By Eric Stickney, Director of Educational Research
Several years ago, I became responsible for coordinating almost all the holiday shopping in my family. To this day, I’m not sure how or why that happened, but I do my best. Hunting online and in stores for the perfect gift can be stressful, but it’s made easier with tools such as Amazon and CNET to compare prices and most importantly, read user reviews. When was the last time you bought anything without checking out the product ratings and reviews?
There are no one-stop user-review sites for education technology (yet), but there are a number of independent organizations that rigorously evaluate K12 tools. And when programs have been around for a while and have attracted as many enthusiastic educators as Renaissance Accelerated Reader 360®, Renaissance Accelerated Math®, and Renaissance MathFacts in a Flash®, it’s not surprising that they get acknowledged. These programs have received a number of positive reviews, accolades, and awards over the years for their research evidence (e.g., National Dropout Prevention Center/Network), popularity with teachers (e.g., THE Journal Readers’ Choice Awards), and suitability for response to intervention (e.g., National Center on Intensive Intervention).
However, one review stands a little taller than the rest. The Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE) recently endorsed Accelerated Reader 360, Accelerated Math, and MathFacts in a Flash. Their endorsement came after a long and intensive review of each program’s foundational/theoretical research base, evidence of impact on learning, accommodations, and acceptability by teachers in the field, among other components. And all through the lens of serving students with disabilities or who are at risk for learning difficulties. During the review process, CASE reviewers provided great suggestions that are already shaping our research agenda. For instance, there is more we can do to better understand closing achievement gaps and rates of growth for students with disabilities and those at-risk by leveraging our massive databases.
“The Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE) recently endorsed Accelerated Reader 360, Accelerated Math, and MathFacts in a Flash.”
Given Renaissance’s mission to “accelerate learning for all children and adults of all ability levels and ethnic and social backgrounds, worldwide,” this is a particularly meaningful endorsement. When we say all, we mean all. We know that no two students are the same and cannot assume a program that works for one student will work for others, particularly those with disabilities or who are struggling to keep up with their peers.
What we need are more personalized approaches that respond to the individual. And what Accelerated Reader 360, Accelerated Math, and MathFacts in a Flash have in common—and one big reason they meet CASE’s many standards for endorsement—is that they are personalized practice programs that meet students where they are (not where we want them to be), help teachers set personalized goals, and provide continuous feedback on progress so that all students can experience success and teachers can adjust their instruction every day.
As Harvard University’s Todd Rose has argued in his powerful book The End of Average, we do all of our students a great disservice if we impose a system of education designed to meet the needs of an “average student,” which, by definition, does not exist. Rose summarizes data on intelligence, physical characteristics, and other factors to arrive at one conclusion: No one is average. Two students with the exact same test score (even if it’s “average” per national norms), or who have been given the same learning disability designation, can have wildly different personalities, strengths, and interests.
All of our research and development efforts are about reaching all students and teachers in a world where no two are the same and no one is average. Having CASE’s endorsement of Accelerated Reader 360, Accelerated Math, and MathFacts in a Flash and their input on our R&D agenda is an important milestone as we strive to accelerate learning for all.
“All of our research and development efforts are about reaching all students and teachers in a world where no two are the same and no one is average.”
Do you use Accelerated Reader 360, Accelerated Math, or MathFacts in a Flash in your classroom? Let us know in the comments! For more information on CASE’s endorsement, click the button below:
Eric Stickney works with external independent researchers who conduct evaluations of Renaissance programs. He specializes in analyzing reading and mathematics data collected from millions of students in North America and the UK.