Helping students meet academic standards

The School District of University City is a district headquartered in University City, Missouri where people can find educational programs serving almost 3,200 students. It has been said that schools are a reflection of the community they serve. The School District of University City reflects the rich history, longtime traditions and prosperous economy of an area that takes pride in its youth and the promise they hold for the future. Scott C. Gowan, the Director of Technology at University City Schools, tells us about his experience with NEO while was still working at Confluence Academy and later on when he moved to University City Schools.

3 200 students K-12 University City and surrounds, Missouri

What were the school's challenges before NEO?

We had students at Confluence Academy who were not meeting the academic standards for their level, so that took a lot of effort from our teachers to create lesson plans, but also to differentiate the things that students were missing from their prior academic years. I used NEO to help teachers replicate themselves in the classroom.

We created a situation where they could program the things they would do in class at the grade level, and while this was engaging students, we would go around and individually work with students who would need support. The LMS was our area where we took all the things we wanted to teach our students, put them in a nice package, and then delivered them to the students.

How did you find a solution?

Initially when I began working with Confluence Academy and I realized that this is a vision of what I want to accomplish I did a comprehensive search for all the LMSs available at that time. I tested trials for the majority, I created classes, I explored the features and tried to analyse what would be the best option for us.

Ultimately I settled for NEO because of its standard based approach. NEO allows us to not only notice whether students are doing the tasks associated with learning, but also how they are performing on individual standards associated with what is expected of them on an assessment. NEO had the feedback capability we needed at that time.

Later on when I moved to University City Schools, they were the first of our multiple school districts to adopt NEO. As I continued working with other school districts and provided professional development both online and offline, we implemented NEO into four other school districts. So currently, we use it at West Plains (both Middle School and High School), Brentwood High School, and the schools at University City.

What are the features that your teachers enjoy using?

What stands out for our teachers is the ability to use other forms of constructive response, as opposed to the classical essay written on a keyboard. For example a student can create a video or do a presentation, as an included feature on NEO.

They also like the debate feature, we think that students being able to engage in a different way in social media is a very positive feature from an academic perspective.

We have some teachers experimenting with gamification and using it as a strategy not only to gamify their class, but using it specifically for those skills that they don't have the time to teach but students really need to learn. Teachers love that gamification allows them to go back, review, constantly practice, and have a motivation behind it.

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