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.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A (sort of) Brief Introduction to the Academic Support Index Framework

How does the ASI Framework support students and educators?
  1. Helps in the identification of students for early intervention and support:
    • Identifies approximately 90% of the students who fail to meet standards in advance. (Smarter Balanced Assessment ELA and Math: 2017, 2018, 2019)
  2. Supports more accurate data disaggregation and analysis.
    • A students' ASI is highly predictive of academic outcomes ranging from kindergarten screeners through post-secondary degree attainment.
  3. Captures the academic successes that are often hidden in aggregated student data. 
    • The ASI lens is able to find success (and credit teachers) where other methods of disaggregation do not.
  4. Easy for students, parents, and educators to understand. 
    • Lexicon of "academic headwinds" is intuitive and validates the experience of educators.
  5. Provides a more nuanced framework for understanding the academic headwinds experienced by students.
    • Addresses the complexity of factors impacting student performance rather than reducing students to a single demographic category. 
  6. Supports the analysis of student performance across schools and districts.
    • There is no such thing as "similar schools." There are however similar students in all schools, just in different proportions.
  7. Framework puts the locus of control in the hands of educators. 
    • Providing "academic tailwinds" becomes the emphasis: Good instruction, effective interventions, and proper resource allocation.
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The following slides provide a quick introduction to what the ASI is based upon and what it represents: A measure of the amount of support a student may need to meet his or her academic potential.
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"The real magic is in how we analyze the data"
-Pedro Noguera, 
Illuminate Users Conference, 2019


Looking at data via demographic buckets oversimplifies analysis and can perpetuate bias (Grant, 1986)



The balance between headwinds and tailwinds has a significant impact on student performance.







All schools and classrooms have a continuum of headwinds and tailwinds.


The ASI quantifies the headwinds a student faces:










The tailwinds provided by educators help mediate the influence of those headwinds:


External validation of the ASI Framework:








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