In today’s classroom, graphing calculators have replaced the abacus, projector screens have replaced chalkboards and laptops have replaced the notebook. Washington Technology Magnet Middle School in Saint Paul, Minnesota is no stranger to these advancements.
At Washington, educators take pride in their strong commitment to technology to enhance learning through the use of many computer applications and individualized instruction. Teachers focus on instruction using technology to provide students with the advanced training necessary for life in the 21st century. Though Washington uses a variety of software packages, none have shown the success with struggling students quite like the Academy of READING®.
Sue Lalama, 8th Grade Teacher
“Academy of READING kids have the greatest improvement of all the software we use,” said Principal Dr. Mike McCollor. “We are seeing two years gain in reading for students who complete the Academy of READING program.”
Under the direction of Sue Lalama, more than 60 students at Washington use the Academy of READING program. With only 30 minutes in the computer lab a couple times per week, they are seeing significant gains in their reading proficiency.
“We use the Academy of READING program with students who are falling behind in their regular English class or scoring low on the standardized tests,” said Lalama. “Some of my 8th graders started out 2-3 years below reading level, but based on the first semester scores we’re getting, students are showing good gains!”
According to the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment scores, Lalama’s 8th grade class saw a 4.5 gain in reading, while other 8th grade classes in the school gained only 1.1 points, 1.8 points and 2.6 points on the same assessment. Her 8th grade class is the only one using the Academy of READING and she attributes the positive scores to their success with the program.
“We had wonderful success with the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment in Reading,” said Lalama. “My students gained about twice as much as the other 8th grade students, including students in the “challenge” English class.”
Based on their 2007-2008 scores from the Scholastic Reading Inventory, Lalama’s 8th grade class is seeing a 44 point gain in just one semester. Another 8th grade class, who has not been using the Academy of READING, saw only a 10 point gain in the same time period.
“Two students who have finished the Academy of READING program showed significant gains on the scholastic reading inventory at the semester break,” said Lalama. “One student gained 124 lexiles in one semester and another gained 116 lexiles. They were challenged by the Academy of READING and were ready to meet the challenge.”
The Academy of READING uses short, intensive training sessions that fit into class schedules and enable rapid skill development. The adaptive intervention engine adjusts to students’ responses, accelerating training when mastery is demonstrated or reviewing concepts when needed.
“The Academy of READING gets the students to concentrate, which can be very challenging for students. A lot of times, I work as a cheerleader for kids to encourage them. They need to be able to recognize sounds and focus for a long period of time,” said Lalama. “The kids are tired after they use Academy of READING so we know the program is making them think.”
Based on extensive research and proven in thousands of elementary, middle and high schools, the award-winning Academy of READING delivers a powerful intervention software solution that helps at-risk students achieve rapid, permanent gains in reading.
“My students went through a period of time where they felt rebellious toward the program, but then as they get more successful with it they become excited about their success,” said Lalama. “We came up with a reward system to keep them interested. I give them a ticket every time they finish an exercise, then we raffle the tickets everyday and give out prizes. The positive reinforcement helps keep them on track.”
The Academy of READING uses a variety of motivational tactics to keep students engaged. For example, age-appropriate content, interfaces and graphical elements create an optimal learning environment for students from K-12. Students start on beginner-level material and work through content, celebrating success at every step along the way. The program’s positive feedback and motivational “buddy” characters keep students focused on learning.
“It’s amazing what [the Academy of READING] can do with the students! I have students who literally can’t sit still, but once they’ve been through it they can really focus and get through the curriculum,” Lalama said. “The students who aren’t so severe are getting more automatic with their skills. They are moving forward to the comprehension questions and they get that automatic feedback that a teacher can’t give all the time.”
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 Academy of READING fits nicely with Washington’s mission of enhancing learning through software intervention. It gives even struggling students the opportunity to stay on pace with emerging 21st century technology.
“I would absolutely recommend the Academy of READING to another school district,” said Lalama. “I can’t believe the results we’re seeing. I thought they were too good to be true. Really, but it looks like we are getting the same results again this year. Yes, do it!”