Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

Improving GCSE results by focusing on literacy

Pendle Vale College, Nelson, Lancashire

When we first implemented Accelerated Reader, we were looking to focus more heavily on reading and literacy, and felt that the programme would give us the means to track reading and ensure that books being taken out were actually being read and understood.

As part of our push towards literacy, we have a ‘books-in-bags’ policy.  Every student is expected to carry a reading book with them at all times, just like any other piece of vital school equipment.  This also means that, even in lessons outside of English, if a student finishes early then their teacher can tell them to take out their book and read.  We also schedule 10 minutes of independent reading time at the start of every English lesson, and in form time every morning.  We also make sure to share Accelerated Reader data with form tutors every week.  They then know about students’ targets, who’s reading and who isn’t, and can then work with these students during form time.

“Our best results ever!”

Last year, the first Year 7 group to participate in Accelerated Reader when we first brought it in completed their GCSEs.  We achieved our strongest results ever, and definitely feel that Accelerated Reader contributed.

We’ve seen big improvements in reading for enjoyment with the programme.  Boys in particular are very much on board with the programme now, many of whom would not normally be reading given the choice.  We in the library do tend to read a lot of the books as well, and are able to have meaningful discussions with students, and recommend books, as a result.  Students often come to us and tell them how much they like a book they are reading, and we hear cheers when they get 100% on the quiz of a book they’ve enjoyed.

We use a lot of incentives, based on Accelerated Reader data and milestones, to encourage reading further.  When a student achieves 90 or 100% in a quiz 16 times, they receive merits.  When they hit their target, we send a congratulatory text to their parents at home.  We hold termly raffle draws for students achieving 90 and 100%, featuring seasonal prizes.  We have a word millionaire club, and children reaching a million words receive badges, certificates and a ‘jump the lunch queue’ pass.  We hold achievement assemblies, and recognise students’ accomplishments with book tokens, books and e-readers.  We’re currently running an initiative called ‘Around the World in 80 Books’.  We label selected books, and when students read them and get over 80% in their quiz they receive merits and prizes.

It’s well known that students often don’t keep up with their reading as they move from KS2 to KS3.  Because we’ve made reading so prominent, with the Head stating that 30 minutes of home reading is expected every day, and by focusing on establishing reading as a habit, we’ve made sure that when they get to KS4 they aren’t making up for three years of lost reading.

Closely monitoring student progress

We regularly check Student Records within Accelerated Reader.  We can see what books they are reading, what level they are reading at and how they are performing with quizzes.  If any concerns emerge we can then flag these up with teachers to be addressed in class.

We make use of Renaissance Star Reading™ alongside Accelerated Reader, which we administer every term.  We frequently use the growth report within Star, which breaks down the progress each student has made between tests.  We share it regularly with teachers, and it’s used at parents’ evenings to discuss student progress.  If we notice students making poor growth, we can look at their recent test results in more detail in other reports and look at their Accelerated Reader data.  We can then pinpoint the reason they aren’t making expected progress – if for instance they’re rushing the Star test, or are reading books below their level.

Emboldening reading in school

We have so many reading success stories now.  One of our Year 8 students has read over 10 million words this year, we have over 90 word millionaires and KS3 have read over 10,000 books this year!  Parents mention how surprised they were when they noticed their child had taken up reading again.  They’ve become much more confident with reading.  Students are more willing to read out loud in lessons; everyone is reading and everyone has a book in their bag, so there’s no stigma around reading and no-one is picked on.  A lot of the initiatives we’re running, like Around the World in 80 Books, are encouraging them to read out of their comfort zone and try harder and longer books – which we want to continue long into the future.


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