Synergy Academies: Using the same assessments and evaluating tools at K-5 and 6-8 campuses « Center on Educational Governance (CEG)

Synergy Academies: Using the same assessments and evaluating tools at K-5 and 6-8 campuses

Practice Area: data-driven decision-making
Synergy Academies:
Using the same assessments and evaluating tools at K-5 and 6-8 campuses

Synergy Charter Academy

Los Angeles, California
Founded 2004
312 students
Grades K-5
89% Hispanic, 9% African-American, 2% Other
28% English language learners
5% Special needs
86% Receive subsidized meals
Teachers not part of collective bargaining unit

Synergy Kinetic Academy

Los Angeles, California
Founded 2007
355 students
Grades 6-8
91% Hispanic, 9% African-American
26% English language learners
4% Special needs
96% Receive subsidized meals
Teachers not part of collective bargaining unit

Source: Center on Educational Governance, 2011.


In keeping with the schools’ mission to end the achievement gap, each child entering a Synergy Academy takes baseline examinations in reading/language arts and mathematics. Each student is placed at the appropriate grade academically, with interventions designed for students to reach grade level as quickly as possible.

In the classroom, Synergy Charter Academy and Synergy Kinetic Academy both use Reading Counts and the Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) to evaluate reading proficiency regularly.

Reading Counts provides weekly quizzes with a goal of 80 percent scores for each student. Teachers sent weekly reports home to parents. SRI scores, assessed quarterly, determine the Lexile reading level of each child and placement in the correct independent reading level for Reading Counts.

Mathematics teachers use McDougal Littell standards-based assessments at the end of each unit as well as weekly, teacher-created tests. In Spring 2011, both schools adopted the Scholastic Mathematics Inventory in order to increase students’ math skills in preparation for high school.

To assess each student’s progress, the schools look not only at standardized test data but also performance on specific assignments; reading fluency patterns of struggling readers; grades earned in core subjects; homework assignments; and overall motivation in the learning process.


The actual cost in replicating this promising practice is difficult to calculate because data-driven decision-making is embedded into the school culture. This includes the position of a Chief Achievement Officer, who provides professional development for teachers and instruction in data use for parents and students.

A time commitment and additional pay for attendance to professional development sessions or analyzing data with colleagues and school leaders was a contractual obligation for the school leader and teachers.

Annual licensing fees for PowerSchool – the middle school’s data system for storage of achievement data, report cards, and grades – are approximately $10,000. Each school made an initial investment of a 30-station computer lab. At each school, Reading Counts software cost approximately $3,000 and SRI software, $5000.

In the summer of 2011-2012 a new data system, Illuminate Education, will cost $5000 to $10,000 annually per school. It will centralize all student records to include students’ longitudinal data.

Lessons Learned

By analyzing students’ learning accomplishments, teachers instantly were aware if their lessons and strategies were successful or if re-teaching and new strategies were necessary.

The elementary school principal said that observational data were optimal in assisting teachers to improve classroom procedures. By observing basic classroom techniques –how long it took the teacher to pass out papers, grade homework, quiet the students, or work with a group of struggling learners – the principal could help streamline classroom management and find an extra five to 10 minutes to dedicate to the learning process.

Data-driven decision-making also helped the school pinpoint which social and behavioral problems were caused by academic frustration or being behind academically. Many times, behavioral problems went hand-in hand with a student’s academic struggle. Further investigation of data such as home visits and parent interviews could assess other social and behavioral problems.


Center on Educational Governance
Rossier School of Education
University of Southern California
3470 Trousdale Parkway
Waite Phillips Hall, Room 901
Los Angeles, CA 90089-4039

Phone: (213) 740-0697
Fax: (213) 740-4184
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