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Westran (MO) Elementary School

/Academy of READING

Download PDF version of this articlePrincipal Carl Brown knew his students could do better.

While students at his school had posted a respectable four-year average of placing 75.2 percent of students above “proficient” levels in the reading portion of the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP), Brown knew they could do better. That’s when he and his staff at Westran Elementary turned to the Academy of READING.

After implementing the Academy of READING program — students work up to a schedule of about one hour per week with the software — a high percentage of Westran students performed above the “proficient” level each testing year with a peak of 92.3%. During the first testing cycle, the school enjoyed a 23 percent year over year improvement. Brown credits much of that success to the Academy of READNG.

“I feel strongly that the Academy of READING program helps us meet the needs of all our students — whether they are proficient or struggling.”
Carl Brown, Principal

“We found the program to be an excellent additional tool in improving students’ reading ability — it’s definitely built into everything we do,” Brown says. “Furthermore, the improved reading skills translate into improved scores in science, communication arts and math MAP scores.”

In fact, the school’s science scores increased fairly dramatically when all grades were tested — enough so that Westran had the highest science score for schools their size and sixth highest in Missouri. They believe similar results will occur with the new science assessments that 5th grade is being administered as part of MAP testing.

Through the software’s individual assessment capability, The Academy of READING allows struggling students to work independently on their critical skill gaps, allowing educators to concentrate their time and effort on students needing the most help. Using a three-step intervention methodology, the program delivers a dynamic individualized training experience for each student. Or as Brown puts it — “individualized assistance for each student at their need and at their speed.”

Besides the intrinsic rewards offered by the Academy of READING, Brown says that the program really took roots when used in conjunction with external rewards. Students earn credits based on performance levels achieved, ranging from prizes in a “treasure box” up to an exclusive pizza party with the principal in front of every student in the lunch room.

“The kids really self-motivate in their use the Academy of READING,” Brown says. “I hear kids talking about their progress every day. From just walking the halls I can tell exactly where many of my students are because their talking about their achievement levels.”

With measurable success in improving student literacy and comprehension, advanced assessment capabilities and powerful reporting tools, the Academy of READING has become a valuable part of curriculum a Westran. Students have regularly scheduled blocks of time dedicated to using the software and it continues to pay dividends for the school.

“All my teachers use it (AofR) — it’s not even a discussion,” Brown says. “We have a very aggressive curriculum schedule and yet we get most of our work done at school. We can do that because when your students are reading above grade level, they are so much more efficient.”

But Principal Carl Brown didn’t just stop with reading.

After seeing the success the Academy of READING brought to his students, Brown added the Academy of MATH® to Westran’s curriculum.

“We’ve been using the Academy of READING for several years and have seen that students are reaching their desired achievement,” says Brown. “When students meet their capability level in Academy of READING, we move them into the Academy of MATH and watch them go.”

Proven to deliver significant gains, the Academy of MATH is a reader-friendly math intervention software solution that helps at-risk elementary, middle and high school students develop computational fluency. Westran utilizes the program for all students. Brown feels that with the 60+ percent Free and Reduced Lunch population they need to treat all of their students as potentially at-risk.

“We want students to be learning to the best of their ability, no matter what level that is,” Brown continues. “Every student has the ability to progress with the Academy of MATH. Overall, it improves their competency and their self-esteem.”

The Academy of MATH training stream is automatically assigned based on a placement test that provides a snapshot of each student’s math abilities relative to their grade. The adaptive intervention engine adjusts to students’ responses, accelerating training when mastery is demonstrated or reviewing concepts when needed.

“We made the commitment to our school to enhance learning by adding this educational software,” says Brown. “It required training for our teachers, adjusting our schedules to make the courses fit, and a revised incentive program to recognize the success of students.”

The right incentive program really can make all the difference. Brown calls students over the school speaker and has them come down to his office for some eye-to-eye contact.

“It gives me a chance to get these kids in my office to recognize students for something good and get to know them” Brown says. “It’s a way to reach out to students before I have meet them one-on-one in my office for a negative behavior or something else that would not be perceived as a positive contact. This in itself is a powerful asset to building the school climate that we desire for our students and our faculty.”

Whether it’s announcing a student’s name over the speaker, or making sure the rewarded student has extra donuts to share with his classmates, the incentive program is working.

Westran in 2007 was a Top Ten performance school for the entire state of Missouri in their population group for 3rd grade math. This ranking was based on the size of the school. Westran was one of only two schools with high populations of Free and Reduced Lunch students (60+ percent) who achieved this type of performance.

“We’ve noticed that our students who began using the Academy of READING or Academy of MATH in early elementary school are showing great progress now that they’re in middle school,” says Brown. “They have stronger basic skills, so teachers don’t need to re-teach the same lessons.”

Using a patented methodology that incorporates an adaptive intervention engine and positive motivation principles, the Academy of MATH builds foundation math skills across 10 skill areas that align to National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) standards — and it can be used with beginning math learners to algebra-ready students.

Now categorized as a High 1 school for 3rd-5th grade Communication Arts, Westran received a 30 score on their Annual Performance Review for MAP in Communication Arts. Within the Academy of Math program, the school has seven 5th graders who have progressed 15 levels in math since last year and a fourth grade student who has progressed 22 levels, thanks to the Academy of MATH.

“If handled properly, the Academy of MATH lets educators differentiate for each student and mold the learning process to best teach these students the math skills they need,” says Brown.

The Academy of MATH also helps Brown with the transition students who didn’t start the year at Westran, but who’s scores are figured in when the school’s progress is evaluated.

“With the Academy of MATH, in one week’s time we can know that student’s math capability based on their work within the program. We can get them up to speed and get to know that student in a way you couldn’t without the technology,” Brown says. “When testing day comes, I’m responsible for these transition students and the Academy of MATH has all the tools you need to reach these students; it gives instant diagnostic evaluation and instruction.”

The creators of the Academy of READING and Academy of MATH know that successful reading and math intervention programs require more than just great software. With little time and even fewer resources, busy educators need to quickly integrate technology into the classroom, help students become productive immediately, and generate rapid results.