Achieving Student Growth Across the World – Edmentum Roundtable Event
Student growth is achieved in many different ways around the world. Sam Irving, former Deputy Head of Primary at the International College Punta del Este in Uruguay; Nina Cerrato, Elementary Principal at the International School of Tegucigalpa in Honduras; and Adam Butcher, Director at The Heart of Learning in Mexico, discussed this topic with us in an Edmentum roundtable event.
During the roundtable session, the speakers discussed their school backgrounds, their approaches to independent learning and classroom learning, the ways they combat the challenge of differentiated learning, and the manners in which they reward their students, alongside Edmentum’s K–12 individualized learning program, Exact Path, to achieve student growth.
Prefer to read? View a summarized video transcript below.
Tell us about yourselves and how long you’ve been partners with Edmentum.
Nina Cerrato: I have been blessed with the opportunity to be the Elementary Principal at International School of Tegucigalpa in Honduras for eight years now. A large proportion of our students are first-generation English speakers. This poses one of the greatest challenges, and that is to ensure we’re giving those students enough English. This is how we found Edmentum, and not just Exact Path but Study Island.
Sam Irving: My school is the International College Punta del Este, and we have about 600 students. We have 26 different nationalities among our student population, and 95 percent of our students are non-native speakers of English, which led us to explore adaptive diagnostic technology and Edmentum.
Adam Butcher: We’re in a different situation here in Mexico. We’re a small center with 20 to 25 students. Our priority was to ensure an engaging experience for students who learn best in a nontraditional environment. We have children in a U.S. curriculum from grade 1 to 12 from all over the world. We have about 60 percent where English is a second or third language. Exact Path came in because we wanted to measure the value added, so we use it alongside the main curriculum to measure students’ achievement.
Can you tell us what happened when you started looking for a new digital platform and what you were setting out to achieve?
Sam Irving: Edmentum was not the first adaptive diagnostic software we used. We came from one very popular U.S.-based company that was fantastic on paper but was not engaged with well by the students. We were looking for solutions to that issue, so we set up a focus group of students. We gave them free trials to different adaptive diagnostic software, and we asked them to go on these trials and outline the pros and cons of each; the clear winner was Edmentum. Students said the lessons were engaging, and the rewards were intrinsic and not externalized, allowing them to feel like owners of their learning journey. In conjunction with our students, we chose Edmentum, and I think that’s so important because we can have great software for adults, but if students are not engaging with it, its success will be limited. That’s how we arrived at Edmentum two years ago. I’m happy to report that the students are still of the same mind today.
Nina Cerrato: We used a different platform, and it wasn’t giving us everything we needed. We found that we would get the results from the diagnostic but wondered what we would do next. If we wanted to be individualized and personalize things, we needed to know where students were in terms of the standards.
One of the things that we found through Edmentum was that it gave the wonderful opportunity to test students, identify where they were at in a standard, and offer more work on a skill. I think that just the jumping from not knowing where the kids were or a diagnostic that wasn’t giving us an opportunity to meet them where they were is something that we love about what Exact Path has given us.
Sam, regarding your comment about students providing feedback, was their feedback open-ended or did you design criteria for them to answer?
Sam Irving: We had the students design their own rubric. They had this checkpoint rubric, and then they looked at the systems, and it was incredible how honest they were. They were incredibly genuine and learning-oriented in their approach. I know we found that extremely helpful for buy-in, and from that focus group, there was a kind of outward ripple of momentum behind the platform because it was their peers’ friends who’d chosen it. It created a positive ripple effect of engagement.
How have you been using Exact Path and the data and results it displays?
Adam Butcher: I think the program is particularly friendly for students, and they absolutely love it straightaway. Our students go on it, on average, three hours a week. It will not work unless your teachers have time to monitor the data. That is time-consuming, but honestly, a lot less than it used to be when we had to make our data sheets.
Sam Irving: I’m going to bounce off that. We found that some of the most rewarding conversations we’ve had with students have been with them because, as long as you know how to filter them, the results are very student-friendly and really show progress. If you engage the children as partners in learning and they can see the progress they’ve made, that is extremely motivating.
Nina Cerrato: One of the many wonderful things that we found with Exact Path is the growth part. There’s always something that you can celebrate with the kids. Even that child who is still not quite where we would dream for them to be, you can have that conversation about their growth, which is so enriching. The conversation about growth is worth more than gold.
How do you use Exact Path to help those students struggling with specific areas?
Sam Irving: What I really love is if a student is working on a specific skill and they don’t master that, Exact Path doesn’t boot them out; it says we can work on that, and here’s a different set of lessons to do it. It’s not jettisoning them. It’s making sure they get the skills and brings them to life in a new way, and so we found that that’s helped students stay engaged in the system.
Nina Cerrato: I was also going to mention that the data shows if you’ve got a certain amount of students struggling with standards so that you could group them. Alternatively, you can still just have those students work on it in their own time as independent work. It gives you that wealth of being able to work with the standard, wherever your specific group of students are.
