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Washington (IL) Middle School

/Academy Interventions

Download PDF version of this articleHow does a middle school with a largely economically disadvantaged student population reverse lagging state standardized test scores? They don’t listen to anyone who tells them it can’t be done.

In 2005, educators at Washington Middle School in Springfield, Illinois, were met with some very discouraging numbers — 83% of their students were reading well below grade level and nearly three-fourths were not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in math. The staff also realized that most struggled with phonemic awareness and letter-sound recognition — keeping them from higher level learning at the middle school level.

“The more we get into this the more the kids themselves realize ‘Hey, I don’t have to be getting these low scores.’ They realize they can get the help they need through the Academy of READING and Academy of MATH.”
Kelly Wickham, Literacy Coach

By late 2005, Washington Middle School had implemented a test program with 76 students utilizing the powerful intervention tools Academy of READING® and Academy of MATH®. The pilot results were quite compelling — some students achieved gains of two grade levels in a three month period.

They made a strategic decision to implement a school-wide intervention program involving all 657 students. “After looking at the test results we were thinking ‘Wow, this is really impressive,’” Kelly Wickham, Literacy Coach, said. “We decided to jumpstart our intervention strategy with a bang by getting every student on the programs in the fall semester.”

Due to a shortage of computers in the building in the early days of the implementation, the staff at Washington focused student time on task more towards the Academy of MATH — and with outstanding results. Standardized test scores for 2005 showed that just 27.4% of Washington students were making AYP in math. Even without fully implementing all aspects of the programs, Washington nearly doubled that number in 2006 with 53.6% of students meeting AYP.

Academy of READING and Academy of MATH build 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 programs also feature age-appropriate environments and content, including training questions, buddy characters, and positive feedback elements, helping students of all ages achieve success.

Gains at Washington aren’t limited to math scores, though. In fact, once the full implementation of both Academy of READING and Academy of MATH was achieved — classes are mandatory of non-AYP students, elective for others — other successes followed.

In spring 2007, Washington’s seventh-graders scored second in a district-wide writing assessment with 81.4% of students with writing skills that met the state’s grade-level guidelines. The average score of 22.8 — on a scale from 0 to 32 — was less than a point behind the seventh-graders from the first-place magnet school and more than a full point ahead of the third place school, a gifted school. The score also moved the class from last year’s “basic” to the higher “at grade-level” proficiency.

“We focus on fluency — other schools that focus on writing didn’t see the big gains that we did,” Wickham said. “Students aren’t going to be great writers until they are great readers.”

“Our approach to reading literacy and math proficiency has so many components,” Wickham said. “We always ask ‘what are the Best Practices?’ Well, we know the huge role that both Academy of READING and Academy of MATH can play. We’ve seen successes again and again.”

The Academy of READING uses a patented methodology with an adaptive intervention engine, skill mastery based on automaticity, and motivational principles to build fluency in the foundation skills of reading.

“The more we get into this the more the kids themselves realize ‘Hey, I don’t have to be getting these low scores.’ They realize they can get the help they need through the Academy of READING and Academy of MATH,” Wickham said. “When we see kids turning around, getting motivated and really striving to learn, that’s really powerful and inspiring.”