More than two years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, students are still reeling from the impact. Studies conducted with student populations after returning to the classroom in Fall 2021 showed substantial academic impacts. NWEA researchers found declines across math and reading and the growth of test-score gaps between low and high-poverty schools of 20% in math and 15% in reading. The impact hasn’t been purely academic either. Depression and anxiety among young individuals in a State of Washington study showed a 30% and 50% increase in diagnoses from pre- to post-pandemic. Students, no matter how well they weathered the disruption of weeks or months spent learning asynchronously, struggled to adapt to being back in the classroom.


It’s in this climate that South Fayette School District, located in the Pittsburgh suburb of South Fayette Township, looked for a partner to support a broader view of student wellbeing. A high-achieving district that welcomes nearly 100 new students each year, the district has long prided itself on maintaining a small-school-feel with teachers that excel at observing and addressing students’ individual needs. Following the return of students to the classroom, Dr. Rachel Andler, Director of Student Support Services, identified an increase in anxiety levels and concerns about learning and future academic success among students. Combined with broad concerns from parents and the school board about learning loss, she knew that the district needed to support students both socially and emotionally as they worked toward academic goals.


“We wanted to answer the question for our students: ‘what do I need as a student to succeed, both academically and socially?’ We have screeners for academics, but what about the wellbeing component for which we cannot capture that data? That was really our issue. How do we tackle that?”


How PASS Supported Dr. Andler’s Efforts


South Fayette Township School District chose PASS because it addressed these specific needs and supported the efforts spearheaded by Dr. Andler and her team to offer staff a quick-to-administer solution in the form of a light-touch universal screener that didn’t require a full assessment. They needed to know that the tool they selected would be research-backed and fit their budget both at the time of implementation and in the years ahead. PASS did all of this.


“We wanted to know what the easiest tool to bring in would be that would capture exactly what we need, provide reports that are easy to read, offer easy navigation, and then support us in getting interventions into the hands of students who need it most. And all of this without breaking the bank. PASS was able to address all of these needs.”


Because PASS met these needs and was easy to implement, it was a good fit for the district, offering results almost immediately in each school. “Working with PASS staff, I was able to address issues immediately, walk through how to resolve them, and continue the rollout smoothly.” The support of the PASS team ensured there were few impediments to running the district’s first administration of the system on time. The visualization of data from that first implementation ensured that it was immediately actionable as well.


“One thing that was very helpful for us was being able to see the data and immediately understand how to create a report, what information would be included in the report and what the colors meant in those reports. When you read so many numbers on a daily basis, it can all blend together and it’s easy to miss things. PASS’s color-coded data enabled us to see immediately where action was required and that we didn’t miss anything important. The resulting data was easy to drill down into and use in our SAP (student assistance program) process.”


The Immediate and Long Term Impact of PASS Implementation


Students who are struggling need support quickly, and PASS was able to provide the results and actionable insights needed for Andler and her team to do just that. Tier 3 interventions were more impactful and the district could be more proactive with Tier 1 and 2 interventions, ultimately ensuring at-risk students didn’t fall off track.


“Oftentimes, when evaluating students in the context of their broader wellbeing, it can sound subjective and lack the concrete data to support the actions prescribed. It becomes a gray area because many people don’t see it as factual. Data from PASS helps reinforce an objective approach to this process. Combined with the student wellbeing component, it really helps secure our efforts.”


South Fayette Township School District was able to address a broad concern that was impacting a large number of students by quickly implementing PASS and identifying which students would benefit most from immediate support. Learn more about Dr. Andler and her team’s efforts, the role PASS played in supporting their response, and how a universal screener can integrate with your existing efforts from our case studies and success stories here.