Oakland Unity Charter High School

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The challenge: Using data to drive instruction

Founded in 2003, Oakland Unity Charter High School (Unity) serves 230 students in grades nine to 12. Unity serves a highly "at risk" population of students; 86% of students qualify for Free or Reduced Price Lunch, 33% are English Language Learners and 98% are Latino or African American.

The solution: Involve all stakeholders in academic accountability

Unity ensures that all stakeholders understand academic accountability measures. Students help set their own academic goals and targets in "Advisory" periods, based on past and target performance for benchmarks and California Standards Tests (CSTs). Unity aims for CST growth goals of at least one performance band per year, and uses ZOOM! Data Source as a tool to organize and present student data. Ongoing student reflection on progress towards goals takes place during "Advisory" periods as well, including through "journal prompts" to facilitate that reflection. Unity also seeks to align families, support staff, teachers, administrators, and their Board of Directors around metrics that gauge student progress.

Ongoing meaningful assessment and frequent review of data at all levels--including school-wide, grade-wide, class-wide, and for individual students--ensures teachers effectively target where students need the most support. Unity has adopted school-wide, quarterly benchmark assessments that inform teachers, students and administrators where re-teaching and further instruction should be targeted. These benchmark assessments are created by subject teachers and reviewed by the principal; they consist of 80% current and 20% cumulative content.

The results: Growth in student test scores over time

Beginning in the 2007-08 school year, Unity had a palpable inflection point of improved API. Changes at that time included a new school leader, systematic alignment of curriculum for core subject classes, as well as additional improvements to their academic program and operations. Further, Unity began to establish a more data-focused culture by using CCSA's ZOOM! Data Source program and by focusing on supporting all performance groups through a "data cycle" process by using data protocols to review assessment data. Over time, Unity has substantially shifted its academic culture and now is far more deliberate in their use of data to drive all academic decisions. The positive outcomes of this culture shift are evidenced in their scores.

In 2010, Unity had an Academic Performance Index (API) of 698, an increase of 103 points over three years. On CCSA's Similar Students Measure, which assesses school performance while filtering out many of the non-school effects on student achievement through the use of regression-based predictive modeling, the school performed within their prediction over a period of three years. The SSM is one element of CCSA's performance framework, which also includes measures of rigor (in the form of a school's API score) and momentum (by considering growth in API over a three-year period). By combining the pattern of a three-year cycle using current API, cumulative growth, and predicted performance, the framework provides a more comprehensive performance management construct to assess school progress. This progress is divided into four quadrants: high status-high growth; high status-low growth; low status-high growth; and low status-low growth. Unity occupies the "low status-high growth" quadrant.

This Success Story is taken from Portrait of the Movement, CCSA's report on charter school performance and accountability.

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