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Data really is the secret sauce in the K-12 classroom

Admin By Admin Nov14,2023

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Along with all of the educational technology that’s made its way into the K-12 classroom over the last 10 years, we also now have a constant stream of useful, actionable data that we can use to improve student outcomes. This is especially true with literacy, where it’s all too easy to lose track of student progress and performance as students make their way through elementary and middle school.

Knowing this, we opted to pilot the Lexia Core5 Reading adaptive blended learning literacy program a few years ago. Our initial goal was to improve the reading support we offered students based on their literacy data, specifically in the area of foundational skills. We were collecting data from a variety of assessments, but the interventions we were using just weren’t showing that students were making consistent progress as readers.

We had recently implemented a re-rollout of small group guided reading instruction, but it was showing limited results. We were primarily using a reading workshop and balanced literacy model to teach reading. We had added additional phonemic awareness instruction into kindergarten and first grade classrooms, but we knew we still needed to make improvements to our district literacy program to better support our students.

Luckily, our literacy program pilot went well, and we slowly expanded our use of our literacy program across the elementary schools in our district with a before-school program. In the spring of 2020, we obtained unlimited licenses for the literacy program, which the company was offering at no charge due to the pandemic, and rostered all of our elementary and middle school students so they could use it at home. In the fall of 2020, we purchased unlimited licenses for all of our elementary schools and started implementing our first structured literacy program for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.      

Needless to say, our access to reliable data improved significantly once we had a unified literacy program in place. Here are four top benefits we’ve seen as a result of making this move:

  1. A gateway to structured literacy. Embracing a new approach to literacy instruction was paramount to driving improved outcomes for our students. When we implemented a new structured literacy reading program that we could integrate with our Lexia programs, we found the real gateway into structured literacy. With whole group structured literacy reading lessons and a literacy center block to provide time for daily personalized literacy instruction for students on our literacy platform and Amira, a digital reading tutor, I never imagined that there would be acceleration support for our students like what we have now. We are lucky to have these different programs that are aligned when it comes to teaching kids to read and then supporting them as they become advanced readers.
  2. Easy access to valuable data. We are pleased with the results of our multi-year approach to improving literacy and extracting the data needed for effective decision-making and performance monitoring. As we continue refining our whole-class and small group structured literacy reading lessons, we will keep supporting consistent student usage on our literacy and digital tutoring programs. For example, if usage and progress data doesn’t meet teachers’ expectations, our teachers can quickly gain an understanding of how students are performing on the programs and intervene accordingly. This was a big shift for us because we now have access to an ongoing collection of data points quickly to better support students.
  3. Better reading test scores. For the 2022-23 school year, 84 percent of our students met usage expectations on Core5 and 74 percent of all students advanced at least one grade level of material. During the same period, 65 percent of students who used the literacy program with fidelity and 49 percent of all students reached skills at or above their grade level. Students’ NWEA RIT scores also improved—to the point where the district’s median RIT percentile was higher than usual. We had growth data in every elementary school like we’ve never seen before. In fact, a comparison of NWEA reading test results from SY 2019-20 to SY 2022-23 showed K-5 students went from 37 percent at or above norms of growth rate to 93 percent. Similar results were gained on the NWEA Language Usage test for students in grades 3-5 where students went from 37 percent at or above norms of growth rate to 96 percent.  We tend to have good growth data because we have a lot of students who show growth across the full year, but typically not from fall to winter. The solid growth we saw at every elementary school this past year was amazing.  
  4. A reading program that everyone loves. The positive momentum of the literacy program has been an important factor in our district’s literacy journey that supports students, teachers, and families throughout the school year and into the summer months. Teachers understand the literacy program now and it can support their students. Teachers get excited when they see students making progress and they see that our literacy program has a direct connection to those students’ educational progress. We also like how we can view the program’s data through different lenses. For example, principals can easily see metrics connected to their building literacy data, while we can also access district literacy data. Teachers, interventionists, special education staff, and paraprofessionals can view class, caseload, and student data to target the literacy needs of students more effectively.

Our district now has the data that it needs and a structured literacy approach that’s already producing impressive results in the way of improved reading scores.

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