Since their emergence almost 20 years ago, charter schools have provided a choice in education for students and parents across the country. While most charter schools enjoy freedom from many state rules and regulations, they also operate under a much higher level of scrutiny and accountability for results. Charter schools truly are schools of choice — their funding, and thus their very survival, depends upon their ability to attract and retain students. As a result, charter schools face strong incentives to be responsive to the needs of children.
In reaction to a growing concern that numerous students were performing well below grade level, educators at 21st Century Preparatory School in Racine, Wisconsin, realized that the solution to stemming the tide of sagging performance was already in the building — AutoSkill’s Academy of READING and Academy of MATH.
Phil Pares, Principal
Early in the 2006-07 school year, special education teachers implemented the literacy intervention solutions into their curriculum. Eighteen students worked on Academy of READING during the school year, and completed about 28% of the program. At post-testing, fourteen of the students showed an increase of one or more levels, with four students showing an increase of three or more levels, Seventeen special education students worked on the Academy of MATH. Fourteen of the seventeen showed an increase of one or more grade levels at post-testing.
“We knew we had students way below grade level,” AutoSkill teacher Kathy Heineck said. “Once we saw the scores from our special education students that had been using the programs, we knew that we could do something throughout the building.”
Educators at 21st Century decided to pilot the program with 5th, 7th and 8th grade students and they utilized MAP testing to determine which students were most in need of literacy and math intervention. For the poorest performing 5th grade students, the Academy of MATH became their math class. For the 7th and 8th grade students, the Academy of MATH and Academy of READING was implemented as a supplemental course.
Academy of READING Builds Fluency
Academy of READING and Academy of MATH build fluency in foundation skills for elementary, middle, and high schools — as well as English Language Learners (ELLs), Title 1 and special education students. The dynamic intervention engine adapts training to each student’s needs, accelerating where mastery is demonstrated and providing more practice and review when students are struggling. The programs also feature age-appropriate environments and content, including training questions, buddy characters, and positive feedback elements, helping students of all ages achieve success.
The award-winning Academy of READING helps at-risk students build fluency in reading foundation skills in five core areas defined by the National Reading Panel. Using a unique intervention approach that incorporates automaticity, the program delivers an adaptive, individualized training experience for each student.
The Academy of MATH develops computational fluency in math foundation skills in 10 areas that align to NCTM standards. Using a unique intervention approach, the program delivers an adaptive, individualized training experience for each student.
“Our students made significant academic gains in both core academic areas,” 21st Century Principal Phil Pares said. “MAP testing in spring verified the impact of our AutoSkill program. The majority of our students made gains in reading and/or math. Most studens moved up at least one grade level after 10-12 hours of instruction. Six of our students progressed from Below Basic to Proficient in either reading or math.”
In addition to offering real, lasting gains in literacy and math, the Academy of READING and Academy of MATH offer something of great importance to charter schools like 21st Century Preparatory — progress reports. The software offers detailed views of student progress — allowing teachers to track students as they work through the program, alerting them to trouble spots, “teacher time” flags, and how much time is being spent on each task. Teachers inside the building weren’t the only ones tracking progress.
“We mailed progress reports every week,” Heineck said. “We made sure that parents knew exactly how their child was doing.”
Due to their positive experience with the intervention software, Heineck said the school is looking to expand its use to include more early intervention with their younger students. Based on their first-year success, it’s little wonder they would look to expand the use of Academy of READING and Academy of MATH.
“It is wonderful to watch the kids blossom,” Heineck said. “To be able to say to a child ‘look at the gains you made — you were at a 4.5 (grade level) and now you’re at 6.5!’ is just amazing. I can’t wait to see the gains that will be made next year.”