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Bradford County School District

Starke, FL

The Bradford County School District serves the community by providing a quality education so that all students can excel.

Data is incredible. It gives us unparalleled insight, but it also can be confusing and difficult to navigate. In education, it can provide powerful insight into how students are learning and whether they’re growing. However, taking advantage of all that data and making meaning of it can be a real challenge.

Bradford County School District in Starke, Florida, is home to more than 2,800 K–12 students across seven schools—five elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. Despite being sandwiched between Gainesville and Jacksonville, the district is considered rural. A small town, Starke’s population grew in the mid-1800s because of the new railroad being built. Starke has around 5,000 residents and is a smaller town in terms of economic development rate.

All of the district’s schools are Title I schools—with a high free and reduced lunch population. To help combat these challenges, the district provides each student with free breakfast and lunch throughout the year and during summer school. The district is also 1:1 at the high school, providing students with Chromebooks.

The challenge

Actionable data that guides instruction

A long-time Renaissance user, the district uses Renaissance Accelerated Reader®, Renaissance Star Reading®, Renaissance Star Math®, and Renaissance Star Early Literacy®. While students at the district’s elementary schools were gravitating toward books and reading, Sherree Alvarez, the director of school improvement and accountability at the district, noticed that once students moved on to middle school, their data stopped following them. Instead of using reliable data to inform lessons and guide instruction, teachers were making educated guesses. Wanting to change that, she made the push to add Star Reading—which was just being used at the elementary schools—to the district’s middle and high schools.

“I realized our educators didn’t have any actionable data at the middle and high school level,” recalls Alvarez. “Teachers would create their own assessments or use various benchmark assessments, but the data wasn’t really useful in helping to close reading gaps. Nobody was quite sure what to do with it.”

The results

High test results and engaged readers

The change was huge. The addition of Star Reading at the middle and high school level helped teachers pinpoint the challenges students were facing that were going unnoticed. Some students at the high school were reading at middle-school reading levels—some even lower. Students were engaged in reading in elementary school and then stopped or didn’t challenge themselves in middle school.

“We knew that the Star Reading data was reliable. It predicted our overall district proficiency dead on—it was exact,” says Alvarez. “Seeing those results was very, very eye-opening and we knew we needed to plan instruction and intervention accordingly.”

We knew that the Star Reading data was reliable. It predicted our overall district proficiency dead on—it was exact.

Sherree Alvarez, Director of School Improvement and Accountability, Bradford County School District

Now in her third year in her role, Alvarez helps teachers leverage their students’ data…and it’s working. At the end of the 2019 school year, third-grade students went from 47 percent proficiency rate to 59 percent, beating the state average for the first time in years. Teachers are using Star Reading, Star Math, and Star Early Literacy to drive decisions and track progress using the Scale Score increases. Across the district, the assessments helped predict students’ Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) results within 1 to 3 percent for three of the five schools. A big change from just a few years ago.

In addition to making the most of students’ data, Alvarez’s team handles federal projects, curriculum, and professional development for the district’s teachers. That drive to give teachers the right tools spills over to the reading aspect as well. Prior to moving into her current role, Alvarez was a reading coach and she understood how important it was for students to engage in reading independently, a big reason why the district added Renaissance myON® Reader and Renaissance myON® News, powered by News-O-Matic.

Wanting to give students a mix of traditional and digital content, Alvarez and others provided teachers within the district access to these programs. One of the biggest advantages that came to light is that students don’t have to wait for checked-out books to be returned. Instead, multiple students are able to read the same book at the same time. This comes into use not only with popular titles but with small-group instruction and having students read the same book or article together before discussions.

“To be honest, our libraries weren’t being used much,” says Alvarez. “With myON Reader, our students have access to thousands of different books. Students can download books—whether it’s on a Chromebook or something else—and read at home, on the bus, or anywhere they want. It makes it easier to get books in students’ hands.”

With myON Reader, our students have access to thousands of different books.

Sherree Alvarez, Director of School Improvement and Accountability, Bradford County School District

That digital aspect is a big reason students are gobbling up books, too. Around Christmas, the district hosted a competition between schools to encourage reading. Students competed to see who could read the most minutes on myON Reader in a March Madness-style competition. Like the actual tournament, students squeaked past others to the later rounds. The winning student made an impressive comeback and took home first place, edging out the other students with a mere three more minutes of engaged reading.

The combined programs have also created a seamless K–12 parent solution. Families receive a Parent Report using data from the progress monitoring in Star Reading, then are directed to myON Reader and myON News, powered by News-O-Matic, as a way to help increase time spent reading at home.

With students’ data helping guide lessons, instruction, and support, along with a record number of books available and an increase in reading, students at Bradford are on the road to success.

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