State College, Pennsylvania, home to the Penn State Nittany Lions, is a college town through and through. From electric Saturday mornings in Beaver Stadium to a bustling downtown, State College is full of Nittany Lions pride. Located in the center of the state, the city is home to more than 40,000 people and more than 100,000 people in the surrounding region.
State College Area School District, home of the “Little Lions”, serves the area with eight elementary schools, two middle schools, one high school, and one alternative, democratic school for grades 5–12. The district is home to nearly 7,000 K–12 students from a variety of different backgrounds and circumstances. (A little-known fact about the district is that the State College Area High School was the first school in the country to teach drivers’ education in 1958!) While things have changed since then, the district continues to prepare students for success in and out of school—no matter the challenges.
The challenge: Finding a digital reading program that students want to use
Jonathan Klingman, Director of Gifted, Learning Enrichment, and Title I Services for the district, knew this fall would be unique. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing districts across the nation to make tough decisions, State College implemented a hybrid classroom model, giving students and their guardians the option to have students learn remotely or attend school in-person (with social distancing, of course.)
With students learning in different environments this fall and different circumstances from family to family, Klingman and his colleagues knew edtech would play a key role in keeping students, guardians, and teachers all connected.
Familiar with Renaissance, Klingman had used myON at a former school district when he was a principal a few years ago. When he accepted his current role at State College, the district had some wiggle room to add a couple of supplemental programs for title schools within the district.
The digital aspect of myON stood out to Klingman then, and it came to mind when searching for supplemental programs again. Plus, he remembered the students enjoying the books, and their authentic enthusiasm around the program.
Taking the plunge, the team rolled out myON to a few elementary schools in the district to test the waters—giving students a different option for reading. The initial results couldn’t have been more promising.
The results: Engaged students who read in and out of school
Mount Nittany Elementary School, one of the eight elementary schools in the district, is K–5 and has a diverse group of students with different needs. The school has English as a Second Language (ESL) students, autistic support students, learning support students, Title I students, and more.
One of the schools new to myON and myON News, teachers at Mount Nittany were impressed.
“myON has proven to be a great support for teaching and learning with our fifth-grade students,” stated Karen Styers, a fifth-grade teacher at Mount Nittany. “myON quickly became a ‘go-to’ for students. The relationship between learning content-specific information and increasing connections in both literary texts and other nonfiction texts has been evident in our book talks, along with science and social studies work or projects.
“myON quickly became a ‘go-to’ for students.”
Fifth-grade teacher, Mount Nittany
“Last year, I saw a great deal of growth with our students analyzing tone and mood; author’s purpose; and how the setting supports character development,” continued Styers. “Students’ informational writing improved as they used myON throughout the year, and their narrative writing also improved through myON and the assignments.”
“Last year, I saw a great deal of growth with our students analyzing tone and mood; author’s purpose; and how the setting supports character development.”
Fifth-grade teacher, Mount Nittany
And with this fall being so unique, teachers at Mount Nittany point to myON being a great remote learning resource—especially the myON projects that teachers can create and assign to their students to complete at home or in the classroom. The district’s IT department even told Klingman that myON is one of the most-used programs right now!
Amanda Nyman, a reading specialist at Mount Nittany, echoed her colleagues. She knew that for myON to truly be successful with students at home this fall, it was important to keep guardians in the loop, too.
“We’ve had informational sessions across the district,” said Nyman. “We’ve even been informing parents using some of the professional development from Renaissance, letting them know how they can use myON. I think that excitement and the extra element of everything at home has allowed myON to take off.”
“I think that excitement and the extra element of everything at home has allowed myON to take off.”
Reading Specialist, Mount Nittany
Diverse, high-interest reading options have been a large reason why students are reading on myON—providing thousands of digital books that are relevant to students’ lives and up-to-date.
“A lot of classroom reading used to be based on science and social studies units, but a lot of our physical reading materials were very outdated and students struggled to find books,” added Nyman.
In addition to providing relevant content, teachers like Styers are using myON News to provide age-appropriate news articles for students. In Styers’ classroom, she has students create a “Room 201 News Correspondent Report.” Each day, a student is assigned to report to the class on a topic that is relevant to their lives, both in the school and for the community. Having a reliable and trusted source for news has helped her students find success and identify new interests, along with discovering issues that have inspired activism.
Klingman points to the group at Mount Nittany as prime examples of how myON can be used throughout the district in the coming years.
“Mount Nittany is leading the pack,” said Klingman. “Once we get a bit more training for others in the district, there’s going to be a competitive nature between the other schools.”
“Once we get a bit more training for others in the district, there’s going to be a competitive nature between the other schools.”
Director of Gifted, Learning Enrichment, and Title I Services,
State College Area School District
When looking to the future, Klingman points to the successful slow and steady rollout of myON and ensuring the district’s teachers can continue using myON with their students—whether it’s in-person or remotely.
“myON is an important resource that our teachers are using this fall,” concluded Klingman. “And we’re pretty excited about the future.”