Interim Assessment Support Boosts Data-Driven PD, Instructional Planning, & Test Scores

ReGeneration Schools | Chicago, IL



Fast Facts

ReGeneration Schools operates three K-8 public charter schools with a college prep and character building mission.

Since taking over school management in 2012, CEO Stacey Shells and the ReGeneration team have spearheaded a dramatic improvement in student achievement. All three campuses currently rank in the Top 10 Illinois schools with similar demographics.

Location: Southside Chicago

Population: Over 1,600 students in grades Pre-K through 8.

  • Low Income: over 95%

  • Diverse Learners: 13%

  • Over 98% African American


With fast, affordable and high-quality support from The Graide Network, ReGeneration empowered teachers, fostered data-driven instruction, and accelerated student learning.



The Challenge

Implementing data-based decision making and data-driven instruction; combating teacher burnout

Since taking over management, ReGeneration campuses have moved from the bottom 17% of Illinois schools in 2012 to the top 39% of all schools statewide in 2015 through application of a rigorous college prep and character mission. Currently, all three campuses rank in the top ten of Illinois schools with similar demographics, but there is still work to be done. For the 2016-17 school year, ReGeneration was looking for new ways to help their students achieve while also combating the pressing and all-too-familiar problems of teacher burnout and high attrition rates. 

Teacher turnover, rehiring, and retraining costs U.S. schools over $7 billion a year. According to a policy brief prepared for The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, the consequences of high teacher turnover are particularly dire for low-performing, high-poverty schools, which struggle to close the student achievement gap because they never close the teaching quality gap and are constantly rebuilding their staff. An inordinate amount of time and capital is consumed by the constant process of hiring and replacing beginning teachers, which is both financially and academically costly. 

ReGeneration administers a series of math and ELA interim assessments throughout the school year. Interim assessments are a powerful tool, helping teachers and administrators better understand, track, and evaluate student performance and growth. In past years, however, many ReGeneration teachers - already overburdened and under resourced - were unable to grade the assessments and they ultimately sat collecting dust. Or worse, teachers sacrificed an entire professional development day grading exams but had no time for the analysis and action planning that drive student achievement, rendering the scores meaningless. It was a blow to teacher sustainability. Plus, when students learn there is no consequence to their performance, performance suffers and the importance of the assessment is diminished. 

“ReGeneration’s vision is for all our students to enter and succeed in college through academic excellence and the content of their character. To reach academic excellence, we need to ask ourselves not whether we’ve taught material but whether students have learned it. Our interim assessment program is an integral tool in answering that question.”
— Elissa Klein, ReGeneration Schools Chief of Staff

To compound the problem, benchmark and high-stakes exams are increasingly emphasizing open response and extended writing components, requiring students to demonstrate analytical, problem solving, critical thinking, and writing skills. While this is a welcome departure from bubble sheets and a far more relevant way to measure student learning and achievement, it makes scoring the exams more challenging, To grade effectively, you need a highly-trained reader who can apply a complex, standards-based rubric and evaluate a student’s entire work process.  Luke Brewers was the Data Analyst at ReGeneration Schools, and he explained the importance of rigorous interim assessments:

"Our interim assessments are one of our most accurate tools for measuring student progress. Each question is aligned to common core standards, and evaluated to match or exceed the rigor of our hardest summative exams. As such, their results give us a breakdown of the specific skills our students must improve upon to be college ready. We value the Open Ended Response Questions in particular, as they not only correspond to necessary state and national standards, but also allow students to demonstrate their grasp of higher order thinking, and their ability to support a conclusion with evidence."

Elissa Klein, ReGeneration’s Chief of Staff, explains further:

“When I first learned about data driven instruction, we focused heavily on analyzing students' multiple choice questions, as the tests that were gatekeepers to college (state end-of-course exams, the SAT, and the ACT) were primarily multiple choice. We'd conduct a stack analysis of open responses, but we didn't analyze each and every student response. And those gatekeeper tests were telling many of us that we were closing the achievement gaps for our students.

