August 21, 2017
At New Dorp High School in New York City, principal Deirdre DeAngelis was having a tough time just getting students to show up to school, let alone excel in the classroom. With the school in danger of being closed in 2005, DeAngelis knew she had to work with her staff to completely overhaul school operations to improve its 78-80 percent attendance rate, failing state exam scores, disappointing 54.9 percent graduation rate and lack of family participation.
For the 2006 school year, the leadership team at New Dorp restructured the school of almost 3,000 students to allow students to choose a career track in one of eight smaller learning communities (SLC). Each wing of the school now houses a dedicated subject focus, spanning arts and communication, software development, and math and science. As the school altered its course structure, it also shifted from pen-and-paper administration to digital administration. To make that transition seamless, DeAngelis and the school leadership team selected a suite of products from IO Education – IO Classroom, IO Assessment and IO Insights.
As a part of the school-wide turnaround effort, New Dorp High School utilized the products from IO Education to make it easier for teachers to handle their daily tasks, such as engaging parents with comments and stories about their child, grading assignments, creating documents for the classroom, producing reports on a student’s progress and taking attendance. To identifying struggling students, the staff at New Dorp implemented weekly formative and benchmark assessments using IO Assessments. The team hoped these measures would improve the attendance rate, graduation rate and student performance.
In the early days of the turnaround effort, teachers began using IO Classroom for simple tasks like taking attendance. The staff gradually realized the potential of the tools’ capabilities and began using IO Classroom to run daily operations in the classroom and for the school. Teachers increasingly relied on the system to track homework assignments, automate their grade books, schedule reports and streamline interactions with parents. Now the staff considers it an irreplaceable aspect of their day.
New Dorp High School eventually created a coordinator position to help the staff continually improve their application of IO Classroom through three to four professional development (PD) sessions each year. Through the PD, teachers identified opportunities to replace and streamline pen and paper tasks with the easy-to-use online interface.
Teachers now use the reporting capabilities from IO Insights to easily create and share visual reports that help them analyze a student’s performance and gain a deeper level of understanding about their needs. The staff can now identify where individual students are struggling, in real-time, using all of the valuable local and state data provided by IO Education. With this insight, teachers can now intervene and create personalized learning plans to strengthen the student’s comprehension and achievement.
But New Dorp High School didn’t stop at improving classroom management and reporting. The school also adopted IO Assessment to replace traditional pencil and paper testing, enabling teachers to easily create or use saved answer sheets, align questions to local and Common Core standards, scan and automatically score bubbled responses. The formative and benchmark assessment results were used for much more than just grades. The results were analyzed by collaborative teaching teams to identify students who had not mastered standards and needed intervention, to generate insight on how to adjust the curriculum, and to determine opportunities for professional development.
One area of particularly strong improvement occurred through the use of IO Classroom and IO Assessment to identify writing as the weakest skill among students. As a result of this new insight, New Dorp staff took action. The implementation of a school-wide writing initiative not only helped the students, but also garnered local, national and international recognition.
With the combined help of IO Classroom, IO Insights and IO Assessment, the 2015-2016 school year ended with the school averaging 90 percent student attendance and a graduation rate of 80 percent. The New York City Department of Education’s review of New Dorp High School’s 2014-2015 school year showed that 89 percent of parents say the school staff regularly communicated with them about how the staff can help their children learn, 97 percent of teachers said the teachers work closely with families to meet students’ needs and 95 percent of teachers said the curriculum and instruction were well coordinated across grade levels.
The staff at New Dorp High School has been able to use a tiered system of monitoring struggling students and create a comprehensive plan to help improve their performance. As a result of this plan and the hard work of the dedicated staff, along with support from IO Education products, the graduation rate has gone from 54.9 percent to 80 percent, meaning 200 more students are graduating every year.
New Dorp High School has been the New York City model for high school reform and has been recognized with numerous awards over the years, including: receiving an “A” status on the NYC School Progress Report and a “well-developed” on the NYC Quality Review, and recognition by the U.S. Department of Education as a Model SLC School.
DeAngelis and her staff knows that if her staff can get a student to complete 9th grade, they can likely help that student graduate. To increase that likelihood, New Dorp High School plans on focusing more heavily on students as they come into 9th grade by analyzing their 8th grade test scores and attendance numbers with the help of IO Education.
“We like to look at our 9th graders when they come in,” DeAngelis said. “We like to evaluate the data from their state test from 8th grade and their attendance. Sharing those two data points with our staff in the 9th grade learning communities actually allows to focus earlier on keeping them in 9th grade.
We know 9th grade is the most important year. If we can hold them and have them be successful by the end of 9th grade, we know that we have them for the long haul, and they will graduate on time.”
DeAngelis knew her school was in trouble and needed to restructure how it educated students. As New Dorp High School reorganized into a SLC and reconfigured its curriculum, the leadership team brought in and combined the benefits of IO Classroom, IO Insights and IO Assessment to help provide the staff with the tools to manage and assess student data and to identify improvement opportunities for both students and teachers alike. By creating insights out of the data on students’ performance and integrating tools to personalize learning and communicate progress, teachers were able to improve attendance rates, graduation rates and student performance—making a real, measurable difference that benefits students for the rest of their lives. In the end, DeAngelis summed it up best by saying, “If I told my staff tomorrow that I was taking away IO Education, they would lose their minds.”