Indiana elementary boosts ISTEP achievement with Study Buddy program

In Indiana, Parkview Elementary School’s Study Buddy Program combines college student mentoring with Study Island to improve ISTEP passing rates.

Parkview Elementary School in northwest Indiana launched an innovative program in cooperation with students from Valparaiso University and Study Island two years ago. The Study Buddy program at the Title I school was targeted at students in grades 2-5 who did not pass the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP). In the first year alone, students participating in the Study Buddy program doubled the ISTEP passing rate. And the following year, the rate of those passing maintained, even as the school expanded the criteria of students involved in the program to include a more challenged group.

Anne Wodetzki, principal of Parkview Elementary School sits on the Professional Educators Partnership Board at Valparaiso University, which is located near Parkview’s campus in northwest Indiana. Her relationship with Valparaiso and its close proximity have led to a constant presence at the Title I school, which has had a positive impact on Parkview’s population of 299 students.

When Wodetzki came to Parkview three years ago, the school was using Study Island, a web-based instruction, practice, and learning program built from Indiana’s ISTEP standards.

“We had Study Island, and I saw teachers using it as a resource in varying degrees for math, science, reading, and social studies,” said Wodetzki. “I read some research on the product and heard good things from other principals and districts. At the same time, we were presented with an opportunity to use Valparaiso students as mentors in our intervention efforts with students who did not pass ISTEP.”

Wodetzki recognized the opportunity to leverage Study Island through the positive influence of attentive college students, and launched the Study Buddy program her second year. Valparaiso students were trained first on Study Island, then taught to use the “think aloud” strategy with the ISTEP intervention students.

Using Study Island’s printable worksheets, Valparaiso students would sit down with their buddies to solve problems using “think aloud,” so the mentors could understand what students were thinking every step of the way and guide instruction accordingly. Parkview students would then complete practice lessons in Study Island, ultimately earning rewards such as games and blue ribbons when they mastered key skills and objectives.

“The Study Buddy program allowed us to harness two powerful resources when working with our ISTEP intervention students – a dedicated population of college students and a powerful standards-based learning program,” added Wodetzki. “Together, they upped our engagement, our productivity, and ultimately, our results.”

Parkview teachers played a vital role in achieving and measuring the success of the Study Buddy program. As the designers of each Study Island assignment, their communication and sharing of data with the Valparaiso students allowed them to track progress and confirm the success of the Study Buddy program.

While passing rates for intervention students had hovered between 20 and 40 percent before the Study Buddy program, the first year saw 81 percent of the participating students pass ISTEP. The following year, when Wodetzki expanded the program to include a more challenged student population, the percentage of passing students held steady at 78 percent.

“This has been a turning point for us. We saw these kids pass, and they didn’t pass the years before,” added Wodetzki. “Even before I came to this school, I really wanted Study Island because everyone was talking about the results they were getting. It has so much potential because there is so much you can do with it. We see this not only in the Study Buddy program, but also in our broader population with students who work on it from home because it’s not punishment. It’s not like homework; it’s engaging and it’s effective.”