A literacy growth solution helps drive 100% literacy and A-grade rankings in two states

While demographics matter, they don’t always predict a school’s performance. For example, take one school that serves a community where the median income approaches $90,0001, creating a strong tax base that bolsters education. The other school, just a few hundred miles away, averages more than 50 percent free-and-reduced-lunch enrollment and sometimes augments its budget with Box Tops for Education fundraisers. Despite the two schools serving dissimilar communities, both are thriving academically and routinely appear on their states’ lists of most-desired schools.

Principal Joy Tyner credits experienced teachers, flexible solutions, and differentiation. Tyner served as principal for eight years at Northside Elementary School in Clinton, Mississippi, and in 2016, was appointed the first principal of Cahaba Elementary School in Trussville, Alabama. In 2015, her third-grade class at Northside achieved a 100 percent pass rate on state-mandated literacy tests.2 In 2017, Cahaba students in Trussville outpaced the national average in reading proficiency to earn an overall A-grade ranking and a district-leading score of 99.3

“Each of these schools were highly successful before my tenure,” stresses Tyner. “But to continue to grow, we must take care of our people, one student and teacher at a time. We’re constantly looking for ways to better differentiate and address individual needs, and Renaissance helps us do that. In fact, I’d have to say that myON®, by Renaissance®, and Renaissance Accelerated Reader® are the best differentiation tools I’ve ever used. The depth of functionality, plus the adaptability, make Renaissance beneficial in driving growth to develop passionate, accomplished teachers and learners, regardless of demographics.”

"We’re constantly looking for ways to better differentiate and address individual needs, and Renaissance helps us do that.”

Joy Tyner
Principal – Cahaba Elementary School

The challenge: Growth for high achievers

Northside in the Clinton Public School District is a Title I school that serves some 850 second- and third-grade students. myON gives Northside access to thousands of digital texts at a fraction of the cost of traditional books. The solution magnifies the impact of the school’s 1:1 iPad initiative and helps Northside meet the requirements of the Mississippi Literacy-Based Promotion Act and Common Core State Standards—enabling differentiated instruction, prescriptive assignments, and increased reading hours.

“That first year, our second-grade reading levels jumped an average of 1.4 grades and overall literacy rates skyrocketed,” says Tyner. “Using myON together with Accelerated Reader, we closed achievement gaps and ultimately logged outstanding test scores for every student. But then, the challenge becomes continued growth.”

"Using myON together with Accelerated Reader, we closed achievement gaps and ultimately logged outstanding test scores for every student.”

Joy Tyner
Principal – Cahaba Elementary School

Collage of Students

The results: Growth, parent involvement, and adaptability

Tapped to help open the 550-student K–5 Cahaba Elementary School in Trussville, Alabama, Tyner says students were already reading nearly two years above grade level. “The flexibility of Renaissance makes it easier for well-trained, experienced teachers to individualize instruction to promote growth at every level. For example, we use myON for group instruction with our kindergarten and first graders, and the books look beautiful projected on a large screen. But for higher-level students, we do very little direct teaching, focusing rather on discovery, investigation, question-driven lessons, and project-based learning. One of our STEM-related enrichment groups—the Alabama Architects—designed a theme park, drew the project to scale, and created a promotional website. The project required math skills and significant research, for which they used myON. Another group used myON to study countries of their parents’ heritages and then wrote about what it would have been like to live there 100 years ago.

“We continue to develop our physical library, but without myON, we’d spend tens of thousands of dollars more to acquire all the books students need. myON is cost-effective and particularly rich with nonfiction texts. More than an online library, myON provides the most features and best value of any solutions we’ve considered. It also complements the teaching strategies in our model of teacher effectiveness: active engagement, content knowledge, differentiation, formative assessment, rigor, and relevance.”

Students log on to myON through Cahaba’s Clever Dashboard, which is accessible from school or home. Tyner adds, “We also created a series of workshops called the Parents Actively Learning with Students (PALS) Academy. During these early-evening sessions, we teach parents how to use myON and conduct other literacy-related sessions using myON. It really helps integrate parents into the learning process.”

"“We continue to develop our physical library, but without myON, we’d spend tens of thousands of dollars more to acquire all the books students need.”

Joy Tyner
Principal – Cahaba Elementary School

Pickle juice and peas

Tyner continues, “myON and Accelerated Reader interact constructively. Our teachers can assign different bookshelves for different skills/interest student groups, but still under a specific curriculum or content standard, and then follow up with Accelerated Reader comprehension quizzes.

“Accelerated Reader helps encourage spring reading when interest naturally wanes, but when students need to build stamina for mandated testing. Last year, students designed their own Accelerated Reader-based incentives, the highlight of which was a smoothie challenge that let top scorers blend random ingredients for our teachers to drink. We suffered through crazy concoctions of ranch dressing with peas and orange juice, pickle juice, and—well, you get the idea! Students are already planning this year’s menu!”

Transferable technology

All three of Trussville’s elementary schools use Renaissance Star Assessments® to track student growth. Cahaba teachers run Star Assessments three times each year and as needed for intervention. Tyner says kindergarten students use Renaissance Star Early Literacy® for a fall baseline measurement, but most will advance to Renaissance Star Reading® come January. Star Assessments regularly show above-average achievement for Cahaba students, most recently measuring the average instructional level for second graders is 4.0.

“Star Assessments predict scores on standardized tests with a 90–100 percent accuracy,” Tyner comments. “Because we can see that students will do well, we require minimal test prep. Every year since our founding, we have registered growth across the entire student population, and since growth is a major factor in the Alabama accountability system, that achievement positively impacts our state report card. Based on this year’s Star Assessments, we expect to again rank among the state’s highest-performing schools.”

Tyner says Renaissance has proven to be a highly effective literacy growth solution across varied districts and demographics. A 30-year champion of education, she admits to having flirted with retirement. However, she says, “I enjoy coming to work, seeing our teachers making a difference. Renaissance helps us meet student individuality, enhances each of our teacher’s unique methods and strategies, and provides a wealth of data for accountability. It’s all great fun and exciting, and I can’t wait for our kids to come back to class!”

Curious about myON or Accelerated Reader? Click the button below to learn more about the power of a single literacy growth solution.

1 http://www.city-data.com/city/Trussville-Alabama.html
2 https://www.theedadvocate.org/how-northside-elementary-scored-100-for-literacy/
3 https://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2018/02/alabamas_k-12_public_school_gr.html

While demographics matter, they don’t always predict a school’s performance. For example, take one school that serves a community where the median income approaches $90,0001, creating a strong tax base that bolsters education. The other school, just a few hundred miles away, averages more than 50 percent free-and-reduced-lunch enrollment and sometimes augments its budget with Box Tops for Education fundraisers. Despite the two schools serving dissimilar communities, both are thriving academically and routinely appear on their states’ lists of most-desired schools.

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