usage of Exact Path.
“Furthermore, teacher workload has reduced, and teachers are able to focus their time on providing interventions and improving learning. It is a great resource to support MAP preparation, and as everything is digital, we don’t have to worry about loads of printing, and our preparation workload has definitely reduced.”
Shakila is also pleased that Exact Path gives her students “what they need to make progress, such as instructional lessons, practice and mastery sessions, worksheets and more, so they can build their own knowledge on a certain area.”
The formative real-time feedback has also been important. As Shakila says, “we know teaching has been taking place during lockdown, but Exact Path enables us to measure the amount of learning that has taken place, monitor progress and intervene where necessary.”
Some researchers advocate the viewpoint that all learners will have learning gaps due to the unanticipated school shutdown in Spring 2020 and ongoing unpredictability in the current year, warranting a “Universal Double-Dose Plan.”
To make rapid progress in current grade-level learning and recover from COVID learning loss, schools may approach instruction in the 2020–21 school year with a dual approach to accelerating learning. Students will need to begin immediately on the current grade level’s curriculum with a focus on essential knowledge and simultaneously get to work on addressing targeted learning gaps in a high-powered differentiation model.
Kate and Shakila have both confirmed that they have been using Exact Path to deliver their version of a “double dose learning plan,” as they say, “the automatic creation of a personalized learning pathway ensures that there is a differentiated focus on closing individual learning gaps. Students are working hard on their own pathways, and the formative feedback embedded into Exact Path enables our teachers to monitor progress and provide specific targeted instruction through Zoom or through ‘Station Rotation’ when it is needed.
“The on-grade-level instruction is being delivered by our teachers, and we use Exact Path to measure the learning that is taking place. We manually allocate our students on-grade-level homework through Exact Path, which enables our teachers to closely monitor progress and focus on delivering targeted interventions so that our students can make progress.”
Personalized, mastery-based learning is the ambition for all schools. Exact Path integrates instruction, practice, and feedback and allows students to work at their own pace, only moving on when they have fully grasped the material. The formative assessments are continuous, immediate and reduce teacher preparation and marking workload. Kate states that,
“It allows our teachers to focus on the core component of their jobs – improving learning. It is flexible and is a core component of our double dose learning plan and is a very effective tool for scheduling retrieval practice opportunities.”