Then the Common Core hit. Students were asked to do more rigorous reading, writing, and problem solving. Many schools like ours got a slap in the face when new, more rigorous state tests revealed that students weren't doing true college prep work. We realized that in college (and beyond), writing is the coin of the realm. To ensure our students could not just enter but succeed in college, they had to be able to write really well. I feel that we've entered data driven instruction 2.0, where we still rely on multiple choice as one indicator of mastery, but we analyze and respond to the data from student written work now every single day.”

We realized that in college and beyond, writing is the coin of the realm.
— Elissa Klein


The Solution

Fast, affordable, and high-quality grading and feedback support

The ReGeneration leadership team knew that interim assessments have the potential to serve as a powerful tool for teachers, administrators and students. The rigor of the exams is impressive and their focus on comprehension, analytical and problem-solving skills, and writing serves students well in preparation for PARCC. Thus, ReGeneration decided to partner with The Graide Network for all interim assessments during the 2016/17 school year to ensure they could score the assessments quickly and effectively without taxing their teachers’ already limited time and resources. As Elissa explains,

“The Graide Network was an answer to a big challenge of ours. In addition to analyzing students’ daily class work in the moment and selected samples each week, we needed to start grading each and every single student written response on the interim assessments with high reliability and validity. Now, The Graide Network helps us grade every single student written response, which frees our teachers up to conduct in-depth analysis… and have a personal life!”



Empowering teachers with robust performance data and the gift of time

Since 2016-17, The Graide Network has been responsible for scoring up to 3 rounds of interim assessments each school year in both math and ELA for all 1,600+ students in grades K-8. That’s over 3,200 assessments each round. Within each assessment, students complete a number of short response and extended response question types.

A few key elements of the partnership include:

  • Two weeks before the assessments, ReGeneration provides all testing materials including rubrics, prompts, and assessment booklets across grade levels.

  • The Graide Network is responsible for implementing robust norming exercises across Graiders at each grade level to ensure that scoring data is normed, accurate, and reliable.

  • The Graide Network delivers a sub one-week turnaround on all work, including make-up exams.

  • Scoring reports are delivered to ReGeneration two days before a network-wide PD day, so the instructional leadership team has time to upload and analyze data in their School Information System and use it to enhance teacher training and supports.

"We use student performance data from the IA’s to highlight greater trends across our schools; these findings then guide the leadership team in making organization-wide decisions and changes. Is our curriculum weak regarding a particular standard? Should we departmentalize our lower grades? Is a change we made previously adversely affecting student performance? Working with instructional leaders, I use our IA data to draw informed conclusions on questions like these." - Elissa Klein

The Results

Collaborative analysis, targeted go-forward lesson planning, data-driven instruction, and in-depth student performance data

When interim assessments are complete, all of the schools begin a response process, focused on altering and improving instruction. ReGeneration teachers and administrators from across the three campuses come together for a full-day of professional development and assessment review. Curriculum instructors and principals lead PDs on data-driven instruction and data-based decision making, and teachers are able to form teams by subject and grade level and dive into the exams and scoring reports. There is ample time for teachers to both individually and collaboratively analyze student performance, discuss key challenges and performance trends, and build next-step action plans.  For weeks following the assessments and PD's, teachers spend time in prep periods and after school to create small groups, reteach sessions, and spiral lessons based on individual, concise standards and the greatest areas of student need. Teachers report feeling productive and engaged in the process and better prepared in their go-forward planning. For school and network administrators, the data allows them to make more informed decisions around curriculum, instruction, budget, and key initiatives.

And the hard work is paying off! Since 2016, ReGeneration has continued to outperform peers across the district and state in reading and math scores.




“Simply put, grading support is the fastest and most efficient way to get critical data into the hands of our teachers. It ensures every response is given normed, detailed consideration, and it allows our teachers to focus on what they’re best at: improving student outcomes. Grading support ensures that our assessments are driving instruction and student achievement forward.”
— Luke Brewers, former ReGeneration Schools Data Analyst