Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

The Trust with the new Reading and Assessment Strategy

Chiltern Learning Trust, Bedfordshire

Seven schools across the Chiltern Learning Trust have been using Accelerated Reader (AR) and Star Reading from as early as 2005. In this time, the trust as a whole has seen several notes of improvement, including:

      1.  Average Progress 8 Score for disadvantaged pupils for all secondary school users 2018-2019 increased 180% – forecasting an average upper confidence increase of 814% for 2020
      2. Reading Progress Score for Dallow Primary School 2018-2019 increased of 20% – forecasting an average upper confidence increase of 1260% for 2020

Since the impressive progress data published by the Department for Education, we had a look into the trust’s internal Accelerated Reader and Star Reading data across all user schools and, again, the results were incredibly impressive:

  1.  Average AR Quiz % Correct from 2018-2019: 75% – an increase of 1.35% – forecasting an average increase of 0.79% for 2020
  2. Average ZPD Upper Scale 2018-2019: an increase of 16.4% – forecasting an average increase of 14.1% for 2020

Following this, we got in touch with the trust to find out just what their staff and students are doing so well to produce these incredible statistics and how they use Renaissance solutions to maintain them.

Spotlight on: Putteridge High School

For this story, we spoke to Nicola Hickton, Associate Assistant Head and Director of Standards for English in the trust, and Klaudia Jablonska, Literacy Lead at Putteridge High School, who have used Renaissance solutions since 2005.

Here’s what they had to say…

With AR, at the core of it, the data is used to conduct conversations.

Each year, the number of students who choose Putteridge High School increases and this has expanded how we use AR from Key Stage 3 (KS3) up to KS4. AR is used to deliver targeted intervention to pupils – including those in Year 11. It is imperative to us because it can assess literacy benchmarks, providing us with reading ages for each pupil. These benchmarks allow us to take actions and offer interventions based on pupils’ reading ages who are clearly behind their chronological age.

We’ve largely incorporated Accelerated Reader into our English curriculum which means that children exclusively learn about Accelerated Reader books, they learn how to take quizzes, and they will all have a devoted hour in the library, once a week, to read and quiz. We use the data gathered through AR quite extensively. We also upload AR reading ages to SIMs, so that teachers can access their pupils’ reading ages at all times. Not only do we use the valuable data from AR for our own teaching, but we also share it with parents: we provide them with a rough overview of how we use AR and what we students do with it. Being able to share AR data helps all key stakeholders involved in each student’s learning to understand exactly where the student is with reading progress. The comprehensive data enables staff to develop interventions that we feel are necessary to support the student’s cross-curricular development.


On a celebratory level, we present awards to students with high quiz scores and congratulate the top achievers in special assemblies! The students enjoy the various AR competitions that we run. The daily data allows us to share celebrations with students by identifying the top readers in each class or even picking out children who have read a million words! As a trust, we love to celebrate reading and often run activities and events to reinforce the importance of reading. We try to create an ethos of reading for pleasure and progress through strategies such as weekly sessions dedicated to AR quizzes, individualised library sessions, and displays throughout the school and classroom with photos of student word millionaires (students can write their name on a star when they score 100% on the quiz, and display this achievement in their class too). We regularly hold assemblies for students who have recently achieved a new milestone. We also post these achievements on social media too!

At Putteridge, students have grown up with AR, and so it’s a massive part of their educational lives. All children know how to use it – they know about targets, and how they can meet their own unique targets – and the parents quite like this too. Detailed data available from AR allows us to have specific conversations which show each parent exactly how their child is being measured. Consequently, parents understand that their child’s targets are based on their current reading stage and rate of growth. The detailed analysis of student progress in the AR reports can illustrate slow or positive progress for each student. This information allows teachers to construct their intervention and informs other formal reading assessments using both teacher judgement and the data from AR. Dallow Primary School is particularly great at implementing appropriate interventions for students who are falling behind, which is particularly important due to the school having a high proportion of EAL pupils (87%).

Supporting our EAL students to make the best progress they can

With traditional reading lessons, it can be difficult to see student progress or track what pupils are reading to support them in any way. Therefore, we implemented AR to intervene, support and encourage students who are struggling with reading comprehension, and celebrate the achievement of those who are making significant progress.

AR was already in place when I joined Putteridge, but I had an experience of using the programme before I joined the trust. In the last few years, AR and Star Reading have grown massively. Putteridge High School has used AR to raise achievement among our most vulnerable groups of learners such as EAL, SEND or DA pupils. The AR programme is helping us close literacy gaps among our pupils. This is precisely why we originally implemented AR, to support these students with improving reading and literacy and to improve outcomes in general. AR has been around for a very long time, and we still need to develop some aspects further, but we recognise the support it gives with students’ reading and literacy development. It helps us to support students’ reading progress over time. We recognised AR as one of best programmes to do this.”

– Klaudia Jablonska

Some of the EAL students at Putteridge High have newly arrived in the UK, and their grasp of the English language is either minimal or non-existent. As they have missed out on reading teaching in English, a lot of them have to read at KS2 or even KS1 level. Some students that we’ve been working with for years were at the very beginning of English development and therefore couldn’t even get on the reading scale or achieve any essential reading targets. However, by Year 10, they started to see real progress and were regularly achieving their targets. This was a massive achievement after arriving in Year 8 completely unable to speak English.

