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Increasing STAR Scores with Purposeful Classroom Technology

Nekoosa students using eSpark grew an average of 12 percentile points on the STAR assessment, outpacing their peers academically.

"eSpark has really helped us to use our iPads in a far more purposeful way and meet the needs of students on both ends of the learning continuum.”
Keith Johnson, Principal of Humke Elementary
Location
Wood County, WI
Population
344 students in grades K-3; 55% of students qualify for free or reduced price lunch
Technology
Whole-class and center instruction models with eSpark in K-3
Funding
Title I

CHALLENGE

Meeting the needs of all students

A small district in central Wisconsin, the School District of Nekoosa was looking for a way to better meet the needs of its students. “55% of our students qualify for free or reduced price lunch,” says Keith Johnson, Principal of Humke Elementary, “Like many districts throughout the country, we’ve had dramatically changing demographics over the last eight to ten years, and we have a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, all right here in the building.” 

The only elementary school in its district, Humke struggled to identify the best way to meet the needs of high performing students and struggling students that were working within the same classroom. Furthermore, district technology was scattered, and Humke had a small number of iPads that teachers had yet to use in a meaningful way. After carefully examining their budget and identifying available set-aside funding, district leaders at Nekoosa purchased more classroom iPads and decided to partner with eSpark to expand the impact of technology on student learning.

SOLUTION & IMPLEMENTATION

Differentiating instruction with STAR and the whole-class instruction model

In the fall of 2015, Nekoosa had students take STAR, a rigorous, computer adaptive assessment. Data from this assessment established a benchmark against which administrators could measure student growth from eSpark’s differentiated iPad software. eSpark used STAR data to diagnose student skill levels in different math domains, designing individual learning pathways based on each student’s unique academic needs.

244 students in twenty one K-3rd grade classrooms began using eSpark for math instruction two to three times per week.  Adopting the whole-class and center instruction models, Humke teachers were free to meet with individuals or small groups as students worked independently on their differentiated learning pathways. When using eSpark, students worked through all four levels of Webb's Depth of Knowledge.  Pre-quizzes allowed students to recall and reproduce knowledge, and eSpark’s engaging third-party apps and instructional videos helped students practice skills and concepts and engage in strategic thinking. After working through learning pathways aligned to their individual academic needs, students used extended thinking to create re-teaching videos that synthesize what they had learned. The whole-class and center instruction models allowed Humke students to develop accountability for and independence in their learning and gave teachers the time needed to provide targeted support and instruction to all students.  

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RESULTS

Outperforming peers nationwide

After just four months of differentiated instruction with eSpark, Nekoosa students mastered 1,422 math standards, averaging about four new standards per student. In the winter of 2016, students took the STAR assessment for a second time. Between the fall and winter assessments, students grew an average of 12 percentile points, jumping from the 54th to the 62nd percentile after only one semester of using eSpark. This incredible academic growth was coupled with a high level of student engagement, as Nekoosa students rated over 87% of eSpark’s interactive apps and videos as enjoyable.

Nekoosa used eSpark to narrow the achievement gap in its elementary school. When using eSpark, many of Humke's high performing students were challenged for the first time in their academic careers, and Humke teachers reported that they were presented with opportunities to teach high performing students important 21st century skills like grit and perseverance. “When you have students on both ends of the spectrum it’s just difficult to meet their needs. eSpark has really helped us to use our iPads in a far more purposeful way and meet the needs of students on both ends of the learning continuum,” said Principal Johnson upon seeing impressive gains his students made after using eSpark for just one semester.  

eSpark helped Nekoosa students outpace their peers nationwide. By the winter of 2016,  Humke students met or exceeded their midyear grade equivalent targets, results that indicate that these Wisconsin students are on track for college and career success.

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Between fall and winter assessments, Nekoosa students using eSpark grew 12 national percentile points on the STAR assessment. Typically, percentile growth is zero for a given student. As a group, Nekoosa students grew much faster than their peers nationwide in one semester. 

In just a few months, Nekoosa students completed 1422 Math standards, about 4 standards per student. They overwhelmingly indicated positive program engagement, giving a “thumbs up” to 87% of educational activities when prompted by eSpark’s built-in feedback mechanism.

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