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Turtle-Lake-Mercer (ND) High School

/Academy Interventions

Download PDF version of this articleEveryone knows that you can’t build a house without a solid foundation. And any good teacher will tell you that it’s just the same with forming successful students. That’s why math teachers start with ‘1+1’ and build their way up to calculus, and the road to fluent reading begins with simple sound and letter recognition and association.

At Turtle Lake-Mercer, educators recognize how important it is to instill the basic skills first so students can thrive in the classroom. Last spring, High School Principal Robert Martin received a postcard in the mail that caught his eye. After reading it, he headed down the hallway toward the elementary principal’s office. But he only made it half way. She was already heading his way, with the exact same postcard in hand.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re from, the skills are the same. AutoSkill’s Academy of READING and Academy of MATH builds from the foundation up. If something is lacking, this helps cement the foundation.”
Robert Martin, Principal

“We met right in the middle of the hallway, both holding the AutoSkill informational piece,” Martin said. “This is what we had been looking for.”

By combining the Academy of READING® and Academy of MATH®, the AutoSkill solution builds fluency in foundation skills for elementary, middle, and high schools. 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.

“At Turtle Lake-Mercer, it is our core belief that reading drives everything. Kids have to be able to understand what they’re reading in order to succeed in every discipline,” Martin said. “Once I got information on AutoSkill, I knew it was a fit for our school. But since our school is so small, I was worried we couldn’t afford it.”

So Martin convinced other schools in the area of the benefits AutoSkill could bring to their students. His district, along with four others in the McLean County Consortium, implemented AutoSkill’s Academy of READING and Academy of MATH in the fall of 2008 and has not looked back.

“It’s very important that we test for students who are at risk of failing to reach proficiency, so we can catch them before it’s too late,” Martin said. “That was the hump in education we couldn’t seem to get over, but AutoSkill does that for us; it’s that next step. It really gets the students over that hump, and I credit what we’ve accomplished to AutoSkill’s ability to intervene right where we need it.”

The Academy of READING and Academy of MATH combine assessment and individual instructional plans, together with continuous motivational techniques, to produce world-class gains in reading and math.

“We really like how AutoSkill places the focus on catching [at-risk students] early, and the intervention it offers,” Martin said. “And that the program is skills-based — because often times, schools are teaching to the test and they forget that kids need these fundamental building blocks to succeed.”

Martin has 17 students working with the AutoSkill Suite for 30-minute intervals, three times per week during their study hall period. Currently, he’s using the program to help at-risk students get caught up. Once kids get to grade level they rejoin their regular class environment.

“The 2nd graders love the trophy rooms and certificates,” Martin said. “And the good thing is that if we intervene early enough, we can wean them off of the program by junior high. They are rolling, really succeeding.”

The AutoSkill program features age-appropriate environments and content, including training questions, buddy characters and positive feedback elements — helping students of all ages achieve success.

“We also have an 8th grader who was at a 6th grade level in both reading and math,” Martin said. “When he started with AutoSkill, he was stressed and thought it was going to be too much extra work. But he committed to it really hard, and in just a few months he got himself to grade level and he came into my office to tell me how far he had come. I love to see that!”

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.

“I absolutely would recommend the software programs to other school districts because we are seeing great progress,” Martin said. “I attribute a lot of our success to our teachers who have helped implement AutoSkill. They bring it to the students in a positive way — and that makes all the difference.”

AutoSkill is committed to helping educators help students establish fundamental literacy skills and achieve permanent gains in both reading and math. As part of this commitment, AutoSkill offers the Advantage Program — a two-tier customer service, support and reporting service that optimizes results with Academy of READING and Academy of MATH implementations.

“In the times of ‘No Child Left Behind’, schools have never before been held so accountable,” Martin said. “And we need this in education; we need to be accountable for these kids. AutoSkill helps make that manageable.”

In addition to providing a benchmark for student proficiency, AutoSkill’s assessment and placement feature also allows educators to more easily identify those students that might be in need of additional academic assistance.

“The folks at AutoSkill aren’t claiming to be able to do something that they can’t fulfill,” Martin said. “It gets all kids on the same playing field so they can be proficient in the classroom. And it pushes students when they get stuck in the plateau.”

“The progress our students are seeing with AutoSkill in our school speaks to the approach taken by the software. It doesn’t just teach to the standards; it is completely skills-based,” Martin said. “And it doesn’t matter where you’re from, the skills are the same. AutoSkill builds from the foundation up. If something is lacking, this helps cement the foundation.”