Improving Growth, Combating Skill Gaps and Maximizing Student Success with NWEA® MAP® Growth™ and Edmentum
Schools worldwide approach improving student growth, combating skill gaps, and maximizing student success differently. Sara Hernandez, Elementary Principal at Dubai Schools Al Barsha in Dubai; Lee Dabagia, Principal at Summit International School in Abu Dhabi; Nina Stanger, Vice Principal at School of Modern Skills in Dubai; and Abderrahim AitBara, Curriculum Coordinator at Kuwait American School in Kuwait, discussed these topics in relation to NWEA® MAP® Growth™ and Edmentum Exact Path in a roundtable event on student success.
During the roundtable session, the speakers discussed their school backgrounds, their approaches to differentiated learning through automatic grouping tools to combat skill gaps, the ways they utilize individual learning pathways for their students to support their growth and student success, and the manners in which they reward their students. This was discussed alongside Edmentum’s K-12 individualized learning program Exact Path, which all the speakers use to support their teaching and learning.
Prefer to read? View a summarized video transcript below.
Will you introduce yourselves and your school and tell us how long you’ve been partnering with Edmentum?
Sara Hernandez: I’m the Elementary Principal at Dubai Schools Al Barsha. I’ve actually been working with Edmentum for about four or five years now. It’s been really pivotal in supporting with driving our curriculum forward and supporting student success. We use it a lot for differentiation. We’ve got quite big attainment gaps, so it’s been really supportive in that element. Also, my school’s predominantly Emirati, and it’s been really key for EAL [English as an additional language] students because it’s such a student-friendly platform.
Lee Dabagia: I am the Principal at Summit International School in Abu Dhabi. We have been using Exact Path for a little over three years now, and we use it to connect our [English language] learners to where their [NWEA] MAP [Growth] scores place them on the “mountain,” as we call it. We use it to manage the students’ gaps, whether they be below or whether they be above, and it’s worked fantastically for us thus far.
Nina Stanger: My name is Nina Stanger from School of Modern Skills in Dubai. We’ve been partnering with Edmentum for three years now. We implemented it to support our MAP Growth. One of the best things for our school about Edmentum has been the support—also, the learning path feature that targets individual students and supports them to fill their gaps.
Abderrahim AitBara: I’m the Curriculum Coordinator at Kuwait American School. We have been partnering with Edmentum for two years now. We have been using Exact Path to help our students do well in international assessment tools like MAP.
When you first started looking for a new digital platform to integrate with MAP, what were you trying to achieve?
Sara Hernandez: Originally, when I started as an Assistant Principal, we were an American curriculum school. We were just looking for a platform to support us. We got really lucky to come across Edmentum. Our big disconnect was that we have these international and internal and external assessments that are linked to the American curriculum but no specific tool that’s individualized. We actually piloted Exact Path in our school in Al Ain, and it was so successful. When I moved to Dubai, I made sure when I signed up with the company, I made them sign up for Exact Path. We’re a brand-new school this year. We’ve started off on such a better foundation because we have this program from the beginning, letting our data analysis drive the student progress toward individualized [learning], so it’s been really pivotal in establishing our campus.
Lee Dabagia: Just to take it a little bit further, we used it to take differentiation, or scaffolding, as we call it, from theoretical to actual. The MAP data we had could tell us where students were in relation to grade level, so we could group them, but the teachers didn’t know how to actually address those gaps. Exact Path has helped us, and as I always say to the parents, it’s 24 hours a day; it’s during the holidays—the kids can work on it whenever they want. So, it’s helped give us something practical, and the teachers don’t have to plan it because it automatically feeds into the student’s learning path.
Can someone talk us through any tactics or programs that you can put in place to ensure that Exact Path has been successfully embedded into day-to-day practices?
Nina Stanger: You can’t just introduce a platform and expect it to instantly have an impact. What we had as an issue—was we didn’t have anybody who was monitoring either teacher use or student use. My advice to anybody would be to look at your teacher activity first because if the teachers aren’t engaging with it, then there’s no hope for the students engaging with it. So, we started by looking at that and contacting the teachers who weren’t using it and trying to establish, “Why aren’t you using it?” Then, we started building it into our heads of department so that they would start monitoring it. So, by using the teacher data, we were then able to start introducing it as part of performance-related observations. Then, we could compare the classes where the teacher engagement is high [and] the student engagement is high and start looking at the impact on the MAP results as well; so having this administrator dashboard was particularly useful as a starting point.
Lee Dabagia: We average it into [students’] final grade, and we reward them with time spent, whether there were challenges attempted or progress made. Through the administrative dashboard, the teachers are checking every day to see how much time the students [were completing]. There are two things you’re going to see in a dashboard. One is how much time they are logged in and [two,] how much activity they have actually done during that time. They can’t just log in and walk away from it. . . . It’s been very helpful for us. . . . This has helped us increase our MAP scores because the students are accustomed to a portal-style kind of challenge.
Can you talk us through what your school’s approach has been to teaching and learning online over the last couple of years and then to blended learning in the classroom?
Sara Hernandez: For our campus, it’s been so pivotal in blended learning because we do set provisions where students are “Zoomed” in, and they get to practice the lessons. But Exact Path is their level; it’s their differentiated learning journey, so it’s a really, really good tool at home. Exact Path is so independent for students. It takes and alleviates that pressure that parents often find on themselves having to teach the lessons. Exact Path helps us to stay consistent, no matter whether we’re blended, we’re online, [or] we’re distance learning. It’s that one consistency in the kiddos’ life, and it’s really helped.
Have any of you found the widening of skills gaps with distance learning to be a challenge?
