Using BHP Data to Support Student Growth Goals

Loren Rozanski, BHP Teacher
Connecticut, USA

A note from the BHP Team: We love that BHP teachers are using data from BHP Score reports to inform student learning goals and data demands of their districts. What follows is the approach of one such teacher. We saw an opportunity to have Bob Bain weigh in on the subject. Find that post here: Helping Teachers Make Warranted Claims About Learning: BHP’s Residual Benefit


BHP Investigation Input Form (left), Writing Rubric (right), and Score report graphs (bottom)

BHP’s text-based assessments (“Investigations”), rubrics, and its essay-grading service (BHP Score) are made for teachers working in states like Connecticut. For me, it has been a tremendous help in meeting my state’s and district’s demands, and has offered me a powerful and accessible way to assess my teaching.

Connecticut, like many states, has created and adopted new evaluation systems that use multiple sources of information and evidence to provide a picture of each teacher’s performance. A central component of the statewide System for Educator Evaluation and Development (SEED) is student growth and development, as determined by the teacher’s student learning objectives (SLOs) and associated indicators of academic growth and development (IAGDs). SLOs must reflect high expectations for students and must align with national or state standards, and the IAGD must clearly define ways to measure the degree to which students met the SLO.

Each year, I must select two SLOs for my students and two IAGDs that I can use to track students’ progress toward meeting these goals. During my first year teaching Big History Project to my ninth-grade classes, I chose to go “all in” and base both my SLOs and my IAGDs on concepts taught in BHP Investigations. I created my SLOs around students making arguments and using textual evidence to support their claims, two important goals in the Common Core and BHP. More important, these goals fit with my own goals for teaching.

Not only did BHP help me frame my SLOs, the Writing Rubric enabled me to clearly define student growth and the BHP Score report allowed me to quantify their growth. So, I decided to set my target goal for the year as helping students move up one level on the rubric by increasing their scores by at least one point in both Structuring an Argument and Using Texts as Evidence.

After getting my initial Score reports, all my excitement turned to panic as I saw that my students had completely bombed on their baseline essays. However, after a few minutes of shock, I could see this as a positive thing. After all, we had nowhere to go but up.

I took every opportunity to use the student goals I’d set to inform my teaching. For each activity we completed in BHP, I had the students work on finding evidence. We compared origin stories, we researched foods that foragers used, and little by little, my students started to get it. Making claims using evidence became simply the way we did things in our class.

By midyear, I saw progress. Students were strengthening their arguments and showing great understanding of how to use evidence in support of a claim. More important, they could see their progress when I distributed the midyear report from BHP Score.

Encouraged by the progress, we continued to stress the two areas of the rubric. Of course, BHP lessons and writing activities helped, as they’re structured to develop students’ thinking and writing in all the areas the rubric measures.

How did we do? Quite well, thank you: Over 80 percent of my students met my goal in both areas. That is, most of my students raised their performance one complete level on the BHP Writing Rubric.

Even if your state or school does not demand formal goal setting and tracking, BHP Score, the Writing Rubric, and all the targeted lessons are great ways to set goals, maintain focus, and help students improve their performance. My students could see clear, measurable results through the Score reports. The reports opened a dialogue between the students and myself since we now had common goals and external feedback that we could use to plan ways to improve learning.

We all know writing often and receiving feedback on writing is critical to students’ growth. And we all know how hard it is to grade and give timely feedback to all the students we teach. Well, BHP made it easier for me to do.

If you are new to BHP, choosing one area of focus, such as Constructing the Argument, is a great place to start. It helps to create a common goal for the course, and students love being able to track and measure their progress throughout the year.

About the author: Loren has been teaching at EC Goodwin Technical High School in Connecticut since 2012 and has taught BHP since 2016. Big History is taught across the ninth grade of much of Connecticut’s CTE system; at her school, Loren teaches two sections. Her students alternate every two weeks between academics and their chosen trade, for a total of 90 days of academics during the school year.


Bob Bain
University of Michigan
Big History Project

Students in Big History Project course learn to make warranted claims, a vital element in critical thinking and rational discourse. Since at least the time of Aristotle, this has been a valued goal of teachers and teaching, though it was philosopher Stephen Toulmin who, in his seminal The Uses of Argument (1958), best articulated the elements entailed in making strong claims. A claim, Toulmin “claimed,” is an assertion of fact, judgement, or policy that is grounded, supported, or tested by empirical evidence, credible authority, or reason (ah, BHP’s claim testers). The justification that connects the supports to the claim Toulmin called the warrant. Thus, warranted claims show how the support – the evidence, authority, logic, or even intuition — is sufficient to accept the claim.


BHP claim testers

BHP provides many opportunities for students to learn how to make warranted claims and to evaluate the claims of others. Their scores on unit Investigations show significant growth in BHP students’ ability to use evidence, logic, and disciplinary concepts to reason toward credible conclusion.

However, one of BHP’s greatest instructional strengths is the opportunity it provides for teachers to make warranted claims about what their students are learning in the course. With BHP Score grading the Investigations, teachers can now easily make data-driven claims about what and how well students are learning.


BHP Score – individual student report

Three things make this opportunity for teachers to use the data on their students’ thinking and writing increasingly important.

First, it helps teachers effectively and easily meet a growing demand that schools use data to assess what students are learning, and by implication, what and how well teachers are teaching. Over the past 15 years, since 2001’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act, federal and state policy have promoted the use of data to guide decisions about instruction and about teaching at the district, school, and classroom level. This has forced districts to update their data systems while placing new expectations on teachers to gather and interpret data.

BHP Score goes a long way to meeting these expectations by offering timely information on student performance, information that is easy to comprehend, interpret, and access since we send it directly to the teachers.

