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New Measure of Student Success Beyond the Test Score

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    Alexis Margolin

Expeditionary Learning Launches New Performance Benchmarks for Schools

NEW YORK – March 30, 2015 – Redefining how performance is measured in K-12 education, Expeditionary Learning (EL) has launched a new benchmarking process for schools in its network – encompassing measurements around character development and quality of student work on top of test results. In its first phase, EL is recognizing nine schools nationally, from Massachusetts to Wisconsin to California, as “Credentialed EL Schools.” 

Addressing what’s missing in most school performance measures

“Test scores provide a valuable lens on student achievement, but we want to go beyond this single definition of success to recognize skills that are important to college, career, and life success,” said Mark Conrad, Chief Schools Officer at EL, which has a network of more than 160 schools nationwide. “With this new credentialing process, we want to address what’s missing in most school performance benchmarks: how students are developing their character and their ability to solve real-world problems.” 

EL’s definition of school success takes into account three different aspects of achievement and has based its school credentialing process on these factors: 

  • Student Mastery of Knowledge and Skills. This factor takes into account how schools raised performance on state assessments/testing over a period of 4-6 years.
  • Student Character. EL schools establish consistent school-wide “Habits of Scholarship” (such as perseverance and responsibility), which are then tracked by students and teachers to provide evidence of growth over time.
  • High-Quality Student Work. Schools present evidence showing how the quality, depth, and authenticity of student work has improved during the school’s multiyear partnership with EL.

Credentialing along this broader set of metrics is allowing schools to take a more complete assessment of what they’re doing well and what they need to improve, Conrad said. Steve Mahoney, the principal at The Springfield Renaissance School in Massachusetts, observed, “The process sharpened our school-wide conversations, pushing us to look at the relationship between design and practice. That push exposed gaps that needed to be filled and strengths that needed to be exploited.”

Diverse range of successful schools 

“The nine schools receiving the designation as a ‘Credentialed EL School’ include both urban and rural and both district and charter schools,” said Conrad. “This shows that these differences across schools are less important than the power of a team of educators coming together around a shared vision of teaching and learning.” The schools include:

  • Anser Charter School – Boise, ID
  • Genesee Community Charter School – Rochester, NY
  • Grass Valley Charter School – Grass Valley, CA
  • Harborside Academy – Kenosha, WI
  • Kettle Falls Elementary School – Kettle Falls, WA
  • Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School – Queens, NY
  • Polaris Charter Academy – Chicago, IL
  • The Springfield Renaissance School – Springfield, MA
  • Two Rivers Public Charter School – Washington, D.C.

“We’ve been able to engage in a powerful reflective process about our successes, our learning, and our next steps as an organization,” said Maggie Bello, the Chief Academic Officer of Two Rivers Public Charter School in D.C. “The process has shown us clearly the learning we have collaboratively engaged in to help all students succeed with mastery of skills and knowledge, character development, and high-quality student work.” 

As Conrad said, the new benchmarks give the schools a “new language with which to talk about student achievement.” 

EL will be conducting its credentialing process with network schools on an ongoing basis, with the second phase of the project assessing a new group of schools this year.