Lee Dabagia: We just finished our second round of MAP testing for this year. We did not see a skills gap as a result of blended learning or COVID-19 or online learning. Socially, we have—I think everybody has—but as far as our language and our reading and our math [goes], we have not seen that. When we first started the pandemic, the request from authorities was not to do too much screen time, to back off, so we upped our Exact Path usage in order to supplement the time the students would have with reading and language and math with their teachers.
Nina Stanger: It was really interesting looking at MAP scores and looking at Edmentum usage and things like that after we’d gone through distance learning and having the children back in school. When I was preparing for this, I started looking at what exactly is a skills gap. How do we define what the skills gap is? Because, as Lee said, he didn’t really notice the skills gap, and I don’t think we really did either from an academic point of view. Our growth is steadily increasing, and so that’s a real positive thing. But then, I started thinking about it as a gap for the teachers because our differentiation, our difference, between students who are really struggling and students who are experiencing extreme success has widened. I was trying to think of how Edmentum is able to support my teachers in addressing differentiation, and that’s where the learning path is really, really useful.
What has the impact of using Exact Path been on your teachers and students?
Sara Hernandez: We saw the impact with the fact that we saw a lot of teachers actually not coming from the American curriculum. We actually saw Exact Path really [helping] teachers understand the curriculum a little more. For example, we do MAP prep, and every lesson has a MAP prep starter. So, it’s been really, really helpful [when] establishing a school because they have a tool they can go to for supporting the standards, supporting the kids’ individualized learning. We use it a lot for grouping, so at the beginning, when everyone was on different pages and differentiation, we were able to go on there once the MAP was inputted, go into groupings and see how to group students. So, just on the establishing side of the school, it’s really helpful to have at the beginning.
Abderrahim AitBara: I just wanted to add to those who are not MAP. So, how can they use Exact Path without linking it to MAP testing? They can still request the diagnostic assessment portal, which is for those who are not using MAP. It will give you almost an assessment and diagnoses the skills of the learners and [builds] up the [students’] skills after they’ve done that diagnostic test. Since we did not use the MAP this year, we still kept the diagnostic assessment portal to give us an idea of our kids’ standing. So again, for those who are not using MAP, it’s not necessary that you have to have MAP in order to have Exact Path.
Can you give us some advice for effective monitoring and accountability systems for students in Exact Path?
Lee Dabagia: Well, as I spoke earlier, we have worked it into our assessment policy. We use it in grades one through nine. Fifteen percent of every student’s grade is directly linked to their Exact Path [progress] in English, and in math, it is directly linked to their Exact Path usage. Now, this also means that the teachers have to be monitoring it because they’re the ones giving the grades. So there’s accountability built into that right away.
Sara Hernandez: What we actually ended up doing is we did that and paralleled it with the positive reinforcement of certificates because we are elementary. So, we have ongoing competitions. Every Friday morning, I announce the top winner in the school for each grade. For each class, I get them to compete, so I said, “But 2C, you were so close,” and the teacher brings it up every morning. It’s the buy-in and getting the kids and the teachers excited.
What has it been like to implement Edmentum into the school?
Nina Stanger: We had a few hurdles to start off with. We were paying for a system that we weren’t using as effectively as we could, and then we got in touch with Edmentum, and they really just talked us through lots of ideas. They will do teacher training for us but, obviously, via Zoom. But even halfway through the year, I had a bit of a recruitment issue (possibly other people had similar challenges). So, I had some staff that came later on in the year, and so they’d missed all that start-of-the-year buzz. Edmentum came and did a special Zoom session with my new team, and it just makes such a difference. When you’ve got somebody from an external company who gives the teachers congratulations, it means a lot more than the internal people because we are with them all the time.
What would you say are the most important elements to consider when implementing a new digital program like Exact Path?
Abderrahim AitBara: We decide whether it is an effective platform or not. I personally look at three main areas. So, the first area is the content on the platform. The accessibility—so how it is designed to be friendly, used not only by teachers but even by administrators, by leaders, by students, by parents. What kind of support do we get from this platform? So on this basis, when the report was sent to the leaders to take a decision to go for Exact Path or not, I found exactly these three elements. Exact Path is the right product for us and for our school.
Lee Dabagia: As Sara said, make the announcements, make it exciting. We had race bulletin boards for a while that the kids were following. All these kinds of things are good. For older students, they are aware enough to know what their MAP scores mean because, at a certain age, they stop shouting it out after they finish the MAP test. Either way, Exact Path is going to help those kids who are above grade level continue further [and] those who are below close their gap to grade level. We have seen a year and a half of growth as an average across our school as a result of learning Exact Path outside and then having our curriculum experts inside the class.
Sara Hernandez: Something that was helpful with us was we sat down with the SLT [senior leadership team] . . . . We mapped out clear expectations. What do we want? Every school uses it in a different way, but if we’re not on the same page about how we want to use it, we’re not going to get the product we want. So, we talked about clear expectations. Then, from there, having a strategic action plan where the middle leaders are selling it [and] SLT is selling it and getting everyone to buy it. Then, I will add that I work with a lot of e-learning platforms, and I will say that Exact Path is the most supportive. I find that really helpful because we’re all working in a very, very special field of education, and it’s nice to have that extra support.
Nina Stanger: I think everybody’s pretty much covered all of the things that I would have said, but it’s cost and value for money. I would say that with Edmentum, Exact Path, [and] Study Island that value for money comes across with the growth that you see in your students. Again, value for money, from my perspective, is that it links to the curriculum, and if you’ve got transient teachers, it really helps them because the standards are all embedded in the system. So, there’s lots of aspects that give it sort of value for money.
If you want to find out more about how Edmentum Exact Path can support your K-12 individualized learning needs like it does at Dubai Schools Al Barsha, Summit International School, School of Modern Skills, and Kuwait American School, request a demo today.
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