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Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

Transforming the way our Trust supports learning

David Ross Education Trust, Schools across the UK

Having implemented Accelerated Reader (AR) at a previous trust, I knew how effective the programme could be when used with fidelity. When I first joined the David Ross Education Trust (DRET) in January 2018 I quickly saw that all staff recognised that reading was key to educational attainment and success in life, but we needed a resource that could motivate and support both students and teachers with reading progress. AR was by far the most comprehensive programme that did just that. Therefore, I made it one of my first priorities to introduce AR. So, rather than just saying “Here are some books, read them,” with we can give teachers, support staff, and leaders the valuable information they need, on every pupil, in every class, to enable them to support their individual reading progress.

By identifying a unique Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) for each student, AR encourages even the most reluctant readers to know which book to read next. All books in our libraries now have ZPD labels to help students find books within their corresponding range. AR gives us lots of additional data, such as number of words/books read per student. All information is comparative to their peers, so we’re now able to see who is reading and how much progress they’re making.

“The data from AR and Star Reading allows me to look at student progress data at individual school and student-level, as well as across the trust.”

AR helps us ensure that every teacher in every school has access to pupil progress data. Accessing and understanding AR data enables teachers to contextualise their own class’s progression as well as year group and school-wide analysis. Seeing this data from a trust-wide perspective allows me and other senior leaders to pinpoint exactly where the programme is most useful for different demographics and schools. It also illustrates which continuous professional development (CPD) we need to provide for students and staff. For instance, the data might tell us that students with special education needs are not making enough progress, and so we could inform the relevant staff and provide additional CPD in this area.

From a whole school and whole trust perspective, all staff now have access to all pupil reading ages, and the data goes onto our trust-wide MIS programme. Every teacher is aware of their students’ reading ages, and this allows them to tailor lesson resources around the unique needs and requirements of their students. The information we receive from AR and Star Reading reports enables lessons throughout the trust to be more productive. The data allows us to tailor our conversations with students and establish what exactly they need to progress in their reading and how the teacher can support this.

A trust-wide policy

AR has allowed us to address reading across all schools every day. Schools now practice ‘Drop Everything and Read’ (DEAR) time: a dedicated twenty minutes for children to read their current books and take AR quizzes to promote optimal reading development. All curriculum time across English lessons throughout the trust in Years 7 and 8 now incorporates AR in some way. Schools are also using AR in other subjects outside of English: for example, staff in maths and science now know how to use AR and track ZPD progress. We wanted to ensure that everyone across the trust knows how to have conversations about reading with students. AR has been crucial to reading becoming a community-wide resolution.

As part of our trust-wide reading strategy, teachers act as reading role models in lessons and form time to model fluent and expressive reading so students can listen and follow along; this is a strategy we’re implementing across the whole trust to ensure students have consistency. Form time is also crucial for students to practice reading and utilise AR, so across the trust we ensure all form tutors receive Accelerated Reader CPD.

The expectations for form time are clear. Teachers:

  • model reading themselves, or
  • listen to students read, or
  • have conversations with their tutees about their reading and book choices.

“Reading for us is about social justice; it’s about young adults being able to access literature and function as competent, confident adults in our society.”

These expectations ensure that students maintain the respect and value for reading that they need. We’re now supporting this process in form time by studying etymology with students as part of our Word of the Week programme. Teachers also talk about what they’re currently reading and display this on classroom doors and walls. Again, teachers role-modelling a healthy reading culture is a critical element in making the AR programme successful throughout our trust.

At DRET, we believe that if you’re going to be serious about reading, then reading must be explicitly addressed in every subject. Every assessment, every test, and every exam has an element of grammar and reading, especially in GCSE exams. For students to properly understand and contextualise exam questions, they must first be proficient readers. Reading for us is about social justice; it’s about young adults being able to access literature and function as competent, confident adults in our society. Ultimately, becoming a proficient reader improves their life chances; that’s why, at DRET, we’re not just teaching students how to read, we’re fostering a love of reading. With Accelerated Reader and having access to students’ reading ages, the teaching of reading becomes more explicit and effective.

So, reading is vital to exam preparation across the curriculum. But above and beyond this, reading is a gateway to accessing different subjects. If students want suitable employment and a good education, being literate and having cross-subject knowledge is precisely what employers and universities want to see. It’s crucial to educate a young adult to be a global citizen. Therefore, we want our students to be well-read and articulate; we want them to have access to reading across the entire curriculum and genres. Accelerated Reader supports that opportunity to explore texts and articles on subjects that they may otherwise have never heard of before. And these are texts that fundamentally may never have been accessed at all if the student weren’t a proficient reader.

