October 8, 2021
The COVID-19 disruptions have accelerated a process that was already well underway. Teaching and learning are no longer confined to brick-and-mortar classrooms and face-to-face interactions. Instead, technology allows teachers and students to connect from anywhere—and helps teachers to provide personalized, engaging experiences for learners at all grade levels, both in and out of the classroom. This is continuous learning.
This school year, you’ll find new features and resources in your Renaissance products to support learning everywhere it happens. This blog provides a summary of the recent enhancements. You’ll find the full details on our Product Updates Blog, which we invite you to bookmark and revisit throughout the year for the latest news and updates.
Prioritizing instruction with Focus Skills
Focus Skills are the most critical literacy and math skills at each grade level, based on your state’s standards of learning. Focus Skills are embedded in our Star Assessments and are also freely available to all educators on our website, in both English and Spanish.
Focus Skills have been updated for the 2021–2022 school year to reflect any changes to state standards. This ensures that you’re seeing the most up-to-date information as you review these important skills, which span pre-K to grade 12. Because the COVID-19 disruptions have significantly impacted students’ math performance, we’ve also identified the math Focus Skills that are most difficult for students to learn. We refer to these challenging skills as Trip Steps. As you plan instruction this year, use the list of Trip Steps to identify skills that may require additional time and additional practice for student mastery.
Learn more: Explore the updates to Focus Skills in a short video. See how Focus Skills support accelerated learning. Discover how we identified Trip Steps and why they’re so critical to math recovery this school year.
Supporting high school math practice with Freckle
With all of the challenges impacting learning over the last year and a half, students at all grade levels will benefit from additional math practice at their just-right level. Now students in high school can benefit from using Freckle for math—the same engaging Freckle practice that teachers and students alike love, but with a more mature interface designed just for them.
Freckle for high school math includes practice for Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2, and allows students to work on the content they need, in the environment that’s right for them (in school, at home, or even on the go).
Freckle encourages independent math practice with real-time instructional supports and varied item types. You can assign targeted practice aligned with instruction and course-specific standards, and you can accelerate student growth by assigning prerequisite skills. Additionally, when Freckle is used with Star Math, students are automatically recommended K–8 Focus Skills to close learning gaps.
And Freckle’s in-depth reporting on high school skills progress helps you to gain greater insight into student proficiency and plan your next steps for instruction.
Learn more: See the features that are unique to Freckle for high school math. Create a free Freckle account—or learn about upgrading to Freckle Premium to unlock additional features and reports.
Boosting reading motivation with Accelerated Reader
Keeping students motivated to read both in and out of school, with plenty of access to books and clear reading goals, is key for literacy growth. Whether they’re at home during summer and holiday breaks, or they’re learning from home or hybrid environments, students can quiz at home with AR to stay motivated and on track.
The magic of Accelerated Reader happens when students achieve appropriate goals specifically set for them. They’re encouraged to keep reading and striving for the next benchmark. Their literacy skills continue to shine with increased authentic reading practice. This year, Accelerated Reader offers enhanced goal-setting features to make this even more straightforward for both educators and students.
Educators will find a streamlined process for setting reading goals, along with more intuitive navigation in the AR Record Book. Students will notice enhancements to the AR interface—particularly beginning readers, who will see a clearer, more visual representation of their reading goals and progress.
Learn more: Explore the new AR interface for beginning readers. See why AR is so relevant for today’s students. Get tips for using AR to engage reluctant readers in middle school.
Supporting Spanish and English instruction with Star
Every educator knows that some grade-level skills are more critical to students’ future success than others. As noted earlier, we call these Focus Skills, which are embedded in both the English and Spanish versions of Star Assessments.
If you’re teaching in an English Learner, dual-language, or immersion program, then it’s important for you to understand and build upon what your emergent bilingual students already know in both Spanish and English. That’s why Star includes a variety of helpful resources for educators. This school year, you have access to a new resource guide in both languages, which shares ideas related to vocabulary, conceptual knowledge, and Spanish language development to support your instructional planning in pre-K to grade 3. The guide also identifies transferable skills between the two languages.
In addition, for students in grades 1–8, Star Assessments in Spanish now provide score projections as well, as shown in the image below. These projections help you to understand whether students are on track for meeting benchmarks and how much growth they’re likely to achieve. Having this information early in the school year will help you to plan and adjust instruction, and to provide additional support where it’s needed most.
Learn more: Explore Star Assessments in Spanish for early literacy, reading, and math. See 6 common myths about emergent bilingual students. Take a closer look at transferable skills in Star.
New goal options, ROI, and Spanish field test in Star CBM
Teachers and students alike have embraced the flexibility and versatility of Star CBM, which offers measures for both reading (K–6) and math (K–3). Whether you’re administering assessments remotely or in-person, the one-to-one experience provides an opportunity to spend valuable time with students while they demonstrate their skills.
Student assessment data from Star CBM measures is easier to review and interpret with recent enhancements. You can now set more than one goal for each student to track progress on multiple measures. Viewing the new rate of improvement (ROI) calculation provides a precise, clear indication of growth over time. Additionally, when a student takes an out-of-grade measure, you’ll now see a green checkmark displayed in the Record Book when their score meets expectations for the nearest benchmark available.
To support educational equity, we’re also developing Star CBM Reading Español, which is designed to support K–6 students receiving instruction in Spanish with the goal of biliteracy. Educators from across the US are participating in the field test of Star CBM Reading Español this school year. Field testing is a crucial part of the process of developing a psychometrically robust assessment tool that is valid and reliable.
Learn more: Watch a short video overview of Star CBM. Explore how to use Star CBM to support both in-person and remote assessment.
Enhanced progress monitoring with Schoolzilla
With students returning to school this fall after a very challenging year, there’s no doubt school leaders and teachers are trying to determine where their students are academically and what they need to do to help make up for lost instructional time. Gathering data to inform daily instruction is critical at this time of year so you can quickly identify which students are in need of support.
Earlier this year, we introduced a new feature in Schoolzilla that gives you an at-a-glance view of how students performed from one period to the next. Using new progress indicators in the Our Students dashboard, you can assess recent changes to individual student performance, as shown in the image below. For example, not only will you see what percentile a student scored on an assessment, but also how many points this percentile score increased, decreased, or stayed the same since the last assessment. This additional data point makes it easier to find areas of strength, as well as identify opportunities for growth.
Learn more: Get more details on how this new progress monitoring feature works. See how you can use data throughout the school year to ensure continuous learning for every student.
Promoting anytime, anywhere learning
In addition to these enhancements, students have access to hundreds of new titles in myON this fall, so they can more easily discover their next great read.And educators continue to ask us great questions about the latest additions to the Renaissance family: Lalilo, for foundational literacy practice in school and at home, and Nearpod, an interactive instructional platform that merges formative assessment and dynamic media for live and self-paced learning experiences both in and out of the classroom.
There’s no doubt that schools and districts face a number of challenges this year, from making up lost instructional time to preparing to pivot from in-person to remote instruction and back, based on changes to local conditions. Rather than adding to these challenges, your educational programs should offer a solution, supporting a seamless transition between in-school and at-home instruction in order to support learning wherever it occurs.
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 professional development for the new year, click the button below. We’re here to help.