If you asked 100 people what “success” means to them, you would most likely hear 100 different answers. But on national, state, and local levels, schools are increasingly only deemed successful if they are achieving the required scores on standardized tests. With a graduation rate over 90 percent and the district’s students meeting (and sometimes exceeding) the state required scores, Rockville Community School District in Rockville, Indiana seems to be the definition of success.
This is an example of educators who are taking success to the next level.
Angel Spangler, Educator
“The thing about Rockville is that we are achieving,” said Superintendent Randy Kerkhoff. “We are at or above the state level in all grade levels, but with AutoSkill, I am confident we can help our struggling students and potentially offer new challenges to our achieving ones.”
With the help of staff members Debbie Brading, Evelyn City, Jim Foster, Herb King, Jane Noel and Angel Spangler, Superintendent Kerkhoff implemented AutoSkill’s Academy of READING® and Academy of MATH® software at Rockville in the fall of 2009 and began seeing amazing results almost immediately.
“I first was introduced to the AutoSkill program when a fellow superintendent was presenting it at a conference — and I was impressed,” said Kerkhoff. “I want to give every child an opportunity to improve their skills and the Academy of READING and Academy of MATH are two tools that we are using to help with that.”
Currently about 100 of Rockville’s 840 students are using the AutoSkill program in some capacity — either in Herb King & Angel Spangler’s remediation class, or through the special education programs. However, more and more teachers are coming forward wanting to use it to help tutor kids, work in the classrooms on specific skills, and even offer a summer session to get at-risk students caught up.
“At the end of the third grade is where we stop teaching reading, so in fourth grade students read to learn, not learn to read,” said Kerkhoff. “It is so critical to be at grade level at the end of third grade, so they can use reading as self-instruction.”
Thousands of at-risk K-12 students use the Academy of READING to build fluency in foundation skills. Students achieve significant and permanent gains through a patented research-based instructional model that builds strong roots in phonemic awareness, phonics and fluency.
King and Spangler use the AutoSkill program in their remediation class of 20 junior high and high school students. The class is mostly made up of students who were recognized as at-risk, because they didn’t pass the language or math portion of Indiana’s standardized test (ISTEP).
The creators of AutoSkill know that successful reading and math intervention programs require more than just great software. With little time and even fewer resources, busy educators need to quickly integrate technology into the classroom, help students become productive immediately, and generate rapid results.
“One student in particular was in a non-traditional school setting for most of her life. When she came into the class, she didn’t know much more than the letters in the alphabet,” said Spangler. “After just three weeks working with the AutoSkill program, she has improved greatly and is learning phonetic skills, vowel sounds and some comprehension. She has also made some nice gains in the math portions of the AutoSkill program. I believe that a lot of her success is due to the AutoSkill program. The fact that she has made improvements in just three weeks is amazing to me!”
The Academy of READING uses a variety of motivational tactics to keep students engaged. For starters, the age-appropriate content, interfaces and graphical elements create an optimal learning environment for students from K-12. Students also start on “easier” material and work through content, celebrating success at every step along the way. The program’s positive feedback and motivational “buddy” characters keep students focused on learning.
“Another student came into the remediation class this year with low self-esteem in reading. Once we got him into the AutoSkill program and he began completing lessons and earning trophies, he started to feel better about himself,” said Spangler. “What I found interesting was that other teachers had said that this particular student was improving in their classes, as well as in the remediation class. He even leaves study hall to come in and work in the AutoSkill program. I think that the AutoSkill program is really making a difference for him, and that makes me happy.”
Spangler implemented mid-term tests after the first nine weeks of school and found that this particular student had gained four grade levels within the program in the short time period. In fact, about 60 percent of her students gained at least one grade level and about 25 percent of her students gained two or more grade levels.
“This program is absolutely, a hands-down success for us,” Spangler said. “The AutoSkill program introduces new skills and lessons to the students to help them achieve. It finds the holes and fills in the gaps in their reading and helps with their comprehension.”
Automated, online tests measure each student’s reading abilities relative to grade level. One minute, leveled reading assesses oral reading fluency, measuring accuracy, rate and rhythm. AutoSkill diagnostics offer in-depth testing for specific deficiencies in visual, auditory and oral processing as well as phonemic awareness and word recognition.
“It is very user-friendly, the training process was easy, and I love that it lets me run progress reports, edit the time frame for post-tests, and see how long students are taking on lessons,” said Spangler. “As a teacher or as a student you don’t have to search and find — it’s all right there in front of you.”
Using AutoSkill, students get intensive instruction and practice on state-aligned content while the platform’s patented technology adapts to their unique learning pattern.
“I have already recommended AutoSkill to a principal, who is a friend of mine, and shared our stories with her,” said Spangler. “I love the comprehension stories that the program offers, and I love the ‘teacher time’ that allows me to have one-on-one time with the students who are struggling with a particular skill. I always know what is going on and I can intervene when students need me. You can’t not love the programs (Academy of READING and Academy of MATH), not when you’ve seen it in action like I have. Even the students say that they feel they are becoming better readers.”