Bloomfield Public School District Gives Low Expectations a Reality Check with PerformancePLUS
Public school district in Bloomfield, Conn., that is strongly committed to the success of its students. The district embraces the motto, “Every Student, Every Day, Every Classroom.” About 2,000 students are enrolled in eight schools, including three primary schools, one middle school, one intermediate school, and three secondary schools. Demographically, the district is 97 percent minority and 48 percent free and reduced lunch. Bloomfield High School, the district’s public high school with an enrollment of about 600 students, has been identified as one of the most challenged high schools in the state.
“We were fighting a battle to raise expectations.”
Dr. Bethany Silver | Director of Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Bloomfield Public Schools
Sustain the gains in student performance made during the 2011-2012 school year that nurtured a vision of higher expectations at Bloomfield High School.
Use longitudinal performance data from PerformancePLUS to give students a healthy reality check about their abilities and provide educators with the data they need to support student achievement.
Star athletes and affluent entrepreneurs begin on their road to success with the belief that success is attainable.
Unfortunately, that self-confidence was just out of reach for many incoming students at Bloomfield High School. “Students arrived at the high school thinking, ‘Well if I didn’t get into a magnet school, I mustn’t be a high-flying, high-performing kid,’” says Dr. Bethany Silver, who is director of assessment, evaluation, and research for the Bloomfield Public Schools. “In reality, this is far from true.”
In 2011, Silver was hired to support student achievement in the district. Immediately, she began work on one of the top priorities of Superintendent James Thompson Jr., Ed.D.—setting up a benchmark assessment system through which parallel forms of the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT), the state’s high-stakes assessments, are administered three times per year to students. The benchmark data is then used to support the development and implementation of student accountability plans and teacher evaluation plans.
An essential component of the benchmark assessment system is PerformancePLUS, SunGard K-12’s software solution that provides a single connection point for anytime, anywhere access to assessment data.
PerformancePLUS helps track longitudinal assessment results through interactive graphs correlated to state standards. With the software, teachers and administrators have the ability to aggregate and disaggregate assessment data and use this information to establish and monitor goals, modify curriculum, and ultimately enhance the teaching and learning environment. In addition, PerformancePLUS offers educators a simple way to create, score, and analyze local assessments, making them a powerful tool for guiding instruction.
Battling Low Expectations with Hard Data
When Silver arrived at the school district, only 9.8 percent of 10th-grade students at Bloomfield High School were at or above goal in reading on the CAPT and 13 percent were at or above goal in mathematics.
A closer look at the longitudinal data from PerformancePLUS, though, revealed that the students’ performance on the tests was not a true indication of their capabilities. “It’s evident when we look at their scores on the high-stakes tests in third through eighth grade that our student population is very, very capable,” explains Silver.
“We were fighting a battle to raise expectations. Not only our students, but some of our teachers believed that most of our capable students left to attend magnet schools or private schools,” says Silver.
With hard data in hand, the district’s leadership team began a truth campaign. “The message to our teachers was profound—that we had far more students who performed at the highest levels staying in the community, staying in our schools,” she says. “We also gave the data to our parent- teacher organizations, just reinforcing the message that we have high-performing kids who stay in the district and we really have to rise to the opportunity that they are giving us.”
At the direction of the superintendent, the team also confronted the students with the reality of their own abilities. “Our high school leadership met with each and every student and showed them this longitudinal report. Our message: Rise to the occasion. You can’t hide your genius from us anymore,” she recalls.
Beginning with the End in Mind
With the healthy reality check behind them, the district began to put the PerformancePLUS data to work. “Beginning with the end in mind, we built assessments to measure where our students are and then delivered instruction to fill in where, as evidenced by the assessments, the students are not,” she explains.
According to Silver, the connection between performance data and curriculum design is at the very heart of why people become educators.
“This is the rich part. The data tells you that a particular student needs to work on standards 9 and 11 and is a rock star on standard 22. So you get excited about standard 22, and you work on a plan with your student about how you’re going to address standards 9 and 11,” she reflects. “Again, you begin with the end in mind and go backward—go through your curriculum and find exactly what these students are going to need to support them.”
For Silver, the value of PerformancePLUS increases dramatically as it’s used.
“As the director for assessment data, I put in the high-stakes assessment data, which has tremendous value to everyone. Then we add additional assessments—benchmark assessments, classroom assessments,” Silver explains. “As we build that data bank, the information becomes progressively and exponentially more valuable every time we use it, every time we contribute to it.”
Today, the teachers at Bloomfield High School have become greedy for the data. In November 2011, there were 76 active users in the system and 746 logins since installation. By May 2012, just six months later, there were 188 active users and 3,519 logins.
“I think probably the people who are most excited about this are our special education teachers. In the past, they’ve had to go to the student’s cumulative record … to the paper record that’s locked up in the office … in order to get test information about the student’s performance,” Silver explains. “And, to actually log in and see a longitudinal history of performance and challenge areas and strength areas for learners in a color-coded format, they are just blown away!”
The new reporting engine for PerformancePLUS, released in August 2012, was greeted with much enthusiasm by Bloomfield teachers. “When we see data, it should speak for itself. And, I think that the new designs do that in just such an aesthetically appealing way,” says Silver.
On the Road to Success
Today, optimal performance is emerging at Bloomfield High School, thanks to the efforts of the school’s faculty and staff.
“Between the 2011 and 2012 administration of the CAPT, we had an increase of 16.5 percentage points in the students who were at or above goal, which is just amazing,” Silver reports. “It’s a change that you can see from outer space. That growth is just so exciting. It was all because we changed misconceptions. And, we let our kids know that our expectations are extremely high.”
Armed with the data from PerformancePLUS, educators at Bloomfield Public Schools are meeting students where they are academically and helping them develop. By challenging students with high expectations, the faculty members are preparing students to be successful at the most competitive universities and to pursue purposeful careers.