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Closing the Achievement Gap: A San Jose Success Story

Follett Software’s TetraData? solution enables improved student performance through strategic data management

The San Jose Unifi ed School District (SJUSD), with 32,000 students and 42 schools, is 4 miles wide and 22 miles long.  The northern end of the district contains the highest concentration of families living below the poverty index in Santa Clara County while the southern end supports multi-million dollar Silicon Valley homes. Schools in the south end of the district are among the highest performing in the state. Schools in the north end are predominantly Title I with high concentrations of English Learners and disadvantaged students.

Undaunted by these disparities, San Jose’s faculty and administrators are committed to high academic standards across the board and to giving all students optimal opportunities to succeed. “We want our students to be ready to achieve anything they want to when they leave our schools,” said Marcy Lauck, manager of SJUSD’s Continuous Improvement Programs.

"When we set standards high
and give students the tools
to meet them, they meet the

In 1998, SJUSD became the first district in California to raise its graduation standards to meet the entrance requirements for the UC/CSU system. “We knew that if our students successfully completed the coursework necessary for admission to quality 4-year colleges, then they truly would have an opportunity to make the most of their future,” continued Lauck. “Our next question was ‘how can we best prepare everyone to meet these new higher standards?’”

SJUSD devised a plan of continual formative assessment, within which all students would be tested on mastering the standards covered in the state tests every six weeks. But this presented an additional challenge: how to interpret new data and turn it into meaningful improvements before the next test rolled around. Follett Software Company’s TetraData solution provided the district with the needed centralized data storage and the analytics tools to align the district’s data conversations.

TetraData provides a strategic data platform that integrates and stores student demographic information, test scores, quarterly assessments, staff demographics, certification levels and more. TetraData Analyzer? then maps these data sets onto each other and generates comprehensive reports. This provides a constant stream of timely feedback to guide instructional interventions and teacher coaching.

“As a result of our data work, we are reversing the trend of schools going into Program Improvement,” remarked Lauck. “Teachers at schools with 90% English Learners, Hispanic and disadvantaged students are moving, on average, more than 50 percent of their students out of “Far Below Basic” on the California Standards Test and similar percents of students out of “Below Basic” and “Basic” into “Profi ciency.” Six of eleven schools have moved out of Program Improvement.

Editorial Projects in Education, a national nonprofi t research group, recently recognized SJUSD for its 93 percent graduation rate, the secondhighest among the 50 largest urban school districts in the nation.

The district’s gains have been so impressive that in 2007 California’s State Superintendent Jack O’Connell chose one of SJUSD’s schools ? Lowell Elementary ? as the site of his annual press conference to announce state test scores. The school had raised its Academic Performance Index score by 42 points in one year, posting huge gains for its most challenging students: 41 points for Hispanic students, 47 points for Title I students and 59 points for English Learners. “That’s incredible,” O’Connell said at the press conference. “That’s our definition of closing the achievement gap.”

Marcy Lauck summed it up: “When we set standards high and give students the tools to meet them, they meet the challenge. Our most important technology tool is our data warehouse— TetraData just doesn’t let us fail.”

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