Accurate state assessment predictions lead to student growth in PA district

Star 360 helps Saint Marys Area School District with remediation and academic gains
By: | Issue: September, 2018 | Case Study
August 1, 2018

During Noel Petrosky’s 12 years at different Saint Marys Area School District elementary schools, she saw assessment data accurately predict student performance on state tests and inform instruction that led to student growth. That wasn’t the case at Saint Marys Area Middle School when she became principal two years ago.

“I thought, ‘I can’t go into a system not knowing what my students are capable of,’ ” recalls Petrosky, who wanted to establish a multi-tier system of supports (MTSS) framework at her middle school in rural northwestern Pennsylvania.

Already a fan of Renaissance Star 360¬Æ assessments used in the district’s K5 schools since 2008, Petrosky introduced the solution to grades 6 through 8 shortly after she arrived. In the past two years, Star 360 has accurately predicted state assessment performance within 5 percent of actual results and identified areas in which students required additional instruction.

As a result, student growth increased almost immediately. “Using Star 360 data, we strategically place students in study halls and use an MTSS framework to identify students in need” Petrosky says. “We address those needs and build our lower-level learners.”

Having access to actionable data on each student earlier in the year gives educators opportunities to intervene and offer additional supports to students—and Star 360 is working.

Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) results from 2015‚Äì16, the year before implementation, showed 32 Saint Marys Middle School students, or 6.4 percent of the school population, were “below basic” in reading. In 2016‚Äì17, 12 students were in that category; just 10 students, or 2 percent, were in 2017‚Äì18. Quick, actionable data Assessments in Star 360 take just 20 minutes to complete and provide immediate results, including details on state standards and skills.

“The best applicable information from Star 360 comes from its instructional planning reports” Petrosky says. “They tell us where students are and what they need to know. My study hall tutors are very adept at seeing the holes the reports identify and at filling in those holes with remediation based on the data, not on classroom instruction.”

Star 360’s K12 learning progressions provide a continuous pathway in which students move incrementally from low-level understanding to mastery. Petrosky likes how educators can easily track students’ progress over time to help ensure all students learn and grow.

Star Math adds up

While Petrosky appreciates the predictive power of Star 360, she also recognizes the impact on her school’s Future Ready PA Index, a state progress report based on multiple indicators, including local assessments of seventh-grade math.

Using Star 360, which includes Renaissance Star Math¬Æ, Petrosky modified the middle school’s math program and saw 91 percent of her seventh-grade students reach their growth benchmark during the 2017‚Äì18 school year.

“I’m a real-time, in-the-moment administrator” she says, “I was especially interested in the Future Ready Index piece that Star 360 provides. That’s where the math piece was vital.”

Other features include Longitudinal Reports that enable Petrosky to track different cohorts as they progress through each grade. In addition, students who change schools experience minimal academic disruption because their Star 360 data follows them.

Bringing Star 360 to the middle school energized educators eager to improve student outcomes. “I’ve had such great success in the elementary schools” Petrosky says, “and educators quickly saw the benefits for their own students.”

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