ReGeneration Success Story

With fast, affordable and high-quality grading support from The Graide Network, ReGeneration Schools - an innovative charter network on Chicago’s South Side - empowered teachers, fostered data-driven instruction “2.0”, and accelerated student learning.

Fast Facts

Location. Urban charter network operating three K-4 and three 5-8 schools across three campuses on Chicago’s South Side

Population. 1,700 students enrolled in K-8; over 90% qualify for free or reduced price meals

Technology. Google Drive allowed for fast, easy, and secure file-sharing of student assessments and supporting documents

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 student achieve while also combating the pressing and all-too-familiar problem of teacher burnout and climbing 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 is the Data Analyst at ReGeneration Schools, and he explains 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 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.”

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 teacher’s 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
The first round of interim assessments was scheduled for late October. Luke Brewers, the network’s Data Analyst, digitally shared assessment booklets and supporting documents (including scoring guides, rubrics, teacher’s guide, and standards alignment documents) via Google Drive a few weeks in advance so The Graide Network team could begin sourcing and training qualified Graiders for the project. 

Student’s sat for the exams from Monday, October 24th, through Thursday, October 27th. The Director of Operations (DO) at each campus was responsible for scanning and sharing student work with The Graide Network through Google Drive; The Graide Network was responsible for the rest. The bulk of the scanning was done by Friday afternoon, with late, make-up, and re-scanned exams trickling in the following week. By the following Thursday, November 3rd, The Graide Network returned scores for all 2,115 exams. The scores were quickly uploaded into the school’s LMS where both teachers and administrators could access and analyze the robust student performance data.

In addition, The Graide Network team surveyed the Graiders and provided ReGeneration administrators with a high-level feedback and insights report around student trends, areas of strength, areas for growth, and general observations. They also delivered a post-assessment recommendations report with actionable steps on how to improve the assessments from an operational standpoint (tips for planning, administering, and scanning more efficiently) as well as highlighting gaps and inconsistencies in the scoring guides, rubrics, and assessments to help improve the assessments themselves. Luke explains the value of this innovative solution:

"As a data analyst, I 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."

The Results

Collaborative analysis, targeted go-forward lesson planning, data-driven instruction, and in-depth student performance data
When interim assessments were complete, all of the schools began a response process, focused on altering and improving instruction. ReGeneration teachers and administrators from across the three campuses came 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 were able to form teams by subject and grade level and dive into the exams and scoring reports. They had ample time 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. 

“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, ReGeneration Schools Data Analyst

A second PD day was held the following Friday afternoon for additional assessment review and collaborative work. The learnings gleaned from the assessment data, professional development, and small-group discussions allowed teachers to build targeted go-forward instructional plans, craft focused re-teachings of problem areas, and drive personalized and small group learning efforts. Administrators were able to use the data to make strategic decisions around curriculum, instruction, budgets, and key initiatives. Teachers reported feeling productive and engaged in the process, and felt better prepared to in their go-forward planning. 

In partnering with The Graide Network, ReGeneration was able to effectively implement meaningful professional development and collaborative assessment review, foster data-driven instruction and data-based decision making, and more effectively manage their teachers’ time and workloads. All of these actions have the power to meaningful drive student achievement and growth, and we are excited to see the results of the PARCC 2017 exams this June.