Like districts across the country, White Lake School District in White Lake, Wisconsin, works tirelessly to provide the best education possible to its students. But despite the best efforts of the administration and staff, many students of the district’s 210 students still struggle with the most fundamental aspect of learning — reading.
Administrators at White Lake wanted to find a solution to this problem without placing a prohibitive burden on staff time and resources. That’s how Cathy Lundgren, Special Education Teacher and Technology Coordinator for the Reading Intervention Team, became involved.
“Our administrator asked me to look into the various reading intervention programs out there,” said Lundgren. “Compared to the other options I looked into, the research on the Academy of READING was much more positive. The gains were greater — and for a lower cost, you were getting more in return.”
Cathy Lundgren, Special Education Teacher / Tech Coordinator
White Lake first implemented the Academy of READING in April 2009. Functioning with ten licenses, 20 to 30 students (from second graders to high school juniors) were using the program two-to-three times each week.
“The Academy of READING is more user-friendly for the students and teachers than any other program I’ve seen,” said Lundgren. ”The training sessions are manageable and they offered us a webinar to show us what the program looked like before we purchased it. I really liked seeing the program — It helped me to determine that this was something students could benefit from and stay engaged in.”
Through the software’s individual assessment capability, the Academy of READING allows struggling students to work systematically and independently on their critical skill gaps, allowing educators to concentrate their time and effort on students needing the most help.
“We were able to assess their reading levels and identify those who were far below grade level. We targeted those students and implemented Academy of READING with them,” said Lundgren. “Some of my high school students complained at first, but once they started seeing their own improvements they became excited. They could feel the success in the program.”
Developed from original, neuroscience research, the Academy of READING is proven to work. The pedagogical model incorporates task-analysis to break skills down into simpler components, automaticity to build fluency, and positive feedback and motivational elements to boost confidence and self-esteem.
“We really wanted to concentrate on younger kids so that as they progress through middle school, they have the automaticity they need,” said Lundgren. “The Academy of READING works with rhyming, letter-sound recognition — skills that we want our kindergarteners and first graders to get down before they move on. I’m confident this program has the capacity to help build the skills they need.”
Automaticity refers to the theory that complex skills like reading can be broken down into a series of smaller subskills. Through practice, these subskills can then be learned to the point where student responses are both rapid and automatic. Best of all, because automatized learning is permanent, the skills that are mastered are mastered for life.
“They don’t have to spend brainpower on sounding words anymore; they are reading more fluently, understanding what they read,” Lundgren explains. “With the automaticity that Academy of READING gives them, they are no longer wasting time and energy to comprehend what they read.”
The Academy of READING offers a structured and sequential intervention program that helps struggling students become proficient readers. Students develop fluency in foundation reading skills through focused training in phonemic awareness, sound symbol association, phonics and decoding, and comprehension.
“Another great feature is that I can tailor the program so that it is not frustrating for Special Education students,” said Lundgren. “I know my kids in Special Ed will need more time and with the Academy of READING, I can give it to them. But what’s even greater is that if students do become frustrated, Academy of READING backs them off, puts it on hold, and it doesn’t push the kids too hard.”
Academy of READING builds 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.
“Students need reading skills for all areas of their education,” said Lundgren, “Not just learning about reading, but using skills to gain knowledge in other areas — business, science, social studies, etc. It’s so easy for students to fall behind if their ability to read is not strong.”
On average, students who work on the Academy of READING for a minimum of just 25 hours show an improvement of 2.5 full grade levels in their basic reading skills.
“The educators here are excited about the Academy of READING”, said Lundgren. “They see progress and know we could be helping more students. Since the initial improvement we saw with the participating students last spring, we realize we need to expand if we want continued success.”