Jak było dzisiaj w szkole?
Unfamiliar with the phrase above? It’s “How was school today?” in Polish, just one of the 65 different languages spoken in Clifton, New Jersey. In fact, more than 40 percent of the Clifton Public Schools District’s 11,000 students come from families that speak native languages other than English1—making reading instruction challenging for educators.
Dr. Valerie Kropinack is the district’s supervisor of K–8 Language Arts. She says that Renaissance Star Reading® and Renaissance Accelerated Reader 360® help engage and motivate students of all backgrounds. “I don’t know of any other solutions that would allow us to support such a variety of students and reading levels, including our general education, special education, and English as a Second Language (ESL) learners. Renaissance helps educators tailor instruction to meet individual needs so that every student experiences growth and success. Perhaps most importantly, Renaissance solutions help us build excitement and sustain engagement—that’s especially critical in ensuring ESL students quickly progress to grade-level reading.”
Kropinack adds, “Last year, our students read more than 220,000 books. Using Renaissance solutions, our educators are handily winning the competition against video games and other modern distractions to develop classrooms full of passionate readers.”
The challenge: Build enthusiasm for reading in a diverse population
Clifton Public Schools is a five-zip-code suburban district in Passaic County, New Jersey. Since 2009, Kropinack’s mission has been to help Clifton’s elementary- and middle-school students become enthusiastic readers. But Kropinack says that individualizing instruction can be challenging for teachers who routinely instruct as many as 100 students at widely varying skill levels, including ESL learners at port-of-entry to more advanced proficiency stages. “Without the right assessment solutions, we were reliant on each teacher’s professional learning and judgment. But teachers also represent a range of college backgrounds and experience, so traditional performance assessment methods can lack essential inter-rater reliability.”
Kropinack says that the district has used Renaissance Accelerated Reader® for seven years. “By making it easy for them to find interesting, appropriately leveled books in our media centers, Accelerated Reader opened the doors to new worlds for Clifton students. Three years ago, after a successful pilot, we implemented Accelerated Reader 360. In addition to helping students improve independent-reading skills, the solution provides instructional support. For example, teachers can choose nonfiction articles for students to practice close reading using skills activities—like highlighting and tagging to cite text evidence—built into each article.”
It was during a professional development session with a Renaissance Coach that Clifton teachers discovered Star Reading—and wanted it. Kropinack explains, “Teachers were texting me, asking ‘Why aren’t we using this program?’ We’ve had great success using Accelerated Reader 360, so they immediately recognized the benefits of using it in conjunction with Star Reading. The assessment solution calculates each student’s instructional reading level and zone of proximal development, helping teachers guide their students to appealing books and differentiate instruction in the classroom.”
The results: Accurate and predictive assessments, growth, and passionate readers
Today, Clifton Public Schools has standardized Accelerated Reader 360 across grades 2–11, Star Reading in grades 2–8, and the Renaissance English in a Flash® vocabulary-building program in ESL classes. The district uses Renaissance solutions to inform instruction, progress monitoring and as evidence of within-year growth for student growth objectives (SGOs), help students master New Jersey Student Learning Standards, and predict performance on PARCC2 standardized tests.
Clifton educators administer Star Reading assessments once per marking period during the district’s official benchmark window. Because assessments take just 20–30 minutes, “avid” users who want to inform instruction with even greater immediacy run assessments as often as every four weeks. The Renaissance Data Integrator® service automatically uploads Star Reading data to Clifton’s Realtime Information Technology student information system. The service eliminates weeks of manual setup at the start of the school year and gives teachers nearly real-time access to assessment data. Star Reading provides accurate, reliable results without requiring teachers to become experts in assessment methods and data.
Teachers use students’ assessment results to set goals in Accelerated Reader 360 and to form guided-reading groups. Accelerated Reader 360 helps students engage with more nonfiction texts—a requirement of New Jersey’s Learning Standards—and makes it easier for teachers to remediate skills based on Star Reading data. Kropinack adds, “The solution saves teachers time, dramatically improves their ability to remediate specific skills, and more successfully engages individual readers. We’re no longer relying on a one-size-fits-all approach to classroom instruction.”
“School principals also use the Star Reading data as a highly accurate predictor of results on PARCC tests, and we rely on Star Reading results during supervisors’ round table meetings. The solution gives us a common language for evaluating progress and staying on track with district objectives.”
Growth and passion for reading
Renaissance solutions help educators meet the needs of Clifton’s diverse community, which today includes large Arabic and Spanish populations. Kropinack cites the use of English in a Flash in ESL classes, the availability of Star Reading reports in Spanish, access to a large selection of digital and traditional print content, and the motivational value of letting students self-select texts. “We want students to read—literature, novels, newspapers, comic books, whatever interests them. We’ve watched some of our most reluctant readers—Spanish middle-school boys who happened to be big soccer fans—start out slowly reading sports articles on eBook screens and grow into voracious readers of print books on every imaginable subject.”
“Accelerated Reader 360 helps us meet two important district objectives: 1) increasing students’ use of technology, and 2) helping them develop into adventurous readers who appreciate that reading is a cornerstone of a productive and satisfying life.”
“Clifton Public Schools is truly a Renaissance district. You could measure success by our continually improving statistics—this past year, for example, most students exceeded their SGOs. But perhaps more revealing would be a glimpse into a media center at lunchtime where it’s standing room only with students picking up books. Or watch them walking home. Without backpacks or book bags, they look finished for the day, but most will stop at the library to check out new books. Clifton educators have really developed a culture of engaged, motivated readers. It’s an amazing thing to watch.”
1 Source: http://www.state.nj.us/education/bilingual/resources/slr/model1416.html
2 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career