Everyone has spoken about students who are non-native speakers of English. How do you support them with their growth?
Nina Cerrato: Around 90 percent of our students are non-English speakers, and the majority come from first-generation bilingual experience. The only English they receive is during class time, which poses a challenge. With the little ones, we had to develop a different structure, which Exact Path was very helpful because it will read to them.
Whenever we were remote, the teachers would connect with students at specific times, and we would specifically work on Exact Path. Creating those spaces where the kids would log on to synchronous class but still work on their individual work was great, and the teachers could see what progress there was.
We have also embedded it into our assessment, so the kids know it’s important, and the teachers can see any specific standards that students might be having difficulties with and group them in smaller groups to work on those. We’ve seen progress in just one year.
Sam Irving: About 95 percent of students are non-native English speakers in our school. We use it in a station-rotation environment that allows kids to work independently. This means the teacher can work with another small group that need more personalized help, which frees them up to make a meaningful impact.
Adam Butcher: That must be brilliant to take a little group and get them to be independent. What I love about Exact Path is how parents don’t have to sit for hours with their kids, helping with homework. We monitor them, and a big part is intervening on the data, which is important, but they must work independently; so, we get a good measure of progress. When we take that data with the main school curriculum and find a mean, we get a pretty accurate picture of where that child is. Once they’ve got those skills, they can work independently through things and feel ownership of their studying.
How does your school reward its students, and can you provide any insight into how you do this?
Adam Butcher: We developed a minute money system. They might get five- or ten-minute dollars for every Trophy they get on Exact Path. Our older students use the minute money to take time off, and our younger students use it for little prizes.
Sam Irving: We have a similar strategy to Adam’s, but we reward activities completed and skills mastered. That works really well for a certain population. But going back to what we’re talking about earlier and comparing your past self and looking at growth, I’ve never seen anything more impactful than sitting down with a student and saying, “Look, you were here, but now you’re here, and what do you think?” and reflecting with them. That’s been working very well for us.
Nina Cerrato: Since our reward system is based on growth, I think it’s important that, as administrators, we become part of it. Whether it’s your top five students, your top ten, or even if you want to focus on those struggling the most, and there’s been growth, celebrate and reward that. One of the important things that Exact Path allows us to do is decide where we want to celebrate and how we want to celebrate because there will be progress, and those that are struggling with progress, you’re still able to celebrate them. As administrators, I think it’s important that we also participate, and Exact Path provides the data to celebrate that growth.
So how does Exact Path link with live teaching? Do you use it during lessons or for independent study?
Adam Butcher: We use it as homework, but we call it independent studies. A lot of our children who come in with English as a third language are sent more independent work, but the important thing is that the teachers intervene on the data. Exact Path is great independently, but it’s also fantastic to sit down with a group and work on a skill.
Nina Cerrato: We’ve embedded it into our schedule, so there are blocks called independent work time where the students are assigned work. There’s another time in our schedule when we might wrap up our day with everybody working on their learning path, but the teacher can assist. We also keep students in smaller groups, and students also use it for after-school work. Go at it, people. You can use it at all different times and in many different ways.
Sam Irving: The other thing I agree with is, as administrators, how you convey that data to teachers. You can look at that data with teachers and see what is happening there. I think of it as it’s like you’re driving a car. Edmentum helps fill in the blind spots for a teacher and administrators. We can see what needs looking at and what we can improve because our curriculum didn’t adequately address this particular need for this particular group of students.
What would be your most important element to consider when implementing a new digital program?
Sam Irving: I think I said it right from the start—it’s student engagement. I do not want to impose something upon a group of young people who have no interest in doing it. We need to know why we’re using Edmentum. We need to communicate that with the students; that’s fundamental when using any software and curriculum. It’s putting the student first and ensuring they know why they’re doing something.
Adam Butcher: I think it’s important that you use software that works. That may mean testing it. After testing this software for a few years, I’d recommend doing this for a semester and then measuring the results. In my data, there’s a huge correlation with the students that engage with it. Those students who access and do this regularly make huge, huge leaps.
Nina Cerrato: I noticed someone asked about how they use NWEA MAP Growth testing, and they’re considering Exact Path. The NWEA MAP Growth testing was making us hesitant to find something new, and it takes courage to step out there and recognize that something is not providing what you need.
When we started finding out exactly what our students needed, we knew we needed something to diagnose, assess, and address learning. That’s what we found Exact Path was giving us. We needed testing and giving them the work that is needed for students to reach their goals and continue moving forward. Test Exact Path. Try it. Ask as many questions as necessary.
One of the things we’ve loved about Exact Path is they have walked with us every step of the way, and we’re on the other side of the world. They have answered us every time we had a single question, and that has given us the peace to know it doesn’t matter that it’s so new. We always have their support in getting to where we need, so thank you, Edmentum.
If you want to find out more about how Edmentum Exact Path can support your K-12 individualized learning needs like it does at International College Punta del Este, International School of Tegucigalpa, and The Heart of Learning, request a demo today.
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