Using Data to Drive Student Achievement in the Classroom and on High-Stakes Tests


How can we improve student learning in the classroom and raise student performance on high-stakes tests? The key is continuing assessment and evaluation throughout the school year, as well as a commitment to the success of all students. Like many schools across the country, Lead Mine Elementary in Raleigh, N.C., receives student performance data from its state assessment, the North Carolina End-of-Grade (EOG) Test, after students leave for the summer. However, to increase student achievement in the classroom and on the state test, teachers need current and accurate data today. They need to see the relationship between student performance on curriculum and performance on the EOG Test. In addition, they need to see it in real time, not months later.

In 1998, long before the No Child Left Behind Act became part of the lexicon, Lead Mine Elementary set out to build a data-driven education framework to encourage academic growth for all students. This framework, "The Lead Mine Elementary School Curriculum Design," was created through a team effort, combining the expertise of teachers, curriculum specialists and administrators. The framework's four components are:

1. Curriculum alignment
2. Curriculum mapping
3. Curriculum benchmarking
4. Differentiation

Using the Curriculum Design framework, teachers, students and parents can see student expectations for each grade level; track student progress; identify student needs; provide focused instruction and interventions; and, ultimately, improve student achievement in the classroom and on the EOG Test.

Curriculum alignment. This first component of the Curriculum Design framework shows what will be taught in all subject areas and at each grade level. To begin, teachers put together their curriculum for the grade levels, and aligned it with the state's Standard Course of Study. Then, they organized the curriculum, listing the skills students should be able to demonstrate in every subject at each grade level.

Curriculum mapping. The curric-ulum map illustrates when the skills will be taught. It lists the skills in the order they will be taught in each grade level from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Curriculum benchmarking. Next, the school developed quarterly assessments and minimum standards of achievement for all grade levels, known as curri-culum benchmarking, to determine if students were learning the skills that were taught. These multiple assessments, which are correlated with the curriculum alignment and curriculum map, allow teachers to collect objective data throughout the year. This helps them determine where children are – and where they need to be – to successfully pass local academic standards and the EOG Test, which is administered in third, fourth and fifth grades. Further, it gives teachers the opportunity to provide timely interventions in the classroom or even enroll students in special programs to deliver assistance wherever they need it.

Differentiation. As teachers review the assessment data and evaluate student performance, they try to determine what teaching methods would be best for all learners. They find the integration of technology to be a very valuable tool in differentiating instruction for students based on their individual needs. While developing the Curriculum Design framework, Lead Mine searched for a curriculum solution that would support its efforts and provide ongoing embedded assessment and detailed student performance data. According to school administrators and teachers, Pearson Education Technologies' (formerly NCS Learn) comprehensive courseware, SuccessMaker, offered the best system, aligning with what the school was doing and providing real-timedata correlated to the EOG Test.

Forecasting Test Achievement

The school implemented Success-Maker in 1998. Today, all of the school's students use SuccessMaker for 30 minutes a day, three times a week to strengthen their skills in math, reading, writing and language arts. Students work on the self-paced, interactive courseware on IBM desktop computers, networked through Novell servers, in the computer lab and classroom. As students work on the curriculum courseware, the SuccessMaker management system provides up-to-date assessments of students' skills. With the system's assessment tools and on-demand reports, teachers can monitor the students' performance and growth, pinpoint difficulties and provide interventions as needed.

Data from the SuccessMaker courseware also plays an important role in curriculum benchmarking. In fall 2000, Lead Mine wanted to determine target courseware levels for achievement on the EOG Test and incorporate these into their benchmarks. The school provided Pearson Education Technolo-gies with data from their 2000 EOG Test and student performance data in the courseware.

Then, Pearson Education Technologies performed an "On Target Analysis." It analyzed students' performance data and EOG Test scores to establish the statistical relationship between SuccessMaker courseware levels at the time of the test and the test score data. Using this information, Pearson Education Technologies established target courseware levels for specific test achievement, then recommended some adjustments to the school's benchmarks to help ensure smooth transitions from grade to grade.

The result is that the school can now forecast the time a student needs to reach a specific SuccessMaker level and see the relationship of that level to achievement on the EOG Test. The school incorporated this data into their quarterly benchmarks and now uses it on a daily basis as well. A key benefit is that the SuccessMaker courseware provides a continuous view of student progress toward the target level and corresponding goal, aiding the teacher in providing a timely and appropriate instructional focus and intervention throughout the year.

Achieving Academic Growth and Success

Today, Lead Mine continues to update and fine-tune its Curriculum Design framework. As a result, decision making has become more data driven and students are showing remarkable growth. In the 2000-2001 school year, 88% of students passed the North Carolina EOG Test. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction named Lead Mine a North Carolina School of Distinction with Exemplary Growth in recognition of its academic achievement and academic growth for all children. In the 2001-2002 school year, 91.7% of students passed the EOG Test and Lead Mine was named a School of Excellence with Exemplary Growth, the highest award given to schools in the state. Many factors have been important to the school's success, including:

  • Hard work
  • Dedicated teachers
  • An outstanding curriculum design
  • Data-driven decision making
  • Quality curriculum courseware
  • Constant monitoring
  • People open to new ideas

The key to success is to always put the child first. It is the school's responsibility to determine each child's needs and provide whatever support is needed to ensure the child's success. Every day, teachers, administrators and parents strive to meet the needs of all children attending Lead Mine.

Visit Lead Mine Elementary online at

Greg Decker, Ed.D.
Principal, Lead Mine Elementary
Lead Mine, NC

Contact Information

Pearson Education Technologies
(formerly NCS Learn)
Mesa, AZ
(877) ED-TECH1

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2003 issue of THE Journal.

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