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Product Highlights: Supporting early learners (and more)

Summer is finally here! For many educators, this provides an opportunity to look back at the school year that just ended—and to look ahead to the new school year as well. In that spirit, we’d like to share recent and upcoming enhancements to your Renaissance products. We’ll focus specifically on new features that support early learners, who were especially impacted by the COVID-19 disruptions.

If you haven’t already, we invite you to watch our Summer 2021 Renaissance Roadmap Report, presented by Todd Brekhus and Dr. Scott McConnell. We also invite you to bookmark our Product Updates Blog for the latest news and information throughout the year.

Introducing Lalilo

This spring, we were thrilled to welcome Lalilo to the Renaissance family. Lalilo is an online program that is built on Science of Reading research and that makes foundational reading development fun for K–2 learners.

As students journey through playful, engaging worlds, Lalilo systematically presents them with activities focusing on phonics, comprehension, sight words, word families, grammar and conventions, and vocabulary—based on the student’s individual needs. Students earn treasures after completing a series of activities and badges as they master a skill, which unlock stories to read for pure enjoyment.

We know teachers are the experts on their students, so Lalilo also includes powerful dashboards that put a wealth of learning data and performance metrics at your fingertips. Whether by assigning lessons to students, observing whole-class trends, or tracking progress against national reading standards, Lalilo gives you insights to better differentiate reading instruction for your early learners.

This summer, our team is taking that data even further by building a new Administrator dashboard that will provide an in-depth overview of the foundational literacy development for your entire school or district.

Learn more: Get more details on the student and teacher experience in Lalilo. See the research foundation for Lalilo’s pedagogical approach. Create a free account to explore what Lalilo has to offer your early learners.

New myON placement process

This summer, you’ll see a new myON placement test that’s powered by Star Reading. This new placement is quick and efficient for students, meaning they can access just-right digital books more quickly than ever. The new placement also provides administrators with flexible administration options. By default, students below grade 2 don’t receive the placement test at all, so they can immediately begin to explore books in myON.

myON is also a great resource for children in preschool and pre-K programs. With more than 1,200 titles appropriate for pre-K, myON supports emerging and early readers on a wide range of topics students will love. Titles also feature natural-voice audio narration, to model fluency and capture young children’s attention. Each word in myON is highlighted as the book is read, supporting read-along and early literacy development. Associated short quizzes help teachers to monitor children’s comprehension.

Learn more: Explore the new myON placement process. Watch our recent myON webinar, which includes a helpful Q&A about the new placement process. Explore the benefits for early learners of the natural-voice audio in myON.

Coming soon: AR Friends

As we celebrate 35 years of Accelerated Reader, we’ve also been implementing new ideas based on educators’ feedback. For example, you told us that K–2 students sometimes struggle with understanding AR points and how point totals are calculated.

To support a more motivating experience for early learners, we’ve created a new goal-setting feature called AR Friends. AR Friends uses virtual stickers and tokens to give the youngest readers a clearer, more visual representation of their reading goals and progress. 

What makes AR Friends so motivating? Instead of using AR points to measure reading quantity, AR Friends helps students to celebrate each book they read. Counting the total number of books is an easier metric for beginning readers to understand. AR research and best practices are still active behind the scenes to recommend how much reading students should be completing. 

Student comprehension also remains an important metric, but AR Friends de-emphasizes the concept of Average Percent Correct. Averages can be difficult for younger students to understand, especially students who are just learning to read. The AR Friends model pauses students after they complete a quiz to focus on how they did on that specific quiz. Students who earn a 100 percent will see a trophy icon instead of a star, as an extra way to celebrate their success.

Teachers will have the option of using AR Friends with their youngest readers beginning in Fall 2021. We’ll share more details soon on the Product Updates Blog.

Learn more: Watch a short introduction to AR Friends. See more upcoming enhancements to the AR Record Book and goal-setting features.

Unified Scale in Star Assessments

Beginning in August, most educators will see the Star Unified Scale as the default for the English and Spanish versions of Star Early Literacy, Star Reading, and Star Math. The Unified Scale provides improved measurement precision on a consistent, common scale across all Star computer-adaptive assessments. Because the Unified Scale spans the range of skills measured by both Star Early Literacy and Star Reading, you’ll also find it much easier to measure student achievement and growth as students transition from emergent readers to independent readers.    

The Unified Scale doesn’t change the content of the assessment; it just provides a more precise and continuous scale on which to measure student performance.

Note that the Star Enterprise Scale will still be available during the 2021–2022 school year. It will be retired prior to back-to-school 2022.

