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Paoli (IN) Community School District

/Academy Interventions

Download PDF version of this articleRushing yards, interceptions, blocks, sacks, touchdowns — the stats involved in a single football game are almost endless. But keeping track is an important part of the game; much like keeping on track is an important part of the game plan for teachers and students in schools across the nation.

This mindset resonates with one student at Paoli (IN) High School in particular. The student is a football-playing, college-bound high school junior and is on target with his grade level objectives. Though he isn’t lagging behind his fellow students, his mom wanted him to get some extra help in preparing for his SAT’s.

“The thing that makes it successful is that kids aren’t just in a classroom listening to the teacher go on and on. They’re doing their own thing — they’re in charge of learning for a change.”
RJ Hartsfield, Title I Teacher and Assistant Football Coach

RJ Hartsfield is the Assistant Football Coach at Paoli High and a Title 1 Teacher at Throop Elementary School in the same district. He coaches this student on and off the field by incorporating the Academy of READING software into his weekly training regimen.

“When he started he was apprehensive about it — thought maybe it would be a waste of time,” Hartsfield says. “But, he found that it was kind of tough and I was surprised to see that is was challenging a kid that wasn’t a reading recovery student.”

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. The program also features age-appropriate environments and content; helping students of all ages achieve success.

“He’s been coming down since the beginning of the year, working on the Academy of READING for 25 minutes about three times per week,” says Hartsfield. “It’s not the exact amount that they recommend, but he jumps on whenever he gets spare time.”

To many high school students, the notion of “spare time” is a foreign concept. With homework, sports, jobs and clubs, most students barely make it home by dinner. However, this student has found the time to complete half the Academy of READING program. He’s a two-year starter on the football team and in 2008 was named to the all-conference and all-state teams.

With a little more than an hour of extra effort each week, this student is preparing himself for the standardized tests that will affect his college career. The Academy of READING has increased his self-esteem and reading comprehension — two huge factors when it comes to SAT time.

By measuring the consistency of processing speed and accuracy of students’ responses as part of the skill mastery criteria, Academy of READING ensures that foundation reading skills become automatic. As a result, students devote cognitive effort to higher order comprehension skills. Academy of READING is the only intervention solution that trains subskills to the level of automaticity, enabling students to realize permanent gains and master foundation reading skills for life.

Throop Elementary started with a 5 Concurrent User license and when they began seeing clear progress in six weeks, they increased to a 20 Concurrent User license. Now 90 students participate in the Academy of READING — and it’s Hartsfield that keeps the students on track.

“We rarely, if ever, let students stay in for the whole year. They do the first strand and we move them out,” says Hartsfield. “The goal is to get them back on grade level and caught up with the rest of class.”

Classroom results show students achieving permanent reading gains in as little as ten hours of time on task. The Academy of READING is a complete literacy intervention solution designed to help struggling students realize fast, permanent gains in mastering their foundation reading skills.

“The students actually enjoy working with Academy of READING. They’re saying ‘man, when is it going to be my turn?’” says Hartsfield. “Instead of feeling dumb because they’re pulled out of class.”

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.

“I think it’s great. I’ve already recommended it to another school group who was thinking about getting it. I showed them what I think about it,” says Hartsfield. “We’ve already seen reading gains of three grade levels from 20 (of the 90) students using Academy of Reading at Throop.”

The Academy of READING trains the brain to accurately and automatically recognize or decode words, and thus, comprehend what they are reading. This unique methodology breaks the complex skill of reading into simple components so students can master the skills one step at a time. Because the software was developed by neuro-psychologists, there is constant feedback to increase motivation and boost confidence. When used three to five times a week in 20-30 minute sessions, students typically average 2.5 years of grade level gains in reading comprehension after 20 hours of time on task.

“We use the reward zone. I have a store, and the kids get ‘money’ for completing lessons. They love the incentive program and love to spend their money on prizes,” says Hartsfield. “The thing that makes it successful is that kids aren’t just in a classroom listening to the teacher go on and on. They’re doing their own thing — they’re in charge of learning for a change.”

Through the software’s individual assessment capability, the Academy of READING allows struggling students to work systematically at their instructional level on their critical skill gaps, allowing educators to concentrate their time and effort on students needing the most help. Using a real-time intervention methodology, the program delivers a dynamic individualized training experience for each student.

“I like it because the students can come in and get right to work. It is self-guided, self-paced,” says Hartsfield. “I like that students can log in, be independent. I don’t have to constantly tell kids to stay on task. I see no reason that this program can’t be successful at any school.”