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Sheridan (WI) Elementary School

/Academy Interventions

Download PDF version of this articleFor English language learners, mastering the skills required to achieve reading fluency can be as challenging as it is essential. With the number of ELL students growing in districts across the country, more and more schools are facing the challenge of supporting the specific needs of those students, while still ensuring that all their students receive the time, attention and resources they need to succeed.

Under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, for example, schools are now required to disaggregate test results for specific groups of students, including English language learners. As a result, educators and administrators need to implement a literacy intervention program that can dramatically improve the reading skills and test scores of ELL students, while minimizing the impact on teachers’ time, as well as school and district resources.

“The SpanishTutor (for Academy of READING) is perfect for students who have some social language, but don’t necessarily have the academic language. I find it very helpful.”
Theresa Dewitt, Third Grade Teacher

With nearly one-third of their students classified as bilingual or dual language learners, the educators at Sheridan Elementary School in Sheboygan (WI) are very familiar with these challenges. In addition to the Spanish-speaking population, 80 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. In response to students who were struggling with literacy — and others who were learning English as a second language — the educators at Sheridan Elementary turned to Academy of READING® and SpanishTutor™.

Based on extensive research and customer feedback, the Academy of READING is a complete browser-based literacy intervention solution, designed to help struggling students realize fast, permanent gains in mastering their foundation reading skills. Combining structured and sequential skill development, high time on task, individualized learning plans and constant motivation, the Academy of READING extends the effectiveness of a reading specialist to every student, allowing them to work independently on those areas where they need help the most.

“We saw some students that were really struggling,” Karen Flasher, Learning Disability Teacher, said. “And we saw the Academy of READING as another tool we could add. The students definitely respond to the visual rewards and the overall structure of the program.”

After implementing the Academy of READING with their struggling students, the educators at Sheridan Elementary realized that the SpanishTutor module could be instrumental in helping their bilingual and dual language learners as well.

Designed for Spanish-speaking students learning English and math, SpanishTutor accelerates gains in schools and districts with large Spanish-speaking populations. SpanishTutor is an optional instructional module that enables students to jump-start the development of fluency in foundation reading and math skills by providing tutorials, assistance, and motivational elements in Spanish.

“We quickly realized how effective the SpanishTutor could be with a large segment of our student population,” Theresa Dewitt, Third Grade Teacher, said. “It’s perfect for students who have some social language, but don’t necessarily have the academic language. I find it very helpful.”

With SpanishTutor, Academy of READING tutorials are presented in Spanish, allowing students to progress through training with instruction provided in a familiar way. Additionally, neutral enunciation and generic accents make it ideal for all Spanish-speaking students — comprehensive phonemic awareness training builds understanding and confidence with the sounds of the English language.

“It’s so great that the directions are in Spanish,” Dewitt said. “And hearing the oral English really helps — instead of just reading and seeing the print.”

At Sheridan, Spanish-speaking students are taught exclusively in their native language while in kindergarten through 2nd grade. Students are transitioned to English in the 3rd grade and the SpanishTutor is an integral part of that. Every student uses the intervention solution in the 3rd grade and there is some usage in the 4th and 5th grades as well.

“Our goal with the program is for every Spanish-speaking student to be a fluent reader before they reach middle school,” Dewitt said. “The SpanishTutor helps that goal become reality for our kids.”