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Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

Unlocking the value of Star Assessments

River Beach Primary School, Littlehampton

Where it all began

The rationale behind investing in Accelerated Reader over four years ago was simple. We needed to know what children were reading and we wanted them to actually finish books rather than pick them up with no intention of actually reading them! We heard about a local secondary school using Accelerated Reader, so we went to have a look at it, and it all went on from there.

Discovering the value of Star Assessments

Getting rid of paper-based testing

Investing in Accelerated Reader is certainly value for money: not only do you get the reading practice package, but full use of Star Reading assessments too.

Initially, we didn’t realise just what Star Reading could do, and it wasn’t a big reason that we invested in the programme. But over the years it’s proved to be an incredible tool, which has revolutionised the way we carry out our assessments in reading. It was clear from the beginning that Star was giving us far more accurate data than any other means of assessment, and without any extra workload – the data is all there in front of you instantaneously. Since we realised the value of Star, we’ve subsequently gotten rid of all other assessments in reading, including paper-based. Star provides all the information we need effectively and efficiently. Before we used Star Assessments, teachers were wasting time inputting data and marking assessment papers.

“It was clear from the beginning that Star was giving us far more accurate data than any other means of assessment, and without any extra workload.”

Trust-wide implementation

A few years ago, we were fortunate enough to have a visit from Gary Alexander. He’s the deputy headteacher at Battle and Langton CE Primary School and a bit of a veteran when it comes to all thing Star Assessments. He quickly won over all of our SLT to the value of Star and long story short, this eventually led to our entire trust of seven schools buying Star Reading and the corresponding maths assessment, Star Maths!

For primary schools like us, Year 6 SATs results are an incredibly important measure of how well we’re doing. The 17/18 academic year was the first time we received our SATs results after having used Star Assessments throughout the entire year, and we were blown away by how accurate they were at forecasting the results. With the help of Gary, we were able to plot a graph using each of our pupils’ Star scaled scores to predict their SATs results.

The thumbs-up from Ofsted

We knew we were taking a bit of a plunge when we decided to remove all other means of assessment and just use Star, but it was absolutely the right decision. There is no need to be using paper-based assessments alongside Star because it offers everything we need for an accurate and efficient assessment strategy. Another school in our Trust recently received an Ofsted inspection. The lead inspector was really impressed with how Star was used to positively support teachers’ workload in terms of assessment. We’re expecting Ofsted at River Beach soon and I’m looking forward to telling them, confidently, how Star is a huge time-saver!

“There is no need to be using paper-based assessments alongside Star Assessments.”

The Accelerated Reader difference

Seeing “actual results”!

Accelerated Reader (AR) is central to teaching reading at River Beach. As soon as children are fluent in phonics, they’re introduced to AR. Our school is one of the most deprived in West Sussex and until recently, we were never above the national average in reading – in fact, for years, we were always happy if we “only” came a couple of percentage points below! Within a few years of implementing Accelerated Reader, good stuff started to happen with reading on the ground – but in the last two years we’ve been seeing actual results to prove its effectiveness. Last year 78% of children in Year 6 achieved the expected standard in reading compared to a national average of 73%, and the year before we achieved 77%. These numbers really do speak for themselves.

“Last year 78% of children in Year 6 achieved the expected standard in reading compared to a national average of 73%.”

Bringing it all together

Reading every day

Accelerated Reader and Star Reading have both become ingrained into our day to day activities throughout the school. Every child from Years 2-6 have half an hour reading time every day. A lot of schools know that they should give children silent reading time, but it’s often not prioritised as highly as it should be, and can even be seen as a bit of a time filler. We use the Accelerated Reader diagnostic reports to hold conversations about with children about their reading during this time, as well as recommending books and monitoring quizzing. We also set up small intervention groups based on the diagnostic reports.

We don’t let children swap books too regularly. We encourage careful and considered choice so that as much as possible, a book is read until the end. This has made a big difference to the children’s engaged reading time (the diagnostic reports illustrate this).

The reports we can produce from AR and Star allow us to identify children who are obviously not enjoying reading, and therefore implement proactive reading strategies to encourage reading for pleasure.

In November 2019, River Beach Primary School had an Ofsted inspection and were judged to be a Good school. In the report, the Ofsted inspector made specific reference to the school’s reading culture…

Pupils love reading. Pupils and staff talk excitedly about the wide range of books they are reading and sharing in school. Pupils benefit hugely from the well-stocked, well-cared-for library. They use this calm, inviting space regularly, including before school. Pupils independently choose books which accurately match their reading level. They do this easily because of the school’s clear system.

UPDATE

River Beach Primary School are winners at the 2019 Renaissance Awards! They received the Outstanding Achievement Award for primary schools. Judges said:

“This school won the award because of the notable impact Renaissance products have had on transforming the reading culture and approach to assessments within the school, resulting in Ofsted recognition and increasing the use of Renaissance products across the Trust.”


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