Institute for Student Achievement
Student Achievement



Dr. Gerry HouseDear *|FNAME|*,

The ISA model draws not only on educational research, but research on business, in particular the research of Edward Deming and Peter Senge on high quality and high performing organizations. For ISA schools, high quality and performance mean that they are achieving high graduation and college admissions rates. ISA's principle of continuous organizational improvement establishes the framework for schools to achieve and sustain these targets of high quality and performance. Particular organization structures, practices, and tools enable ISA schools to develop a culture of continuous organizational improvement so that staying on top of their game becomes second nature.

Organizational structures include teacher and counselor grade-level and discipline-based teams, which meet regularly to analyze student data including student work samples, grades, test scores, formative assessments, and attendance. They monitor students' progress and their on- or off-track-to- graduation status. In schools with advisories, students regularly analyze their transcripts, so that they, themselves, are on top of their progress toward graduation; so that they, themselves, know how many credits they have accumulated and state exit exams they have passed. Parents, too, are kept in the loop through the students and their advisors. Such review, reflection, and communication enable teacher teams to develop and apply individualized interventions in time to change students' trajectories as well as learn what strategies and interventions are effective and can eliminate those that don't work and expand those that do work.

ISA provides schools with a range of tools that support continuous organizational improvement and learning, including its "decision minutes" process designed to increase team meeting productivity and accountability; protocols and rubrics for analyzing teacher assignments and corresponding student work for demonstration of alignment with college readiness standards; and writing and math formative assessments and rubrics designed to identify gaps in student knowledge and skills and inform teaching. Grade level teams use ISA case management protocols to address student learning and behavioral problems and design interventions. At the conclusion of each year, ISA developing schools participate in an End of Year Inventory where the school leadership and coach use evidence to assess the school's implementation of the ISA model against a set of implementation indicators. Through this conversation, they identify areas of robust implementation as well as gaps where further development is needed. An external ISA coach then visits the school for a day, observing classes and reviewing data to assess the school's implementation of the ISA principles. At the end of the day, the principal, school coach, and external coach discuss the external coach's findings on areas of effective implementation as well as gaps in implementation. The external coach then makes recommendations for continued improvement. The resulting written report provides the school with a document to inform its plan for continuous organizational improvement.

This edition of our newsletter briefly describes one ISA tool for continuous organizational improvement, ISA's writing and math formative assessments, which provide schools with data on their students' knowledge and skills in college preparatory math and writing. We then highlight Bronx Envision High School's art-rich instruction and the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program at the Institute for Health Professions at Cambria Heights. Lastly, don't miss the exciting news about ISA's federal approval as a whole school reform model and acceptance into the What Works Clearinghouse!

Warm Regards,
Gerry House, Ed.D.
President, ISA

ISA Mathematics and Writing Formative Assessments: Using Student Data to Inform Continuous Organizational Improvement

ISA has designed mathematics and writing formative assessments that are grade level appropriate for 9th and 10th graders and aligned to the Common Core State Standards and the skills and knowledge students will need to succeed in college.

  • The ISA math assessment consists of a multi-part algebra task for 9th graders and a geometry task for 10th graders. The assessment aims to measure students' performance in five specific math dimensions: (1) problem solving, (2) reasoning and proof, (3) communication, (4) connections, and (5) representation.

  • The ISA writing assessment consists of a single prompt that asked students to take a position on an issue and write an essay that presents a logical argument. It assesses student performance on five writing dimensions: (1) content and analysis, (2) command of evidence, (3) coherence, organization and style, (4) control of conventions, and (5) conclusion.

The domains assessed are aligned with the Common Core State Standards. The assessments provide schools with a baseline of student skills in writing and math in order to track student progress over time; useful diagnostic information about student skills in key college preparatory gateway skills in writing and math; and self-assessment tools. ISA coaches work with school teams to analyze the student performance data to determine priority areas for instruction and then to develop instructional strategies that will address those priorities. Because students are assessed in the fall and the spring, the school can determine what student progress has been made on the dimensions measured, and then track back to their instruction to learn which strategies seemed to be effective and ineffective in achieving results.

