District Uses Benchmarks in Four Schools and a Family Literacy Center to Drive Achievement Before Grade 3
Pittsburgh, PA | 6 schools (4 elementary) & a Family Literacy Center | serving ~4,600 students in PK – 12
Fox Chapel Area is a high-performing mid-sized district that uses the Children’s Progress Academic Assessment (CPAA) in all four of its elementary schools and its prekindergarten Family Literacy Center. Educators rely on the CPAA in the earliest grades to help identify and meet needs proactively throughout the year. Starting this process as early as prekindergarten with a formative tool that is appropriate even for the youngest students has helped Fox Chapel ensure that everyone is on track well before grade 3.
It’s so helpful to have a common source of data for the whole district in the early grades. The CPAA’s reporting functions are very powerful. Everything is there that you need. Moreover, it works incredibly smoothly on the technical end. It is easy to navigate and the results are instant.
District Curriculum Coordinator
“As state tests in grades 3 through 11 have become more prominent, we wanted to find tools to use – particularly in K-2 – to proactively benchmark performance against standards,” says Ron Korenich, the district’s Curriculum Coordinator. Korenich mentions that the district evaluated a number of tools, but “none of them did quite what we needed.” After piloting the CPAA, Fox Chapel rolled out the program to all K-3 classrooms. “We were able to replace some curriculum based measures we were previously using with the CPAA. Teachers felt it was a good tradeoff. We especially liked that the CPAA is aligned to our state standards,” says Korenich.
All of Fox Chapel’s elementary schools have been using the CPAA since the fall of 2007 for benchmarking in kindergarten through grade 3. It has also been implemented in the district’s expanding Family Literacy Center program.
In kindergarten through grade 3, the CPAA is administered three times a year (in the fall, winter and spring). Teachers use the data to inform instruction each season, in line with their RTI process. They also use it to reassess particular students for additional progress monitoring, if needed.
“We place a heavy emphasis on differentiating instruction. The CPAA provides us with a good foundation for identifying red flags and the recommended activity reports in particular are a great, quick way for our teachers to get started with differentiation,” shares Korenich.
As part of the district’s RTI process, educators meet at the grade level every few weeks to discuss where students are in relation to standards. Meetings at each school are attended by teachers, the principal, RTI facilitator, Special Education teacher and Title I teacher. CPAA data informs the discussion alongside teacher observations and other tools.
Since the district has been using the CPAA for several years, educators are able to use it to track progress and trends over time. Korenich mentions that this is particularly helpful for special education professionals and data reviews at the beginning of each school year, right before the students return.
Each school holds a “Data Carousel” the week before students arrive to ensure that there are “no surprises on the first day.” Multiple data sources are reviewed. Korenich recounts, “We ask ourselves, ‘Where did the kids leave off last year? Who struggled, who was strong and who performed as expected? What worked well, and how can we replicate it?’” Teachers use CPAA data in conjunction with other sources to develop an initial profile of their classrooms and inform instruction as the year kicks off.
Educators also share CPAA reports with parents twice a year – in the fall and the spring. “The spring report provides families with targeted summer activities,” notes Korenich.
Fox Chapel founded a Family Literacy Center to help establish a positive connection with families before kindergarten and build language skills. The program is designed for 3 and 4-year olds and their caregivers. It consists of a 90-minute meeting with several families once a week and lasts for 12 weeks. All families in the district are welcome. “We’ve been encouraged with great participation in our community and are really happy with how the program has been growing,” says Korenich.
The CPAA is administered to youngsters at the Family Literacy Center and teachers discuss the reports with parents to ensure that parents understand how to best help their children continue to make progress at this developmentally critical time.
Standards-Referencing Benchmark Provides Valuable Information Earlier than Ever Before
“We really like having a benchmark that we can use starting in prekindergarten,” Korenich says. Since teachers use the CPAA at the Family Literacy Center and since the three pre-schools in the area (not operated by the district) are now also using the CPAA, Korenich mentions, “We’ve been able to collect information on children coming to us that we’ve never had before. It’s a great first look at our students.”
User-friendly Format and Speedy Support Make Data-Driven Instruction a Reality
As an administrator of a large district, Korenich values ease of use and smooth implementation. “If the CPAA had not been so easy to use, we would not have been so open to it,” he admits. “The fact that it’s user friendly is extremely significant, since online programs have the potential to be a nightmare from an administrative standpoint.”
The availability of a technically-savvy support team ensures smooth implementation district-wide. Korenich says, “I can’t say enough about the quality of Children’s Progress support. Any questions we have are always addressed quickly. I don’t think there is anything that has ever taken more than a day.”