All students enter school with a combination of "headwinds" and "tailwinds". Tailwinds are the things that make school easier for students. Tailwinds include things such as coming from a home with parents of high education levels and economic stability, being a native English speaker, not having a disability, and being a member of the cultural majority. Each of those characteristics plays a role in helping a student experience success in school.

Headwinds on the other hand make school more difficult. Headwinds can include having economic instability at home, parents with lower levels of education, having a disability, or still learning English. The more headwinds a student has, the more difficulty they will have in maximizing their academic potential and the more “tailwinds” they will need. Tailwinds come in the form of high-quality instruction, support, and intervention.

The Academic Support Index, or ASI, quantifies these headwinds. A student’s ASI is the sum of their headwinds. Their ASI can also be considered a measure of the amount of support that they will need in order to mitigate the impact of those educational headwinds. Students with a low ASI will likely need very little additional support outside of Tier 1 instruction. Higher ASI students will likely need proportionally higher amounts of Tier 2 and sometimes Tier 3 supports.

There is a strong relationship between the ASI and academic outcomes. These include standardized and standards-based assessments such as the SAT, Smarter Balanced Assessments, AP and IB tests, STAR Reading and Math, kindergarten screeners, cumulative grade point averages, rates of college eligibility, and rates of college degree attainment. We have studied these effects over seven years of data as well as across urban, suburban, and rural schools. To date over 400,000 students have been scored on the ASI. (See the featured post below for a list of papers and presentations on the ASI).

Because the ASI is able to reliably predict student outcomes you have to opportunity to interrupt that predictability by using the ASI to make sure that you are identifying the right students for early intervention and support. With effective intervention, predictive analytics can become preventive analytics.

Monday, January 16, 2017

What would you do with $100 million?

In a paper presented at the California Educational Research Association annual conference in Sacramento last December I demonstrated how the Academic Support Index was able to identify up to 40% more underperforming students than the current practice used for the Local Control Funding Formula Supplemental (LCFF-S) budget.  Using the ASI method instead of the LCFF-S method could potentially result in the reallocation of up to $100 million dollars in the state of California.  The ASI method was able to do this while having significantly lower rates of both false positives as well as false negatives.

In this study I compared the academic outcomes of students targeted by the LCFF-S method against students with an ASI of 3 or higher.  I analyzed these groups against five different outcomes:
In all cases, the ASI 3+ method was able to identify academically underperforming students at significantly higher rates:

The ASI method didn't do this simply by oversampling. The ASI method actually had lower rates of false positives for all of the outcomes.

Most importantly, the ASI method had lower rates of false negatives across all outcomes. While there is little or no harm in identifying a student for support who perhaps didn't need it, the same can not be said for failing to identify a student for support who did in fact need it. Failing to provide support to students who need it can have lifelong implications for students as well as impacts on the greater community.


The analysis of the results from this study suggests that the ASI would be a more efficient method than the LCFF-S model in directing supplemental funding.  Interrupting historical patterns of performance will not happen without interrupting historical patterns of spending. California has taken a bold step in the right direction in addressing this need through the LCFF.  Using the ASI method to identify students rather than the current LCFF-S method can support schools and districts in making sure these additional resources are available to the students most in need.    

Learn more about using the ASI framework in your school or district here.



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