Forte Prep is a tuition-free middle school open to students in grades 5 through 8 in Queens, New York, founded and led by Graham Browne. Forte Prep is driven by a philosophy of achieving excellence in all facets of life and learning, and using the power of education to transform the lives of students from diverse, often disadvantaged, backgrounds. A key driver of their mission is the efficient use of data to inform instruction and culture. I sat down with Graham to talk data and he shared some powerful insights.
How did you decide what you wanted in a data system?
Graham: We are a brand new school, in our fifth month of operation. We wanted a way to keep track of student information with regard to academics, behavior, and attendance, all in one place. When I selected Schoolrunner as the system we were going to use, I was pleasantly surprised by the power of their analysis tools. The ease with which we can figure out interventions for struggling students, our newfound ability to keep a regular stream of information that’s useful to families, and our capacity to easily identify trends in our student data and performance that I didn’t even know were possible – all this has allowed us to build a better culture and stronger academic programs.
How do you use data to drive cultural ideals at Forte Prep?
Graham: We have a value-based school culture system called STRIVE. Each value has different letter – Service, Team, Resilience, Integrity, Voice, Excellence. On a daily basis, students get 15 STRIVE points and throughout the day, teachers and administrators use Schoolrunner to award or deduct points for behaviors that count toward each of these values. At the end of the week, we automatically generate a report of students who fell below 55 STRIVE points. They immediately get assigned to Friday extension, and teachers, students, administrators, and parents get notified – all as a pre-programmed, automatic process.
Additionally, as part of our routine, I shake hands with each student every morning. Before doing so, I run a quick report of students who struggled the day before by filtering for kids who lost a certain number of STRIVE points as a result of any number of behavioral infractions that we’ve configured (not handing in homework, being late for class, etc.). Equipped with that report, I know who to check in with during those handshakes. Often, I’ll change the date range to see trends of who’s been in that group all week, all month, etc. On the flip side, I’ll also take a look at who dropped out of that group, so that I can congratulate them. Along the lines of positive incentives, we often decide who can attend certain field trips by running a quick report to determine who has achieved a certain number of STRIVE points that month or trimester. The information we get from STRIVE point tracking is the basis of how we incentivize and grow strong school culture; the incentives and consequences are a key component of how that sticks.
“Schoolrunner helps us make our cultural ideals into tangible incentives rather than abstract concepts.”
How do you use data to drive academic performance?
Graham: All students are held accountable for doing all their homework completely every day. In order to enforce this without adding extra burden to teachers or administrators, we’ve created a “missed homework” behavior deduction. When a teacher assigns this behavior to a student, one click of a button assigns that student to Homework Club during recess the next day – boom. The next day, all teachers – not just the ones who assigned that specific homework or behavior – can click into Schoolrunner right before recess, look at the Homework Club list, and hold those kids back. We’re a middle school model, so we have seven to eight teachers teaching kids different subjects every day, but they can all get a big picture view of how their students are doing on specific behaviors like homework completion across the board, not just in their class.
“The centralized and transparent nature of the Schoolrunner system gives our teachers and leadership team a sky-level view of how students are doing across all classes on a regular basis, enabling us to truly support the whole child.”
How do you use data to inform your coaching conversations with teachers?
Graham: One at-a-glance dashboard I view on a regular basis is the ratio of positive to negative consequences that teachers are giving. When that ratio seems out of whack compared to their colleagues, that gives me good data to discuss in my next one-on-one meeting with that teacher. If it’s skewed on the negative side, what are you noticing about student behavior during class? If it’s skewed on the positive side, what best practices could they share with other teachers?
“Walking into a conversation with a teacher armed with the hard data we get from Schoolrunner makes our conversations much more productive and honest.”
How do you use data to help teachers improve instruction?
Graham: A good example is our trimester assessments. Every teacher administered a trimester assessment right before Thanksgiving and used Gradecam (a way of automatically uploading bubble sheet results) as the primary grading tool, which automatically syncs the data into Schoolrunner. In designing the tests, teachers paid special attention to tag questions based on unit, standard, etc. to ensure that the output would be most effective. The Monday after Thanksgiving, teachers came in for a teachers-only “data day” focused on crunching their trimester assessment data. We analyzed results by standard, by unit, by student demographic, by academic habit (i.e. did students perform better during the first half or second half of the test, did they struggle with certain multiple choice question structures) etc., and pulled out some amazing qualitative and quantitative insights to inform reteaching, reviews, and pull-out groups going into the new trimester.
“Having a system like Schoolrunner that can quickly show a heat map of student scores based on a variety of dimensions is priceless for our team because it got them from doing a finger in the wind, directionally correct test of how students were doing, to ‘ok – here’s exactly what I need to reteach next week to which kids’.”
Contact us today if you have questions about how educators like Graham are using data to drive success at their school!
Graham Browne, Forte Preparatory Academy
Eve Ackil, Schoolrunner