Data and assessment are ingrained in the culture at DSST Public Schools, which stands for Denver Schools of Science & Technology. The entire community, from teachers to district leadership, has used and relied on digital assessment for nearly a decade. Data is a way of life, so when DSST’s assessment vendor decided to sunset their platform, the district faced a challenge: find and transition to a new digital assessment platform in just one year. A replacement was needed, the clock was ticking, and the search was on.
The team at DSST found inspiration during their assessment tool search from Beyonce’s song “Upgrade U”. Since they were upgrading their assessment platform, the project took on the code name “Beyonce.” Project Beyonce had a number of goals: find a platform that was reliable, easy to use, provided the rigor demanded by the district’s culture, and facilitated a smooth transition from their current system.
The district identified 100 potential assessment platforms to review. That list was quickly whittled down to 20. Further investigations and conversations with each assessment provider brought them to Edulastic.
Blake Gould, Senior Manager of Education Technology, led the digital assessment selection committee. “It became clear to us that Edulastic was going to be a great tool for us when we had all of our teachers in a room together and they overwhelmingly voted [to use it] in their classrooms.” says Gould. Teachers loved the ease-of-use and the ability to create and administer quick classroom checks, or rigorous formative or summative assessments. Since the start of the school year, the district has seen nearly 100% teacher usage, a sign of success.
Working Together to Make the Transition Easy
“One of the things that’s really struck me about Edulastic from the start is just how user oriented not only the platform but the team really seems to be,” says Gould. During the transition, DSST teachers wanted to migrate assessments from an outdated file format called a “Web CT” file and from McGraw Hill’s former product, Engrade. “Edulastic was by far and away the most willing to take that extra work on to make sure that our teachers who had assessments from two and three generations back of assessment tools could still migrate their work into the new platform,” says Gould.
Another helpful factor during the transition was that Edulastic had an API that DSST could use to take the Student Assessment data and map it back to their own data warehouse, called ODS (Operational Data Store), as well as Tableau reporting environment, which they internally called Polaris.
Polaris is the home for most of DSST’s data reporting, both instructional and non-instructional. “Edulastic feeds really well into that system, so as soon as the teacher inputs an assessment, the next day we are able to see all of that data,” says Steven Menduke, Associate School Director of Instruction at the DSST: Byers campus.
“We love the relationship we have with the people behind Edulastic.” says Gould, “It’s really easy to get in touch, we get the answers we need in a timely fashion, and it just seems really clear that the team at Edulastic cares about whether or not their product’s working for us.”
The Hallmark of a Data Centered Culture: Progress is Excellence
“A theme this year at Byers campus is ‘progress is excellence’,” says Menduke. “Edulastic has helped us to track progress not just on a monthly or trimesterly basis, but on a daily basis. Being able to see the growth in our students from day to day has really helped reinvigorate our staff and reinvigorate students. That wouldn’t have happened without the daily access of Edulastic.”
Menduke says one of the most helpful things about Edulastic is the ease of tagging questions to standards and getting the data broken down by standard. “Edulastic has given our teachers a great opportunity to be able to specifically target high-need and high-leverage standards in their classes.” Teachers can then use the information to reteach or adjust instruction as needed, sometimes during the same class period.
With all subjects and schools across the network using digital assessment, visibility into progress is available at all levels. Teachers across the network can also easily collaborate on assessments and can discuss student progress together. The school has professional learning community meetings called Cross Campus Collaboration, or C3, where teachers in similar grade levels and subjects come together about four or five times a year to collaborate, discuss, and coordinate instructional efforts.
Assessment has been helpful not only for regular classroom checks, exit tickets, and formative assessments, but also for larger high-stakes assessments. “It has changed the way that my students are able to test on regular exams and state mandated tests as well,” says Victoria Tidwell, 8th Grade Reading Teacher at the DSST: Byers campus.
Celebrating Student Success
Teachers use collected educational data to celebrate students at the end of the year during an event called “Culture Days.” Culture Days happen after the final interim assessments. During classes on this day, students learn about their growth over the year.
“Being able to track student data over the course of the year with Edulastic, we’re able to use those achievements to celebrate students. That helps to motivate them more for that next trimester,” says Tidwell. Tidwell enjoys Culture Days because it’s an opportunity and a designated time for students to see and celebrate their growth. This lights up the students and leaves the year on a positive note.
Many teachers make a big deal of the event, rallying their classes, passing out candy, and treating it like a huge celebration — and it’s well worth celebrating! “Students basically get a full thirty minutes to just scream and shout and celebrate each other and their successes over the year,” Tidwell notes.
Project Beyonce brought DSST to Edulastic and it’s become an integral part of living out the Progress is Excellence theme. Teachers and students are using Edulastic to grow and demonstrate skills mastery in their daily checks, formatives, and summative assessments. Gould notes, “We’ve just been really impressed with how Edulastic has met our needs.”