How South Kearns Elementary Uses Data to Improve Academic Outcomes

By Rob Hatch, Strategy and Learning Coordinator

By Rob Hatch, Strategy and Learning Coordinator

Just 10 percent of students at South Kearns Elementary were proficient in Science at the end of the 2015 school year. By the end of the next school year, proficiency had more than doubled to 23 percent. At the same time, student proficiency rates in Math and English Language Arts grew, rising to the highest levels South Kearns has ever scored. Students of all demographics (gender, low-income, English language learners, and minority students) contributed to this improvement, and it included nearly every grade and class at South Kearns Elementary.

The 2016 SAGE test results were disheartening to many parents and educators. In schools across Granite School District and the state student proficiency in Science, Math, and English Language Arts declined, and in many cases, school results were significantly lower than in previous years.

How did South Kearns significantly improve student proficiency when schools across the state were losing ground? Changes in school culture, expanding partnerships with their community, and the constant use of data helped drive improvement at the individual, class, and school level.

These factors, along with passionate and dedicated school staff, enabled South Kearns to improve student outcomes – despite the downward trend seen at other schools around the state.

South Kearns: Turnaround and growth

Each year the lowest-performing Utah public schools are categorized as “turnaround” schools, requiring state-mandated changes to improve student outcomes. South Kearns entered the turnaround process in the 2015-2016 school year, under the leadership of a new principal, Debbie Koji. Principal Koji brought new perspectives, experience, and staff to South Kearns, and has overseen a dramatic improvement in student academic performance.

South Kearns - Whole school SAGE (1)

Building Partnerships to Meet Student Needs

85 percent of South Kearns’ students are economically disadvantaged, and 30 percent are English Language Learners. These students’ basic needs were often unmet. South Kearns, like many schools in Utah, struggled to provide the unique support critical for these students’ success. UWSL committed to the long-term success of South Kearns and provides support to a full-time onsite community school director. This school director works with school staff to identify causes of student’s academic struggles and find innovative ways to resolve them.

Using Data to Create Change at Scale

South Kearns Elementary made data collection and analysis a foundation of their work. Our school director works as a champion of data-based decision-making and results-based accountability – measuring what works and acting on those measurements to constantly improve.

This data use plays a vital role in the way South Kearns improves student outcomes. Seeing the progress so far, Principal Koji and her staff are more dedicated than ever to implementing rapid-cycle data use in their work. Statewide tests like SAGE and DIBELS are used in their curriculum planning, but teachers at South Kearns monitor student progress every day, adapting lesson plans as needed in real time to meet student needs. This practice of continuous improvement is at the core of UWSL’s work, and the success of partners like South Kearns.

UWSL integrates data from community schools like South Kearns Elementary with a variety of other data sources to identify the academic challenges students face in our community. By combining public census and health data with academic research, standardized test results, and regular surveys of families in our community UWSL brings unique perspectives and resources to challenges like those faced at South Kearns.

Using data, South Kearns improved student outcomes for nearly every grade and subject, changing the odds for their most at-risk students. Through supporting their programs, UWSL is able to learn from their success and improve outcomes at schools all across the Salt Lake Valley. Join us and support UWSL in improving outcomes for more kids across the Wasatch Front!

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