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Brownstown (IL) Elementary School

/Academy Interventions

Download PDF version of this articleDuring the 2010-11 school year, the students of Brownstown (IL) Elementary School exhibited a spike in reading comprehension and math scores for the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). The improvement in the students ISAT scores had a direct impact on AYP, taking Brownstown off Academic Watch Status (AWS).

According to Angela Reeter, principal of Brownstown’s K-6 school, students increased their reading comprehension by 13 points. “I received the AYP results and was amazed. We made it in both reading and math. We originally were at 76.9 percent and have now jumped to 85 percent— that’s huge!” said Reeter. “If students made significant gains on the Academy of READING, we saw significant gains on their ISAT performance.”

“We had more students succeed on the ISAT (standardized state test) and we attribute that directly to the Academy of READING. We didn’t really change our instruction in the classroom. What changed for our students was the Academy of READING.”
Keri Buscher, Academy of READING Coordinator

The reason for the significant change in Brownstown student’s ISAT scores was the implementation of the Academy of READING and MATH programs. A research-based intervention program, the Academy of READING allows students to receive one-on-one, individualized instruction while working at their own pace to achieve mastery in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency and comprehension.

Keri Buscher, Academy of READING and MATH program coordinator for Brownstown’s grades 3 through 6 said, “This year we had more students succeed on the ISAT and we attribute that directly to the Academy of READING and MATH.”

Academy of READING and Academy of MATH Delivers Results

Brownstown students working with the Academy of READING gained an average of 13 points on their ISAT exam scores, representing more than 8 point increase in Brownstown’s AYP results.

Since the program’s launch in January 2010, Brownstown students in grades 3 through 6 showed an average reading comprehension gain of 1.8 grade levels with over 50 percent of students gaining two grade levels or higher. This was all achieved with an average time-on-task of just 14 hours.

“The kids worked in the program for 30 minutes everyday— Monday through Friday— with very little downtime, but it was worth it,” said Buscher. “With the Academy’s consistent repetitiveness and one-on-one focus, our students have shown a boost in confidence and reading level. They now understand reading texts with more ease than before.”

In a study of Brownstown’s success with the Academy, prepared by the cognitive scientists at School Specialty Literacy and Intervention, it was confirmed that students who worked with the Academy of READING showed significant gains on both the Academy of READING Placement Test (t (20) = 6.42, p < .001) and the reading component of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (t (20) = 3.94, p < .001).

The study showed that students who performed well on the Academy Placement Test also had a tendency to perform well on the reading component of the ISAT. It was evident that the Academy of READING Placement Test proved to accurately predict how well Brownstown students were expected to perform on the Illinois State Achievement Test.

“The placement tests guarantee that each student has mastered a level before moving on to the next. As educators, the placement tests provide us with positive reinforcement. We are assured that our students truly have the concepts mastered and are making progress,” said Buscher.

Pre & Post Testing Tools in the Academy

Students who are performing below proficiency levels can accurately be identified through the Academy’s extensive pre-and post-testing functionality. For instance, 83 percent of Brownstown 4th grade students began the 2010-11 school year reading at the Below Basic performance level. However, post-test results at the end of the school year showed all 4th grade students had been brought up to Basic performance or higher— many achieving over two grade levels.

“The Academy has finally given us a structured program that is data-driven. Before, we were switching from program to program with no result or improvement in student scores. The Academy has proven to be effective by providing consistent and precise data to show our students’ gains from third to sixth grade. It makes tracking student performance much easier and more effective,” said Reeter.

Success With Special Education

One challenge at Brownstown is it’s higher than average population of special education students. According to Keri Buscher, Brownstown’s special education students did not normally meet AYP because the exam was set at an average to above average level, creating a higher need for individual help. During the 2010-11 school year, however, many special education students helped to meet AYP.

“Many of our special education students helped us to achieve 85 percent AYP. I’m going to hands down say that the Academy played a MAJOR role in that. The Academy gave them individualized instruction and provided the (phonemic) sounds they needed to break words apart. Now, they can better comprehend the stories they read,” said Buscher.

After a year and a half, Reeter says the investment is paying off significantly. She encourages other school districts to consider the Academy and its benefits. “I realize the cost of the program is a little more than many administrators would expect, but with the gains I’ve seen in student performance, it’s completely worth the investment,” she said.

As the 2011-12 school year begins, Brownstown plans to increase the program’s use. After witnessing students’ performance with the reading component, Brownstown will be increasing the frequency of training for the Academy of MATH, too.

According to Reeter, the Academy has made life easier, “Before, I felt as though my hands were tied. There were so many options, but I was never sure where to start. Now, I have a program that has made reading comprehension easier for the kids. They actually feel success and they are learning.”