Second, and more important, since BHP is evaluating students’ essays at many points in the course, it is providing teachers information that is typically not readily available or is difficult and time-consuming to gather, yet is necessary to understand changes in student thinking. Thus, BHP is enabling teachers to make data-based, warranted claims about the relative growth in their students’ disciplinary thinking as well as their ability to structure arguments; weigh, evaluate, and use evidence; and apply concepts.

In short, since the BHP data does not come from narrow, fragmented learning objectives tested only through multiple choice exams at the beginning and end of the year, it offers teacher the ability to make more nuanced claims about student learning, claims that really reflect the valuable “stuff” they are teaching.

Last, BHP data is flexible. Teachers can group or aggregate the scores in multiple ways to show how individual students, groups of students, or entire classes develop over an entire course or at different times in a course. For example, teachers might wish to give priority to changes in students’ use of evidence or application of disciplinary concepts, to identify places in their teaching that generate the most gain or places where students plateau. This enables teachers to make claims about what and how effectively they are teaching and use information as feedback to identify areas of instructional strength or areas in which they might improve. Or, teachers use the data to identify students for whom such thinking and writing comes easily and those who struggle, to surface relative success of a set of lessons or activities on these different “types” of learners.


BHP Score – class report

Many BHP teachers have begun to use BHP Score and the Investigations to meet the data demands of their districts. Some teachers report great value in using BHP data to supplement — or is it to counter? – the required information their district draws from standardized multiple-choice tests, while other teachers exclusively use BHP reports to assess their teaching and student learning.

Either way, one of BHP’s residual benefits has been the opportunity it offers for teachers to make warranted claims in addition to the opportunity provided for students to learn about claims and claim-testing.

BHP Score: Teacher Takes!

BHP Team

Last year, in partnership with the Arizona State University and the University of Michigan, we introduced a new essay scoring service called BHP Score. The service provides BHP teachers with feedback on student writing: BHP Investigations* are scored by trained evaluators at Arizona State University and feedback is aligned with the BHP Writing Rubric. Comments are designed to support student writing development.


We were pleased to see how creatively teachers used the data and personalized BHP Score reports they received last year! Here are some of their comments (compiled from the online BHP Teacher Community):

I received the score reports for my students’ Investigation 2 essays this week and they are great! A report is sent with the students’ grade based upon the BHP Writing Rubric along with individualized comments for each student essay. These comments include praise for what the student performed well on and what the student needs to work on for next time. There is also a report for the class including score averages. Thanks for making this happen!! – Bridgette O’Connor 9/6/2016

I love BHP Score! This is an amazing tool for teachers. I printed all of the scores and the original essays then we reviewed them as a class, explaining what the comments meant— counterclaim, citing sources correctly, and the difference between summarizing and analyzing. We then looked over the rubric together so students could interpret their scores. – Kathy Hays 10/13/2016

BHP Score was great! We were pleasantly surprised with not just getting scores, but also individual feedback. It helped me plan my writing mini-lessons for the next unit. The kids also set personal goals for themselves and are revisiting those goals every time they begin to write something in class. Thanks for this amazing service! – Hajra Saeed 10/13/2016

I love BHP Score. I love it just for the simple fact that my students can use it to set goals for their next Investigation (or any writing for that matter) and they can also use it as a tool to improve their peer editing skills. Our students also loved the individualized feedback. My teaching partner and I thought they would just blow over it, but they truly took the comments to heart and made some pretty fantastic goals because of them. – Jami McLing 10/15/2016

Throughout the year, teachers had the opportunity to interact with members of the Score team by participating in the ASU Writing Exchanges on Yammer. Teachers discussed writing topics and how the service has helped their students:

Thank you for all your hard work it is greatly appreciated and my students get a kick out of receiving feedback from members of a university halfway around the world. It also gives them a different perspective on how they are progressing. – Charles Rushworth 1/13/2017

Thank you for providing such amazing feedback to our students. This has allowed me to show my students that writing is truly a process. Because the feedback and valuable comments are returned so quickly, the students still have the topic fresh in their mind. – Kathy Hays 1/14/2017

Thank you for all of your team’s tireless work. My students appreciate and look forward to your feedback on their investigations. – Michael Skomba 1/23/2017

As teachers prepared for this new school year, they engaged in more discussion about BHP Score in the online BHP Teacher Community. Teachers expressed the benefits of the feedback and their students’ excitement about receiving feedback on their essays:

There is something very special about the process of having students work hard during class, submit their work, and then wait for the scores. The day I told them that “the scores were in,” became a special day the students greatly anticipated. What I found to be the most powerful moments in class was when we celebrated the growth of students across the spectrum. The student who went from a 1.5 to a 2 was celebrated as much as the higher level students, and again something as simple as seeing the bar graph score sheet moving in the positive direction is very encouraging to all students. – Jason Manning 7/12/2017

I think my students have greatly benefited from BHP Score. The consistency of the rubric is so important in developing writing skills. They loved the feedback and it led to great conversations. …[M]y kids looked forward to getting their scores each time. – Kathy Hays 7/12/2017

I loved using BHP Score last year. I at first didn’t know how I was going to grade Investigations and then this service provided such great student feedback for last year’s first Investigation. I was able to grade the other Investigations based on the feedback the students received and my students’ writing did improve over the course. – Alex Ovalle 8/15/2017

Since the introduction of BHP Score, teachers have shared the many ways they’ve used the service to help their students. With a new year ahead, BHP Score remains a valuable resource to help teachers involve their students in the writing process and equip them with writing skills they can take with them beyond the classroom.

*NOTE: Investigations 0, 2, 6, and 9 are all eligible for submission to BHP Score this year. Questions? Check out the BHP Score FAQs or email us at