By LAUREN BARLIS
Many Step Up For Students scholars are making dramatic learning gains at their schools of choice, according to a report from the Florida State University Learning Systems Institute released evaluating the standardized test scores of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship students.
In a sampling of the results, more than a dozen Success Partners schools showed positive learning gains from 2011 to 2014 with an average learning gain in reading and math combined of almost two points higher than the national average.
But two schools that participate in Step Up’s Success Partners, a free two-year comprehensive professional development program with the goal of increased student academic success through parental engagement, stood out significantly with their students’ overall performance.
Step Up students at Leaders Preparatory School in Orlando made significant learning gains from 2011 to 2014 in reading and math scores combined. Likewise, the Step Up students at St. Andrew Catholic School, also in Orlando, boosted their reading scores from 2011 to 2014.
In the report released in the fall, a statistically positive average gain means that most Step Up scholars in that school improved their position relative to the national average.
Step Up scholars at St. Andrew are making gains in reading of about two points higher than the national average, and the students at Leaders Prep are making gains in reading and math of about four points higher than the national average.
In the 2013-14 school year alone, Step Up students at Leaders Prep made gains in reading and math above the previous year’s scores that were 11 points higher than the national average.
The administrators at both schools are dedicated to the goal of maximizing parental engagement and student achievement, and their partnership with the Step Up For Students Office of Student Learning has supported them in achieving these goals.
“We definitely adhere to the belief that parents are the primary educators of their children, and the Office of Student Learning’s programs have helped us to ensure that everyone on the St. Andrew’s staff is focused on the goals of student success and parental engagement,” said Andy Sojourner, assistant principal of St. Andrew Catholic School.
Both schools are currently in their third year of Success Partners during which partner schools study and implement the structures necessary to sustain powerful parent-school partnerships. St. Andrew and Leaders Prep also participated in Parent Partners for Success, a program that connects their parents with a Step Up educational advisor with the goal of assisting them in navigating the educational system and becoming strong advocates for their child’s education.
“The research on student success clearly shows that when parents are engaged, students succeed. The learning gains of the Step Up students at these schools are proof of that, and we know that participating in the Success Partners program has helped these schools to improve their parental engagement,” said Dr. Carol Thomas, vice president of Step Up’s Office of Student Learning at and founder of the Success Partners program.
Schools that are interested in joining either one of these programs can contact the Office of Student Learning at OfficeofStudentLearning@stepupforstudents.org.
Dr. Lauren Barlis is the Director of Research and Development in Step Up’s Office of Student Learning and has been with Step Up for almost three years. She holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, and spent three years teaching high school English and theatre classes. When she’s not educating educators, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Jeff, who also works for Step Up, and their 1-year-old daughter, Josie.