As Anthony Rivera approached the building of his new school, students were chucking textbooks from the second story to the sidewalk of Wallace Avenue below. As founding principal of Pelham Academy in the Bronx, he had no doubt that he was walking into a daunting challenge. But Rivera had a special connection to the community; he grew up in the neighborhood, and he was committed to providing the students there with the best education possible.

Teachers and administrators at Pelham agreed that they wanted to collect as much data as possible in order to identify student mastery levels, but they were initially overwhelmed with the process. In order to get on the fast track to data-driven instruction, Pelham Academy partnered with Teaching Matters, a NYC-based organization dedicated to developing and retaining great teachers, and measurably increasing their ability to give students in urban public schools an excellent education.

Through their work with Teaching Matters, the Pelham team began using MasteryConnect to efficiently collect and analyze student data in real time, using iPads to view data in real time as they moved around the classroom. Then, meeting together as formal collaborative teams with Teaching Matters Consultant Jelbin DeLaCruz, they sat down regularly together to look at data in order to identify gaps and develop strategies to target deficiencies. Their hard work is already showing great results in moving Pelham students forward.

“Earlier this year we began looking at and tracking cohort data,” explains Principal Rivera. “We compared how they performed three years ago to how they performed just this past spring, and what we saw was a 159% increase in student proficiency over that time.”

This impressive growth keeps the educators there inspired to continue the work, and Principal Rivera believes that Teaching Matters and MasteryConnect are making a difference for both students and teachers.

“It was humbling and it was also validating because it provided us with the evidence that we needed to help us see that the decisions that we were making, and the tools that we were using, and the structures that we had in place were all impactful,” he says. “We saw that in the student results.”

Although Pelham Academy is a great success story on its own, it serves as an example of the positive gains made when educators work together to share best practices and instructional strategies with peers in their school and beyond.

“The expertise to solve some of the most vexing problems in schools lies in the schools, and it’s obviously in that school’s interest to share that across the school,” says Teaching Matters Lead Consultant Nick Siewert. “We feel that it is also essential to share with other schools.”

Watch the profile below to see how the educators at Pelham Academy are using real-time data to improve learning for every student in their building and, by doing so, how they are investing in their city.

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