Because teachers score their students' assessments, teachers get a close look at how their students are thinking and see for themselves the patterns manifested in their classes. ISA facilitates scoring workshops for teachers so that they learn how to use the ISA math and writing rubrics and they learn how their colleagues interpret the same work they are scoring. This process helps teachers and schools develop a common definition of high quality as well as simply passable work.

Students' scores are entered in the Online Assessment Reporting System (OARS), a web-based assessment data entry, management and reporting system that is customized to the ISA assessments. Every school has a password-protected page on OARS that allows teams to enter, view and generate reports on students' performance on the assessments. ISA's strategic partner, NCREST at Teachers College Columbia University, provides each ISA school with data reports on students' math and writing performance and gains in performance overall, as well as OARS-generated reports which show individual student performance and gains on the assessments. The system also provides information on sub-group achievement.

The assessments can help schools identify areas in which students have demonstrated strengths, target areas in which students need support, and consider how instruction can support student growth for a class, subgroup of students and/or individual student. This knowledge can also be used for continuous organizational improvement: e.g., schools can identify professional development necessary for teachers to implement new instructional strategies and organizational changes such as extended time or the creation of math and writing labs; and it can help a school think about how existing resources might be more effectively directed to the student math and writing outcomes the school desires. To learn more about ISA's math and literacy formative assessments, contact us.



School Spotlight

The Art of Partnerships at
Bronx Envision Academy

An ISA partner school, Bronx Envision Academy opened its doors in 2011 with a mission to empower students to be passionate about and well-prepared for their futures so they can be successful in college and their careers. Bronx Envision Academy integrates art into projects students do in the content areas. Partnerships with community arts organizations give students the opportunity to learn about and use art to illuminate and expand their understanding in the content areas. Bronx Envision teachers have participated in professional development provided by Visual Understanding in Education to learn to use the organization's Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) discussion protocol, an education method of discussion centered in visual understanding. VTS consists of teacher-facilitated discussions about art images that jumpstart a process of deeper learning in other subjects. Through VTS' rigorous group 'problem-solving' process, educators cultivate students' willingness and ability to present their own ideas while respecting and learning from the perspectives of their peers. Teachers implement this method by discussing diagrams in science classes, analyzing patterns and transformations in math, and discussing the use of historic images as primary and secondary sources in social studies.

Institute for Health Professions at Cambria Heights

In case you missed it, February was National Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month. The Institute for Health Professions at Cambria Heights (IHPCH) in Queens, NY is one of ISA's three CTE schools. IHPCH's CTE focus on the health industry is mirrored in its academic studies, as well as in its industry partnership with North Shore-LIJ Health System's Center for Learning Innovation and its post-secondary partnership with Hofstra University.

In case you missed it, Dr. House shared her thoughts on Career and Technical Education and how its helps prepare students for college and careers in this Scholastic Administrator blog.

Sign up for our next school visit on Thursday, April 16th, 2015. Each event includes visits to two or three schools where you will see the 7 Principles in action. Talk with the principal, observe classrooms, meet with students, experience an advisory. Space is limited, so register early.

ISA in the News

BREAKING NEWS: ISA's evidence-based whole school reform model has been deemed to meet federal SIG requirements. Also, our evaluation study meets What Works Clearinghouse standards!

Dr. House was also quoted in District Administration's “How Schools are Tackling Truancy” article.

Principals Marcel Deans of Victory Collegiate High School and Gareth Robinson of IHPCH co-authored Keep It Simple: Support college and career readiness by creating a college-going culture in the March Issue of Principal Leadership magazine.

Principal Nancy Amling of Hudson High School of Learning Technologies is featured in eSchool News Today and T.H.E. Journal, addressing the lift of the cell phone ban in New York City High Schools.

Meet Scott Noon and Rita Hanes at the NSBA Annual Conference in Nashville, TN. We'll be in Booth 538, ready to greet you!




Insitute for Student Achievement


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