It’s important to remember that often parents of EAL pupils newly arrived in the country also don’t speak English confidently. There’s a big difference between bilingual students and those without any previous exposure to English language. Those pupils lack the basic elementary teaching of phonics, and secondary schools aren’t often equipped and trained to provide phonics-acquisitional support. Therefore, AR, as a self-run programme, has been very successful and essential for our EAL pupils, who’ve come straight from their country of origin into our schools. The AR programme is definitely one of the reasons they’ve done so well by the end. It can take a long time for some EAL students who’ve gone from failing every quiz and assessment to achieve 10%, but that is a significant achievement. Because of this success, a group of Year 11 EAL pupils were asked to continue on the AR programme until the end of their time at Putteridge to support them during exams.

“Renaissance provides us with a shared language across all schools in the trust.”

AR gives students instant feedback and illustrates the little steps they can take throughout their learning journey, which is great for their morale because it encourages them to keep going. It gives them something tangible, allowing them to see their progress in front of their eyes. We make a point of being open to showing all students their reading ages. Any student in Year 10 will be able to look back at their reading journey from Year 7. AR gives them the motivation to work towards matching their reading age with their actual age. The books available in the library are made more accessible through AR book labels. Bespoke book labels help our most vulnerable students to access the library more confidently. It encourages them to become independent readers because they know what they need to read to make progress.

As a teacher, AR enables me to recommend appropriate reading material to my students, focusing on literacy and AR. There are specific students across all abilities who need support and suggestions to progress. Often, students select thicker books because they believe them to be more challenging, rather than focusing on the book level and complexity of the vocabulary and syntax inside. Equally, some students always select the same genre or author and need redirecting. But with the help of AR, we’re seeing children heading for and really relishing reading the literary classics – it’s brilliant!

Most importantly, AR is a great tool that allows us to have conversations with students, teachers and parents about strategies to further an individual’s reading journey. Targets are personalised, which allows every student to follow their own path and make progress at the right pace.

AR provides us with a shared language and tool across the trust. Collectively, we can discuss strategies and collaborate with each other as to what does & doesn’t work – this increases the overall profile and success of reading within our schools. We are all aware of the power that reading can have upon areas like the acquisition of vocabulary or structural concepts, like how to construct a beautiful piece of writing. Reading really can open doors to writing, comprehension and understanding.”

– Nicola Hickton

Every class can conduct a Star Reading test every term, and from the accurate data provided within the Star Reading reports teachers can pick out students who require further support. The detailed reports allow us to offer appropriate intervention or even speak to the student’s contact at home to find out if they are reading outside of school. We set half-termly targets as well to encourage students to take ownership over their progress: they strive towards collecting points and achieving their personal targets. Any interventions subsequently provided are based on what they have achieved. We keep in constant communication with all relevant stakeholders involved in the student’s development.

As a school, we decided that we wanted to track the Star Reading assessment results on SIMs, all the way back to Year 7. Not all students have a smooth journey, and the reports that  outline each student’s progress are very visual. These illustrative reports are vital in terms of tracking and to support students – the information is clear, concise and practical. We’ve developed a booklet to outline the key points within reports. At the start of each term, each student will be given their termly targets in the front of their reading log sheet: they’re aware of their individual targets and have ownership over achieving them. We monitor this progress closely, including each time they read at home – parents are expected to sign the log sheet, allowing staff to triangulate the information to keep it as up to date and accurate as possible.

We use the Star Reading reports in a variety of ways: for example, the Instructional Planning Report to display a profile of a student’s current and recommended skills. We love this report as it provides progress details and recommended skills for both individual students and the whole class. We then use the report to identify students who need further support. Each student’s teacher is given a copy and they’re encouraged to engage with students’ reading progress where possible. English teachers will even use the reports to develop AR lessons for students. All English teachers across the trust are comfortable with AR and easily able to access it. We’re aware that AR has even more reports and strategies available and look forward to using ones like the Instructional Planning Report more frequently with more staff. The Instructional Planning Report can point to exactly how we’re intervening with specific students, and this especially useful as a developmental literacy tool.

“Now, we see students reading to teachers and their peers. I saw a beautiful photo of a previously reluctant reader and another student reading to each other – they were loving every minute. Rather than being asked to read, now they just are. That particular reluctant reader is now studying ‘Of Mice and Men’ with the rest of their class. AR and Star Reading have increased the confidence and motivation in students as their reading tests show their reading ages going up! It’s wonderful to see how well it’s working with disengaged students who are now loving it.”

– Nicola Hickton

Three boys from Romania arrived to the UK very recently without English at all. Through sheer perseverance of using AR and Star Reading, they’ve made so much progress. They started with a reading age of 5 which we managed to bring up to around that of a Year 9-10. They managed to pass their English functional skills in Level 1. The EAL coordinator used the AR programme with them, setting little targets and building their confidence up over time, which was instrumental to their development. Without the support of AR, these students would struggle to achieve in line with their peers. The students might have left without any qualifications years ago, but now they will leave with GCSEs that they can be proud of – thanks to AR.”

– Klaudia Jablonska

Renaissance at home

Since school closures, we’ve opened the link to AR to students so that they can access it at home. Remote quizzing enables teachers to check on students’ reading progress. We’ve also remotely reset targets and have downloaded top readers’ reports and personalised celebratory certificates to reward students for their efforts. Students might be learning remotely, but they are still able to access all their AR accounts, tools and quizzes – we are very proud of their continued progress!

This is the first edition in a series of stories that focuses on the individual schools throughout Chiltern Learning Trust and their use of both AR/Star Reading before and during school closures. The next will focus on Chiltern Academy in Luton.

For more information on how Renaissance Learning can support your Multi-Academy Trust, click here.

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