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III. ACTION PLAN:    A. Technology Access    B. ICT Literacy    C. Professional Development    D. Community Involvement     [Data]

ICT Literacy Toolkit
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Effective Projects Case Study


Using NWEA to Guide Instructional Practices at Laconia School District


This is a story about a project that started 12/15/2006.

For more information, please contact: Terri Forsten at


The focus of our grant application was to provide student assessments and professional development from NWEA, Northwest Evaluation Association, for our students and our professional teaching staff in the Middle and High School settings to increase their access and application of the instructional resources available through this student assessment and its associated instructional applications. Teachers were expected to define flexible groups for instructional planning, guide differentiated instruction using the learning objectives through NWEA results and link student test results to skills and concepts included in state standards. We used a train the trainer model for this project.  NWEA offered a training that supported moving to the next phase in our application of DesCartes. In “Climbing the Data Ladder”, we learned to apply the information available on reports to our instructional practices through differentiating instruction, forming flexible groups and developing strategies to support each learner. We had planned to use early release days set aside for the spring 2007 and fall 2007 when we could offer our staff extensive experience with this training and hands on NWEA application. This became challenging as the new Principal was not fully on board yet at the Middle School and two key administrator positions had new people in place this year at our high school. As a “Follow the Child” district, Laconia School District uses NWEA, along with other assessment data points, as part of our “kid grid” and our tracking of student progress.


Funding: This project was supported by $12,694 from NCLB Title II-D (Educational Technology) and $390 in local funds. The project illustrates how federal funding supports “Data collection and analysis – Implementing individualized instruction by collecting, managing, and analyzing data to inform and enhance teaching and school improvement efforts.” The project addressed the following grades and content areas: 

   Gr6-8    EngLangArts  Math       


The Setting: Memorial Middle School is an urban New Hampshire middle school with 460 students.  It has been identified as a school in need of improvement for three years.  Our student population includes over 35% students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.


The plot: Engaging the Principal in valuing this professional development for teachers was the biggest challenge.  His focus has been on providing professional development in the application of “response to intervention” strategies and literacy for the school. The biggest challenge during implementation was to gain professional development time with teachers within the testing time for students so that their training was relevant to current assessment.  Our initial grant application included our high school team, but a change in administration (new Principal and Special Education Coordinator) deemed this not possible for this year.


The teachers: 12 teachers were directly involved. Twelve middle school teachers were directly involved in this project.  They are the core academic teachers – English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies.


The students: We are looking for ways to more closely link assessment to instruction with our teachers on behalf of our students.  NWEA promotes that this link is available through their DesCartes component.  It offers specific learning objectives for teachers to consider.  The challenge continues to be training teachers how to value and use the data in their lesson planning.  There are a couple of teachers who independently became connected to this program and were able to use it proficiently on behalf of their students


The data: NWEA provides strong student data that compares prior testing to current testing in NWEA.  Reports taken off of DesCartes provide not only a growth index but also provide a performance projection for each student.


The difference: Yes, there were student achievement gains.  This was apparent in all areas assessed by NWEA.  This is tracked through DesCartes.  Several teachers sought additional training opportunities and have developed proficiency in using this data to support instructional planning. Other data that supports our conclusions about NWEA supporting instruction and students’ performance would be seen through NECAP and Colorado Writing Prompts (using 6 Traits).  We have used this data to inform student class placement and need for student services support.


Essential conditions: Part of what made this project successful was the connection of trained staff in our building who are proficient and committed to using this source.


Changes for the future: Engage the Principal more fully during the application process to ensure his understanding and support of the commitment.  Also, engage more teachers so that it does not become dependent on administrators. Teachers also need improved access to computers for this project to be successful.  Our training always took place in a lab where they did not download any student results and were dependent on being fairly proficient in their computer technology skills. We would use this data more fully with our other evaluation sources – NECAP, Follow the Child Kid Grids, etc.


Recommendations: NWEA testing offers a strong and respected second source for assessing students’ skills.  Students like taking a test on the computer – for many it appears to be less intimidating or less overwhelming than a paper/pencil test.


Telling our story: Parents have received their child’s score/data information along with a cover letter that offers additional information to parents.  Staff has been part of conversations around the impact of this project.  This has been reported out at administrative team meetings


Documents to share:  List of documents: Agenda for staff training from November 2007, Key documents from website, Cover letter to parents