Murdock Elementary School Achieves Double-Digit Gains on ISTEP+


• Lack of predictive assessment data

Murdock Elementary School is one of seven elementary schools within the Lafayette School Corporation. While the urban Title I school regularly used a variety of assessments to gauge student learning, there was a hole in one critical area.

“One of our biggest challenges was that we didn’t have the data we needed to predict how our students would perform on the ISTEP+,” said Janell Uerkwitz, principal of Murdock Elementary. “We had to decide what was going to give us the most meaningful information to inform our instruction, so we weren’t testing kids to death.”

In 2007, the school decided to launch Acuity as it was introduced across the state of Indiana. “After meeting with the Lafayette School Corporation superintendent, Dr. Ed Eiler, we decided to jump in with both feet because he felt Acuity was closely aligned to the Indiana Academic Standards and the ISTEP+ assessment,” said Uerkwitz. “Then, once we began using the Acuity assessments, we were delighted with what we saw. Acuity is now a key player in informing instruction and in developing strategies for the differentiation of instruction.”



Designed by CTB/McGraw-Hill in collaboration with educators nationwide, Acuity is a unique integration of predictive and diagnostic assessments, reports, instructional resources, item banks, and item authoring—all aligned to state standards and the Common Core State Standards, and designed to improve student achievement.

At Murdock Elementary, all students in Grades 3–4 participate in the online Acuity Predictive and Diagnostic Assessments in English language arts and math. “We use both the predictive and diagnostic assessments because each type of assessment gives us different information,” said Uerkwitz. “The quality and usefulness of this information affirmed to us that we selected the right assessment tools.”

Predictive Assessments

The three Acuity Predictive Assessments provide immediate information about student progress and growth, and allow educators to predict student performance on the ISTEP+. This information helps teachers prioritize their instruction and concentrate efforts where students most need intervention.

“In our Title I School Improvement Plan, we set goals for the percentage of students who will pass the ISTEP+,” said Uerkwitz. “We use the Acuity Predictive Assessments to predict student performance on the ISTEP+ and gauge our progress toward our goals. This data guides our school improvement efforts at specific checkpoints during the school year.”

To increase the percentage of students passing the ISTEP+, the school sets high expectations for every student. “Last year, we wanted our students to strive for 65 percent mastery on the mid-year predictive assessment.

Our students rose to the occasion because they believed they could do it.

Hence, we had an extremely successful pass rate on the 2011 ISTEP+, with many students attaining a rank of Pass+, including our special needs students,” said Uerkwitz. “To date, the Acuity Predictive Assessments have been 96 percent accurate in predicting the likelihood of a student passing the ISTEP+.”

Diagnostic Assessments

Between the Predictive Assessments, teachers administer the Acuity Diagnostic Assessments. With each of the four pre-built diagnostic assessments, teachers can quickly diagnose each student’s strengths and needs, and focus their instruction on the standards students have yet to master. “The diagnostic assessments help guide teachers’ instruction,” said Uerkwitz. “Using this data, teachers can see which students are having difficulty and what their specific points of difficulty are, so they can directly address students’ needs.”

Instructional Resources

To help teachers intervene early and effectively, Acuity allows teachers to automatically assign instructional activities directly from the assessment reports. While students are engaged with interactive practice activities, their answers are captured and viewable by teachers on helpful reports. With these reports, teachers can quickly evaluate whether or not the additional instruction is helping students to master a concept.

“A cool thing about Acuity is that teachers can automatically generate exercises for students directly from the reports and then they can retest students to see if they’ve improved,” said Uerkwitz.


Acuity features dozens of reports at the student, class, school, and district levels to allow educators to measure student progress and growth throughout the school year.

“With Acuity, teachers can give students the support they need to work toward the mastery of concepts within each standard being taught,” said Uerkwitz. “Teachers can drill down into the data to see which students need re-teaching, or if the entire standard needs to be presented in a different way. For us, this is revolutionary and something to celebrate!”

Murdock Elementary teachers agree. “I love the report that lists each question, the standard it is addressing, and the number of questions that were asked relative to that standard,” said Kristy Gross, a classroom teacher. “It also tells us specifically how each student scored, relative to each set of standards-based questions, so we can see which kids need more intervention and which ones are ready for enrichment. By studying this report, I can see the students who did not master the standard and, if the majority of my class has low scores, this tells me I need to teach that standard in a different way to everyone.”

“Acuity has put us on the right road,” said Pam Stall, Title I lead teacher. “It is kind of like our GPS. Before we were just opening the atlas and guessing.” Teachers also use the Acuity data to create differentiated, standards-specific intervention groups for Tiers 2 and 3 of the school’s Response to Intervention (RtI) program. “We use the Acuity data to set student goals and benchmarks. Then we meet with students to make sure they understand the data. We use notebooks to show students where they are and where they need to be to pass the ISTEP+,” said Uerkwitz

In addition, the school utilizes the Acuity reports to monitor the success of its 21st Century Community Learning Center after school enrichment program. “While the program is federally funded, we are also accountable to the state. The Acuity data helps us measure students’ growth and report on our success,” she said.


• Improved ISTEP+ performance

Since implementing Acuity, Murdock Elementary has experienced double-digit gains on the ISTEP+ in English language arts and math.
ISTEP+ Total Pass % (Pass and Pass+)

3 ELA 62% 89%
3 Math 57% 98%
4 ELA 52% 88%
4 Math 60% 91%

“Two important things we’ve done are to raise the bar for student performance and to conference with students prior to the ISTEP+,” said Uerkwitz. “Last year, we met with students individually to show them their Acuity data, and explain where they were and where they needed to be. But we didn’t just show them what they needed to do to score in the Pass category. We showed them what they needed to do to achieve a Pass+ and we instilled the belief in all our students that they could do it. Going into the ISTEP+ this year, students had confidence because we had the Acuity data to give them confidence.”

Since implementing Acuity, Uerkwitz has noticed other changes as well. “I think that as a school we’re more focused on where we are and where we need to go,” she said. “Students have become more aware of their progress and what they need to do to achieve their goals, which has helped to foster independence. The data have also helped teachers reflect on their own teaching and helped parents understand where their children are with respect to grade level standards. We are clear about the direction we’re headed and we’re excited for the future.”

For more information on Acuity and to view an online demo, visit or call 800.538.9547 to schedule an in-person demonstration.

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