ASPIRE Academy provides accelerated learning and a challenging environment where gifted and talented students learn alongside their intellectual peers.
Some key statistics:
- All students at the academy scored at or above the 99th percentile on a nationally normed aptitude test.
- 45% of elementary students are taking math classes at least one year above grade level.
- 25% of middle school students are enrolled in high school math classes beyond Algebra 1.
- Students in grades 9 & 10 outperform district, state, and global averages in 14 Advanced Placement (AP) tests and scored 1216 or above on the PSATs.
ASPIRE needed to lift the ceiling for their high-performing students. With most students learning above grade level—in many cases well above—district testing was not measuring student abilities effectively. They needed assessments that were aligned with the level of instruction students were actually receiving.
“We have legal obligations to meet our state standards,” says Dr. Cheryl Taliaferro, ASPIRE Academy District Liaison. “It’s important to link scores to standards, because gifted kids don’t necessarily develop consistently across all areas.”
Enter Scantron’s assessment solutions.
Performance Series is a computer-adaptive test covering a variety of core subjects, such as Reading, English Language Arts, Science, and Mathematics, including high school Algebra and Geometry. All results are connected to state standards all the way down to specific skills, enabling a deep understanding of student attainment and growth targets.
“The growth analysis report available in Performance Series let us measure where students had been when school stopped and where they were when school re-opened. Our parents really appreciated having that information, too.”
Dr. Cheryl Taliaferro, ASPIRE Academy District Liaison
The academy used to have to double-up on beginning, middle, and end of year testing, using both Performance Series and the other grade-level tests. However, as the program developed, it became clear that Performance Series data alone provided a strong view of student achievement against grade-level standards and met district reporting requirements.
“Scantron Performance Series really pinpoints student ability for specific objectives, making sure we are hitting our state targets,” notes Dr. Taliaferro.
When the pandemic hit, ASPIRE was able to leverage the district’s 1:1 device program to continue instruction for its students, even during the early days of school closures and lockdown. Although they were still able to teach, instructional time was limited to 20 minutes on each core subject per day. “We were really worried about what the students were losing instructionally,” Dr. Taliaferro states.
When school re-opened in the Fall of 2020, ASPIRE was able to resume testing, even for those students still learning at home. “It was great having a mechanism in place that allowed students to test at home,” says Dr. Taliaferro. “The growth analysis report available in Performance Series let us measure where students had been when school stopped and where they were when school re-opened. Our parents really appreciated having that information, too. It made them feel more at ease, knowing the parent version of the growth reports would be available as part of our re-opening plan.”
The growth reports are also used to motivate and guide student behavior. Students receive copies of their report, including data such as Lexiles and specific areas of weakness in reading, putting responsibility and accountability for their performance under their own control. “The kids really appreciate that,” Dr. Taliaferro observes. “This year, during remote instruction, students received their middle-of-year scores and wrote reflective essays on their program, identifying areas for improvement and actions they could take.”
ASPIRE’s next steps involve taking more advantage of connected instructional resources informed by test results. They also plan to explore using Performance Series results to create and monitor small group instruction in middle school.
The academy is using the English Language Arts test in Performance Series to expand and deepen student skills beyond the grade levels specifically covered by state standards. “Our growth on the mid-year test in language arts was a huge source of celebration for us. It really helped us justify some needed programmatic changes,” notes Dr. Taliaferro.
When ASPIRE added 11th grade to the program, they layered in preparation for the PSAT. “National Merit is a big deal in our district,” Dr. Taliaferro relates. “The grammar piece has historically been a weakness. We can now do some strong review and start enhancing instruction at the middle school level so students are coming in better prepared.”
Scantron is pleased and proud to be able to help this exceptional program and its students succeed.