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Product Highlights: Promoting educational equity

Back-to-School looked a lot different this year, with many schools and districts providing instruction remotely either full or part time. While it’s certainly possible for students to thrive in remote- and hybrid-learning environments, educators also face new challenges. Do all students have access (devices and connectivity) to online lessons? What best practices should you follow when allowing students to take Accelerated Reader quizzes at home? How can you best ensure that learning continues this school year, even if the mode of instruction has changed due to the pandemic?

At Renaissance, we’ve been working closely with school and district leaders to address these and other challenges, and to help ensure that every student is learning and growing this school year. Like you, we’re committed to the goal of educational equity—and we’re working to provide additional tools and resources to help you provide targeted instruction and support in any learning environment.

In this blog, you’ll find a summary of recent product enhancements designed to promote greater equity. You’ll find more details in our new Product Updates Blog, where you can easily search for information by product (e.g., Star Assessments), by topic (e.g., Reading Practice), or by keyword (e.g., “equity”). We invite you to bookmark the Product Updates Blog and to check back frequently for the latest news and information.

Meeting the needs of emergent bilingual learners

Educators working with bilingual learners often struggle to get the same growth and achievement data for their students learning in Spanish as for students learning in English.

Traditional assessments, even if translated into Spanish, don’t capture how Spanish language skills are developing or provide a roadmap for which skills students are ready to learn next. These translated tests also fail to indicate how students are growing compared to their Spanish-speaking peers.

Understanding how bilingual learners are growing is essential to providing them with an equitable education. That’s why we’re excited to announce that Star Assessments, the only K–12 assessment specifically designed for bilingual learners, now include:

  • Empirically validated learning progressions in both Spanish and English. La progresión de la lectura de Renaissance shows you how literacy develops in Spanish across grade levels and domains, as represented in the graphic below. Star Assessments are the only assessments to include authentic learning progressions in Spanish.
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  • Student Growth Percentile (SGP) scores for assessments in Spanish and English, which allow educators to track the amount of growth students are making in both languages.
  • New and enhanced reporting in Spanish and English, to show you what students have learned and identify instructional “next steps.”

With these enhancements for assessing emergent bilinguals, you can teach from an asset-based mindset to ensure that all students are learning and growing, whether the language of instruction is Spanish, English, or both.

Learn more: Read the post on the Product Updates Blog. Also, watch the new webinar—available in both English and Spanish versions—to see how to make the best use of these new Star features. Plus, check out our interview with the webinar presenters, as they discuss six common myths about emergent bilingual learners.

Optimizing reading experiences for every student

You’ve probably had the experience of clicking a link to access something interesting online—only to have to wait impatiently for the website to load. Low bandwidth can be both annoying and frustrating—perhaps to the point where you give up and move on to something else. With so many parents and students now working and learning from home, this experience is more widespread than ever.

Slow load times and the frustration that comes along with it is something we don’t want kids to encounter when they’re reading digital books on myON. To help prevent this, we’ve added lower bandwidth versions of books to our myON collection to help students who are reading in locations with slower internet connections.

Students don’t need to do anything to take advantage of this feature. myON automatically detects low bandwidth and provides access to the lower-bandwidth version of the title, and there is no difference in the student experience. Faster load times are critical in this new educational ecosystem, and quick access to engaging digital books ensures not only a positive reading experience for students but greater access and equity in learning as well.

Learn more: Read the post on the Product Updates Blog. Also, watch our webinar for proven strategies for engaging students in more nonfiction reading, and for effectively pairing fiction and nonfiction texts.

Accessing diverse reading collections

When children read texts that reflect them, their families, their neighborhoods, and their life experiences, it can have a profound effect on self-esteem, engagement, and comprehension. Reading books that portray diverse cultures helps everyone empathize and understand multiple perspectives just a little bit better.

As part of our ongoing commitment to highlighting these perspectives, we’ve recently added four new add-on publishers for myON. These new publishers address issues of diversity and equity, provide insights into and support for social-emotional learning, and include new books in Spanish.

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Also, we know that providing students with access to texts when teaching remotely can be a challenge—especially to books that provide effective cultural mirrors, address social-emotional intelligence, and provide parents and students with the chance to read together in the family’s primary language. With that in mind, we’re committed to continuing to expand myON’s core collection—which is already as large as most school libraries’ collections—in ways that support and reflect every student.

Learn more: Read the post on the Product Updates Blog. Also, check out these tips for finding culturally appropriate reading materials.

Knowing how ALL students are performing

In this anything-but-normal school year, making full use of your assessment data will be especially critical for making the best decisions for your students, schools, and community. With the sudden shift to remote instruction last spring, many schools and districts discovered inequalities in student learning. This raises the question: Are performance gaps widening for our historically underserved students?

With new district-level dashboards powered by Schoolzilla, district leaders can more quickly uncover and address equity issues. Schoolzilla Starter enables you to disaggregate your Star Assessments data to better understand how different student groups are performing, and to identify groups who are not growing on pace with their peers.

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Having quick access to these critical insights helps district and building administrators to focus on what matters most—accelerating growth for every student. And with fall screening data coming in, it’s a great time to explore the enhanced insights provided by Schoolzilla Starter as you set goals for your students and schools.

Learn more: Read the post on the Product Updates Blog. Watch our webinar on analyzing your fall 2020 screening data using Schoolzilla Starter. Also, get helpful tips for setting equitable goals in Star this school year.

Supporting continuous student learning

We recognize that educational technology can’t address all of the challenges that you and your students will face this year. But by providing greater access to engaging, diverse content, and by delivering powerful insights into what students have learned and what they’re ready for next, Renaissance products will help you to keep students engaged and growing—as you work to equitably support great outcomes for every learner.

Stay informed on the latest enhancements to your Renaissance products. Bookmark the Product Updates Blog and check back often for new information and resources.

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