Bespoke CPD worth its weight in gold

Accelerated Reader CPD is central to the programme being implemented and used effectively. When the Renaissance Special Projects team run one of their brilliant training sessions, all the reading leads from every school get together to be involved. From this training, we can then share Accelerated Reader and Star Reading ideas and practical sessions across the trust. The CPD sessions provided by Renaissance are worth their weight in gold. There are some logistical issues around attending CPD events because DRET staff are scattered all over the country, but despite this, we’ll travel miles to attend these sessions: including driving from Northampton to Skegness on a Monday morning! That’s how valued Renaissance professional development is by our staff.

“[Renaissance] have been absolutely fantastic – they work tirelessly to support me, librarians, AR leads, and the rest of the trust.”

The Special Projects team have been absolutely fantastic – they work tirelessly to support me, librarians, AR leads, and the rest of the trust. They’ve provided the trust with some of our best strategies, including delivering competitions and displays. Additionally, the Special Projects team will advise on the best reports to use with student data analysis. They have helped me out with data and putting spreadsheets together so many times – we wouldn’t be where we are without their help. When I phone them we get a response straight away, and nothing is too much trouble – they’re so knowledgeable and friendly and genuinely wonderful.

Synchronised data across the trust 

The data provided by Star Reading allows me to send a monthly email to all school principals comparing Student Growth Percentiles (SGP). SGPs allow us to look at the percentage of students quizzing and how much they’re progressing, compared to their peers of the same age or ability. I’ll also send them the assessment data provided within the Star Reading reports. The same information and data go to our deputy CEO, who then shares this with the executive board. I’ll often get an email from principal whose % participation has gone down from last month and they’ll follow-up with their immediate strategy to reverse this!  Often school leaders can be really stretched with everything they have to balance, but sharing this information allows me to meet with school leaders and more effectively advise how they can be offering intervention strategies to support students and to support them in keeping AR and reading a priority for their staff and students.

Accurate information to support analysis

Currently, we’re trialling a trust-wide data analytics dashboard system by Novatia. As a trust, we can see what’s working and what’s not working, we can see who is making progress and who isn’t, and the Star Reading reports make information relevant and meaningful. All of our schools carry out termly Star Reading assessments, and the Novatia dashboard can then pull all that together. I would say using the same assessments across the board and having Novatia collate that information is invaluable. Without both Star Reading’s simple data and the Novatia dashboard to summarise it, manually collating that information would be too difficult and time-consuming.

Star Reading is the basis for everything; we use the test as a baseline for students to establish where they are in comparison to the national average. It also shows us the progress of individual students and what they must yet develop. All students across all schools sit a Star Reading assessment in the first three weeks of starting, which then gives us an accurate measurement of their progress throughout the year. Most importantly, the data is key to decision-making processes. Star Reading baseline data allows teachers and leaders to identify those students who might need extra reading or phonics lessons. Almost 30% of Year 7s come to us with a non-secondary-ready reading age. Once we identify students who aren’t reading well, our priority is to help them get back on track and to unlock the rest of the curriculum.  Ofsted were also impressed with Star Reading data and how it allows teachers and leaders to be confident in their knowledge of students’ ability, and in particular how the data illustrates the significant impact that AR is having on our Special Educational Needs and Pupil Premium Students.

“Star Reading is invaluable for our trust; it shifts the way we look at in-class support by identifying gaps in learning and progress.”

Star Reading, in that sense, is invaluable for our trust; it shifts the way we look at in-class support by identifying gaps in learning and progress. The data makes us aware of students who are in urgent need of support or ‘on watch’. These are the students we’d expect schools to be monitoring and supporting by, for example, school leaders asking staff to hear those students reading aloud. I can see these vulnerable groups from a trust-wide level and hone in on individual schools to check that they are aware of vulnerable groups. Having this data at a trust-wide level also makes it easier to discuss what strategies school leaders are going to set for intervention.

Star Reading data is fundamental to decision making at the trust level as it allows central senior leaders to see which schools are making the biggest difference in progress so we can share these successful initiatives with all other schools across the trust. Renaissance solutions have been transformational in terms of creating a thriving reading culture across our trust.

“Renaissance solutions have been transformational in terms of creating a thriving reading culture across our trust.”

To find out how Renaissance can support your Multi-Academy Trust, click here.


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