Guest Blog #3: Accelerated Reader…Reach for the Stars!

By Joe Neale, English Subject Leader

As the summer term draws to a close, Joe Neale, English Subject Leader at River Beach Primary School, joins us for his final guest blog of this school year. Reflecting back on his journey to get more out of Accelerated Reader by leveraging the assessment power of Star, Joe shares his highlights from the last term and starts to look ahead as to what September might have in store…

Here at River Beach Primary, we’ve worked hard over the past few years to create a reading for pleasure culture and with the support of Accelerated Reader, believe we’ve genuinely achieved this… but it’s only now that we’ve seen these efforts reflected in our SATs results. For the first time in at least the last nine years (since I joined the school), we’ve achieved above the national average in reading.
But we’re not here to teach children to pass a test. We’re here to help them achieve their individual potential. And this year, by using Star Reading more effectively, we’ve succeeded in doing exactly that.
With Star Reading, we’ve been able to more accurately identify those children who needed additional support, so much so that we had 20 children out of a cohort of 90 on targeted intervention programmes. By monitoring their progress and the effectiveness of the interventions closely, we’ve been able to truly tailor the teaching support – this just wasn’t possible before we started using Star Reading to facilitate and inform pupil progress.

Setting a new benchmark

Our positive journey with Star Reading really started when we introduced benchmarks into the programme. By setting ambitious benchmarks, we effectively set a high standard for everyone to achieve, which has now pulled through in terms of the SATs results we have seen.
Those children identified as needing intervention went on to sit Star tests more frequently which enabled us to closely monitor the effectiveness of the programmes in place. The fact that Star tests can be sat in under 20 minutes and don’t require any marking meant that the intervention evaluation was not labour intensive and didn’t negatively impact teacher workload. Just as importantly, as the tests are computer-based, it’s not such a ‘high stakes’ experience for the children. Essentially, we’re using Star for assessment not test practice, these two points are very distinct and shouldn’t be confused.

A progressive journey

We’ve been on a progressive journey with Star Reading and with each step we’ve unlocked a whole host of benefits which have contributed to making our reading assessment much more efficient and effective. However, the single biggest step for me – the game changer in fact – was the introduction of set assessment periods. By having every child sit the test in the same one week window, we’ve now made sure that our assessment data is far more accurate and reliable which means we can confidently use it to make comparisons… and even predictions.
Take this year’s SATs results. Our Star Scaled Scores closely correlate with those children who reached the expected standard, so as we look at the cohorts coming through the school, we can use the data to identify those who are on track or not – and introduce interventions much earlier than we might have otherwise.

Trust gets on board with Star Assessments!

All the other schools in our Academy Trust are also going to be adopting Star, which means going forward we’ll be able to draw comparisons between sites and use this as a means for identifying where we might be able to share best practice.
It has without doubt been a fantastic year and I’m proud of what we have achieved as a school with Star Reading, so much so we’re going to be expanding our assessment to include Star Maths from September. Having seen the impact valid data and detailed reporting has had on supporting our reading progress, we’re keen to apply the same strategy in maths. We also recognise that as part of our next steps it will be important that class teachers become more confident in interpreting data and understanding how this can help them to guide planning, inform personalised learning and ultimately evidence their own assessment judgements.
When looking back over the past school year, I can’t believe we didn’t make more use of Star Reading before. For as long as we’ve had Accelerated Reader, we’ve had access to all the features and functionality of Star Reading… we just didn’t realise the value it could bring before!

If you missed Joe’s first two guest blogs, you can catch up on his journey here:

My journey with Star as an Accelerated reader School…

Going beyond AR with Star…

Joe Neale
English Subject Leader

Joe Neale is the English Subject Leader at River Beach Primary School in West Sussex. He is also the Lead English Teacher for the Schoolsworks Multi-Academy Trust.

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