Learn more: Get more details on transitioning to the Unified Scale. Access shareable resources about the Unified Scale, including a video overview, answers to common questions, and guidance on using this scale with K–3 students.

Focus Skills for Spanish reading

At Renaissance, we recognize the differences between learning to read in English and learning to read in Spanish. We also understand that students must have the opportunity to show what they know and are ready to learn in the context of literacy acquisition in their home language.

Over the past several years, we’ve worked to design and enhance our Star Assessments to give you the data you need to make informed decisions for students who are learning in two languages. This includes creating a research-based learning progression for Spanish reading, and identifying both Focus Skills and transferable skills in Spanish at each grade level. All of these resources are available within Star Assessments.

In our effort to shape the future of emergent bilingual learners, we’re pleased to also make Spanish Focus Skills available on our website to every school and district. Spanish Focus Skills span pre-K through grade 12. You can view Spanish Focus Skills for each grade level online, and you can download a helpful workbook listing all Spanish Focus Skills for your state. Within the workbook, Focus Skills are organized by grade level and domain.

Learn more: Explore Star Assessments in Spanish. Watch our webinar on assessing emergent bilingual learners. See 6 common myths about this population of students.

Star CBM for Reading and Math

In Fall 2020, we were pleased to introduce curriculum-based measures for reading (K–6) and math (K–3) as part of the Star Assessments suite. These measures are brief (60 seconds), engaging, and can be used for both screening and progress monitoring, with multiple equated forms of each measure provided.

Star CBM Reading also includes Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN) measures, which are commonly used as a screening tool for characteristics of dyslexia and other reading difficulties. Like other Star CBM measures, the RAN measures can be administered either online or in print, and are suitable for both in-person and remote learning environments.

We recognize that younger learners may have a difficult time understanding their growth and skill development. The audio recording feature in Star CBM provides a way to help them understand and celebrate the growth they’ve made. You can play back recordings of prior administrations for up to two years to demonstrate to students how far they’ve come.  

The new Star CBM Data Insights Dashboard is a great way to track your assessment usage and results. Check screening progress, performance against grade-level benchmarks, and movement between benchmark categories from one convenient place.  

Additionally, throughout the 2021–2022 school year, we’ll be field testing Star CBM Reading measures in Spanish to help you cultivate growth for your emergent bilingual learners. These new measures are being built by experts and administered to students across the country to assure high quality design, reliable scores, and actionable data for planning instruction.

Learn more: Take a closer look at Star CBM Reading and Star CBM Math. Explore the research behind Star CBM. See how educators are using Star CBM alongside the computer-adaptive Star Assessments.

Focus Skills practice mode in Freckle

During the 2020–2021 school year, many teachers covered less content than in the past, given the COVID-19 disruptions and the challenges posed by remote learning. This raises an obvious question: How can you help to ensure that students are working toward grade-level proficiency? This is especially pressing for early learners, who may have spent more of their time learning remotely than in a traditional classroom setting.

If you’re using Freckle Premium along with Star Assessments, then students in grades 2–8 have access to Focus Skills practice mode. This offers a unique way to fast-track students’ grade-level math and/or ELA competencies by focusing on the most critical skills—those that are essential to their progress.

Focus Skills practice mode does not require assignment creation. Students simply log in to Freckle and select the “Focus Skills” option. They will then be given a practice session specific to their current needs. If students struggle, their next practice session adapts to incorporate that Focus Skill’s prerequisites. Proficiency can still be achieved through high accuracy in the prerequisite practice sessions. Freckle provides immediate positive feedback by celebrating students who demonstrate proficiency on a Focus Skill with an animated summary screen.

You can monitor students’ practice on Focus Skills from the Math Standards and ELA Standards pages, which include an “Only show Focus Skills” filtering option.

Learn more: See the student experience with Focus Skills practice mode for math. Get tips for using Freckle to support summer learning. Discover how a middle-school teacher uses Freckle inside and outside the classroom to promote grade-level proficiency in math.

Looking ahead to the new year

Even though it’s only June, we’re already working on back-to-school resources for your Renaissance products. You’ll be able to access these resources on our website later this summer. We’d also ask administrators to start thinking about your school or district’s professional development needs for the fall. We offer a variety of professional learning options, including sessions that focus on early learning. We’re happy to discuss your specific needs—and to answer any questions about using your Renaissance products to accelerate student learning in the new school year.

If you haven’t already, bookmark our Product Updates Blog for the latest news and resources. To learn more about any of our products, or to discuss your professional development options, click the button below. We’re here to help.

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