When we started using a new literacy program last year, our goal was to get more of our pre-K through fifth-grade students reading at or above their respective grade levels. Needless to say, there was a lot of “red” when we started with the new program, indicating that 66% of our students were below grade level, 27% were on grade level and just 7% were reading above grade level. We clearly were in need of a successful literacy program.
Fast-forward just one year, and those numbers have flipped in our favor. Today just 31% are below grade level, 46% are on grade level and a full 23% are reading above grade level. We’ve been using the Lexia Core5 Reading platform across all grades and have constantly been monitoring the data coming out of our system, making any necessary adjustments and spreading the good news through shout-outs in my weekly newsletter and on social media.
Steps that helped create a successful literacy program
Four key steps helped implement a successful literacy program at our school, which is 98% economically disadvantaged and whose student body is 65% Hispanic, 20% African American, 11% white and 2% Asian.
- Set clear expectations. We took the time to coach teachers on how to look at the system data, pull in their individual students’ lessons and set very clear expectations for how much time students should be spending on the literacy platform each day. We also set expectations for what the teacher should be doing while students are using the platform, such as pulling students in and doing their lessons.
- Ask teachers what they think. When we got ready to roll out our new literacy platform, we showed it to the teachers first and asked them, “What do we think the barriers will be, and what solutions can we crowdsource together?” Each grade has different barriers. For upper grades, it’s off-task behavior or kids leveling out and being ready for additional content. For younger ones, it’s getting them into the program in the first place (i.e., some may struggle with logging in). The teachers helped us come up with solutions to these issues. For example, we have a little card that we take to the computer to help students log in.
- Recognize the wins. In a weekly newsletter, I highlight different aspects of the literacy program and focus on how just under one-third of all students are on the at-risk list now at any given time. That is an improvement for the campus. Some fifth-grade students have already completed the program because they enjoy it so much that they’ve done some lessons at home. These are all positive points for a school that just one year ago was struggling to get our students reading at grade level.
- Give regular shout-outs. Because we don’t necessarily have progress monitoring, I compare the data from our literacy program to our NWEA MAP testing. We discuss how this can help us monitor progress and adjust accordingly as the data is updated. In fact, I’m also constantly pulling the data because it fluctuates. Then, I give shout-outs to teachers with no students on the at-risk list. Parents, teachers and students all like getting this feedback!
The sweet spot for instruction
Ultimately, a successful literacy program helps teachers be thoughtful about instruction and really know where their kids are and what they’re doing. Teachers really like having a program that provides a turnkey approach to literacy education. They don’t have to create the content themselves, but they’re also not just letting the computer handle instruction. In fact, the platform has helped some instructors expand their own proficiency levels and has provided them with resources to teach certain skills in new ways.
Kalyn SanJacinto is the principal at Carroll Peak Elementary School in Fort Worth, Texas, which uses the Lexia Core5 Reading platform.
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