PassKey Helps Students Achieve Standards Every Step of the Way
For the last five years, Caldwell County schools in North Carolina have been using a software program from McGraw-Hill Lifetime Learning called PassKey: A Prescriptive Learning System. Since 1994, the county has seen improved test scores, including a 25% average increase in writing since 1994. Dr. Griggs McKinnon, the county's technology director, attributes the improvements in the Caldwell schools to the leadership of Superintendent Dr. Tom McNeel and to the dedicated teachers and staff whose focus is the success of every student. He also emphasizes the importance of sound testing and diagnostic information for effective teaching, which is largely helped by PassKey software.
With PassKey's diagnostic testing and objective-specific lessons, students take a pre-test, tutorial, guided practice and post-test to measure the level of mastery for each learning objective. Students can advance at their own pace and focus time on learning a skill they find most difficult. The results are performance-based, also known as criterion-referenced testing.
PassKey lessons help students achieve state standard levels in math, reading, writing and science with the inclusive, automatic onboard state objectives program. In order to lead students to complete skills mastery, lessons are arranged hierarchically. As McKinnon explains, "You can't learn to multiply until you know how to add. They've got to get these precursor objectives down before they [the students] can move on."
Besides providing solid, diagnostic data for educators, PassKey has helped teachers in another very important way. As teachers watch students work at their own pace through the tutorials, they learn a great deal about the different learning styles of their students.
Nearly two years ago, Caldwell County's William Lenoir Middle School changed its status from an "Exemplary School" to a "School of Distinction", which means that now 80% of their students are at grade level or above. "PassKey is one of the elements that has helped us," says lab teacher Elizabeth Keller, who sees every student in the school twice a week for thirty minutes.
In the lab, the teachers accompany the students and supervise them in work that correlates to the work done in the classroom. Teachers work with students through the PassKey tutorials, making Passkey like a backup reinforcing the lessons that are presented in the classrooms. McKinnon adds, "I've seen too many kids make too much progress with this. I think it's one of the best uses of thirty minutes we could have during the day."
Caldwell County schools chose PassKey because it specifically addresses the standard course of study in North Carolina. The software effectively helps teachers to teach the objectives and students to learn the lessons.
McGraw-Hill Lifetime Learning Worthington, OH
This article originally appeared in the 10/01/1999 issue of THE Journal.