Bridging the achievement gap: Maryland Title I students read more than one million books

Prince George’s County Public Schools is the second-largest district in Maryland and the 25th-largest urban district in the nation. Located just minutes from Washington, D.C., Prince George’s encompasses a diverse student population from several urban, suburban, and rural communities.

The district’s mission is to provide a great education that empowers all students and contributes to thriving communities. In 2015, 68 of Prince George’s Title I elementary schools began using myON®, by Renaissance®, in an effort to provide a supplemental resource to the district’s core reading program with an emphasis on enhancing students’ literacy skills, narrowing the achievement gap, and increasing at-home reading. The implementation was successful and in 2016, the solution expanded to include all Title I schools in the district.

Demographics

Total Enrollment (pre-K–grade 12): 131,000
Total Number of Schools and Centers: 209
Total Number of Elementary Schools: 117
Total Number of Middle Schools: 24
Total Number of High Schools: 31
Total Number of Other/Specialty Schools: 37

Improving literacy access for students who need it most

In the Spring of 2017, Title I schools in Prince George’s surpassed a major milestone: 50,000 students across 76 Title I schools read two million books in just two years using myON as a literacy solution.

“A million books read each year—wow! That really was not on my horizon,” says Tracey Adesegun, Director of ESSA & Title I for the district. “The number of hours our students have devoted to reading, especially outside of school time, is a plus for our students and the district as a strategy for promoting literacy in the home.”

Leaders within Prince George’s school system chose myON to support the district’s literacy program as a way to engage students and foster reading readiness, with the aim of helping students reach the district’s goal of reading at grade level by third grade. Although the use of myON started as a pilot program, its strong performance led staff to expand myON into each Title I school to provide access to more literature and help address the achievement gap.

“myON promotes high student achievement with a focus on literacy,” says Dr. Debra Mahone, former Director of State & Federal programs for the district, which is now the ESSA & Title I department. “It’s a nice instructional match that fits with our literacy plan.”

"A million books read each year—wow! That really was not on my horizon.”

Tracey Adesegun
Director of ESSA & Title I – Prince George’s County Public Schools

A model for implementation

The district credits its success to an extremely strategic and thoughtful implementation of myON. First, leaders developed an implementation strategy, which included creating a central office team to organize, track, and set clear goals for the use of myON. The strategy was presented to principals to encourage leadership support at the school level during the initial implementation period.

Second, the team launched a roll-out strategy that focused on awareness and information. This phase included timely professional development that helped to develop the skills teachers needed to access and use myON. The team also offered a combination of additional training opportunities based on individual school needs.

Third, the team focused on developing content experts in each school, providing consistency of support that allowed potential issues to be addressed immediately and proactively.

Also crucial to the implementation process was inclusion of a myON project manager in the strategic plan. Carole Crawford, Prince George’s myON project manager, provides invaluable support, according to both Mahone and Adesegun. Crawford is dedicated to ensuring the district continues its successful implementation. She assists with defining instructional goals, monitoring all schools, providing intervention as needed, and analyzing and communicating activity and data. “Carole is a member of the Prince George’s family and has been a tremendous help for us,” says Mahone.

The myON team identifies important metrics and determines how to monitor them using the available reports in myON. Reporting allows the team to review time spent reading, the number of books read, identification of the schools with low usage, and a snapshot of the overall academic literacy achievement data aligned to district goals. “Everyone always knows where we are. Carole and I have bi-weekly conversations to keep everyone abreast of the schools’ usage and on the same page,” adds Adesegun.

Prince George’s implementation strategy is ongoing and ever growing. An internal team of district “power users” was developed to further build internal capacity to make the use of myON systemic throughout the Title I schools and to further enhance the usage of myON to innovate instruction.

“Of all the solutions and the various programs we have funded, myON has been the one that is largely accepted and acknowledged as being the most valued in our schools,” says Mahone. “Administrators ranked our various initiatives offered by the Title I office, and myON was voted as the number one central office initiative. That was further validation for the use of federal funds, and the value myON is adding to our schools and students.”

"Of all the solutions and the various programs we have funded, myON has been the one that is largely accepted and acknowledged as being the most valued in our schools.”

Dr. Debra Mahone
Former Director of State and Federal Programs – Prince George’s County Public Schools

Parental partnership

Part of Prince George’s implementation project includes setting goals not affecting students and teachers, but also parents and families. These goals include showcasing myON at parent/family events, showing parents how to view their child’s progress, and providing resources on how to use myON at home.

“myON works in the family environment because of its accessibility,” says Mahone. “It’s easy, it’s not intrusive or intimidating to parents. It’s becoming a very flexible, friendly solution for families and parents who want to prioritize reading.”

myON’s flexibility has helped engage students in learning outside of school with its 24/7 availability. Learners can be engaged on the weekends, at home, at a restaurant—essentially anywhere.

“In the way that you say it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a family to focus on reading and to prioritize literacy in order for a child to believe that this is something worthwhile,” says Mahone. “Because myON attracts and encourages the involvement of parents, schools, and administrators, it creates an ecosystem where this becomes a natural way to get information.”

Incredible results

By creating goals, staying focused on those goals, and collecting evidence along the way, Prince George’s county Title I office has found tremendous literacy success with the myON implementation and usage processes, which is impacting students in a real way.

“Giving students access to books increases their access to literacy, specifically digital literacy,” says Adesegun. “But we have also seen some growth in those students when we look at the systemic data,” she continues. “myON is part of the recipe for getting our children where we need them academically.”

Prince George’s is invested in professional development on balanced literacy and writing across the curriculum—allowing myON’s positive impact to be integrated across content areas. All components of myON—the literacy toolkit, standards alignment tool, projects center and writing platform—are utilized across the curriculum to support core instruction. The team is also seeing growth among their English language learners, who also use myON.

"myON is part of the recipe for getting our children where we need them academically.”

Tracey Adesegun
Director of ESSA & Title I – Prince George’s County Public Schools

The future

Currently, Prince George’s is launching a summer reading competition across schools to encourage reading while students are not in school during the break. For the next school year, the internal myON Instructional Support Team, or M.I.S.T, will enable the district to expand internal capacity and capitalize on the enthusiasm and expertise of its own district educators. These teachers have embraced the use of myON in their classrooms and have much to share with their colleagues. As internal capacity grows and strengthens, the myON project manager will shift from supporting day-to-day operations to focus on the overall strategy and support of the M.I.S.T. The long-term goal is to enable the district to fully integrate an embedded internal support team. Always seeking new ways to increase students’ access to literacy, the Title I schools are currently piloting Renaissance myON News, powered by News-O-Matic, which has already proven to engage students and faculty alike in current events.

“myON News, powered by News-O-Matic, helps build background knowledge, which allows our students to ‘go beyond the borders’ to virtually explore other areas and information from a global perspective,” says Adesegun. “I just love it!”

With its incredible leadership, strong implementation, and commitment to engaging students in reading, Prince George’s will continue to climb in the millions of books read across its Title I schools.

“myON has been a part of our Title I community because it encompasses parents, teachers, and principals,” says Mahone. “It’s the way we go about encouraging students to read, but also help students to learn from their reading,” she continues. “The whole educational community comes together to support the work.”

Curious about myON? Click the button below to learn more.

Prince George’s County Public Schools is the second-largest district in Maryland and the 25th-largest urban district in the nation. Located just minutes from Washington, D.C., Prince George’s encompasses a diverse student population from several urban, suburban, and rural communities.

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