Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

On the Road to Recovery

Christ the Redeemer Primary School, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Christ the Redeemer School have been using Renaissance solutions for over a decade. In the midst of a global pandemic with schools across Northern Ireland being forced to partially close their doors to pupils, the school continue to maintain high levels of reading engagement and staff have managed to avoid seeing too big of a drop in learning based on recent assessment data. The school even faced an inspection at the halfway point of the pandemic and were still able to produce an accurate and detailed analysis of their pupils’ progress and subsequent teaching strategies to support those who had dropped off in both reading and mathematics.

We speak to Vice Principal Neil and P5 Teacher Darren, who have both marinated strong usage of Renaissance solutions throughout what has arguably one of the most destructive years in their educational careers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Neil states that the school invested in Accelerated Reader (AR) and Star Reading (SR) in 2012 to motivate children to read due to the high social deprivation in the local area. He outlines the complex demographics at the school consisting of 22% of children are registered as SEND pupils, and roughly 50% are in receipt of free school meals. Neil claims that if it weren’t for both programmes, the school would struggle to motivate pupils to read at all as previously, reading was very unregulated. Neil suggests that it was hard to track reading development in any way other than guided reading in literacy lessons.

Neil suggests that the school has seen the same impact from Star Maths (SM) for the pupils using all Renaissance solutions from P5 -7. There is now a much greater level of independence and self-motivation with maths development. Neil outlines that pupils are now more aware of what they need to do when they get into their maths lessons. He indicates that pupils now understand that they’ve got to work towards their current target outlined by Star Maths. Additionally, Neil has observed that staff see most pupils recognising and understanding their unique benchmark and what they need to do to progress their knowledge in maths.

Neil explains that because of the impact of Star Reading and Star Maths, in Key-Stage 2, the school now work on a seven weekly planner, which consists of six weeks of teaching and an assessment week seven. Neil states that the school will analyse Star Reading and Star Maths data in the assessment week. Staff will then use the subsequent reports to inform further teaching and planning supporting the pupils who have seen minor progress in the six-week time frame.

“Star Reading and Star Maths, help staff set personal targets for each pupil.”

Darren explains that Renaissance solutions, including SR and SM, help staff set personal targets for each pupil. He elaborates by suggesting that the collective target of a masterclass is a benefit for staff. He declares that Renaissance solutions are easily accessible for all pupils, which subsequently opens the door for all abilities to develop and master the set skills within Star Assessments.

Darren suggests that if staff can get pupils to become enthusiastic readers and mathematicians by the time they’re in P5, they can continue their development more effectively throughout P6 to P7. He continues to infer that staff do not want pupils to fall off the bandwagon when it comes to their development. Therefore, that’s why Renaissance solutions, including Accelerated Reader, can be so valuable as once pupils buy into they stay motivated and, in turn, see more accelerated progress.

Neil implies that maintaining a holistic focus on pupils’ continuous development has reinforced the school’s reading culture. He states that the school now has a dedicated reading time of 15 – 20 minutes a day, immediately after lunch. In this time, pupils can read their books and conduct Accelerated Reader quizzes to analyse their progress and make an informed decision on their next book choice based on their updated ZPD score. Neil acknowledges that the school is fortunate to have iPads on a per-pupil basis. He stresses that since the school invested in myON, the digital library by Renaissance, more pupils can access different texts and quizzes than ever before.

Neil reveals how the part-closure of the school due to the COVID-19 pandemic altered the routines of the school. He asserts that usually, the school do not allow AR quizzing to take place from home. However, this changed due to the lockdown; now, the school conducts a weekly check on a Friday afternoon.

During this period, Neil explains that the school’s designated AR lead will produce a Diagnostic Report where they analyse and highlight everything in the pupils’ progress over the week. Neil emphasises that this central role of having a strategy lead who analyses the data and distributes information and alerts to the relevant members of staff is what holds the school’s reading culture together. He overstates the importance of identifying those pupils who’ve done well but, more importantly, staff must constantly look for red flags with pupil development.

Neil advises that staff should always be asking themselves why is there a red flag. Are you not putting the necessary time in? Is the pupil choosing the wrong books outside of their level of ability? He provides the example of Darren’s class, which hold conversations every week to make sure that staff are on top of their pupils’ development and the subsequent interventions that need to be conducted as a result.

“Accelerated Maths and Star Maths are crucial for intervention strategies with pupils’ maths development.”

Similarly, Darren explains how Accelerated Maths (AM) and Star Maths are crucial for intervention strategies with pupils’ maths development. He notes that if there is a red flag within AM or Star Maths data, he can have conversations with the necessary staff and respective pupil to determine what needs to be done to get them on the right level of progress. Darren recalls that if a pupil has difficulty with quizzes, he reminds them that this is not necessarily a negative thing. Darren often compares the labour of quizzing to taking one step back and two steps forward just as long as the pupil keeps on top of their learning and development every day.

Neil maintains that all Renaissance solutions currently being used by the school are an essential part of the school development plan. He continues by emphasising how frequently Renaissance solutions are scrutinised. Both senior leaders and governors are always looking to show evidence that each solution impacts pupil progress. Neil argues that the school relies on the assessment data within Star Reading and Star Maths and how both solutions inform further learning strategies. Finally, he affirms that the school have a tight evaluation and monitoring process. Neil says that at Christ The Redeemer, teachers evaluate pupils who have difficulties with AR or AM, and they must subsequently note what interventions they’re going to put in place based on the assessment data.

Darren explains how pupils cope with quizzing; he states that they’re exceptionally beneficial for motivation and self-development. Both AR and AM ensure pupils can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Darren suggests that some pupils even look forward to quizzes, especially if they’ve just finished reading a big book or if they’re in a rich vein of continuous progress. He also emphasises the importance of instant feedback. When pupils can immediately see their latest improvement, this always increases their engagement. Darren considers that pupils would lose interaction in reading or maintaining maths development without quizzes, which is why the pupils buy into it.

Darren reveals that it is part of the school’s intervention process for staff to ensure that pupils are ready for the following item of work, a book to read or a skill to master. Darren affirms that it’s always crucial to think that, as a teacher, is this right for the specific child in terms of ability and enjoyment. Darren maintains that Star Reading and Star Maths assessments are crucial to painting a compressive picture of the pupil’s overall development, even if they’re not as fun as quizzes!

Neil announces that the school has standardised tests once a year, and throughout the rest of the year, the school is continuously collecting data from Star Assessments. He mentions that the school conduct a Star Reading and Maths assessment every term to obtain longitudinal data. With this collected data, Neil explains that teachers in Key-Stage 2 send out a report to parents in the seventh week (assessment week) with the latest Star Assessment, AR and AM data. He elaborates that this report to parents contains critical information such as the number of quizzes taken for each pupil, their average engagement time with the programmes and their average pass percentage per quiz. Neil suggests that his vital information back to parents encourages them to remain enthusiastic about the programmes and the support each one is offering their child.

Neil explains that the school’s new target is to acquire over 40 mins daily engagement time with reading and for all pupils to achieve over 90% in Accelerated Reader quizzes. He explains that the school previously set targets for non-fiction books to be read, but they fell short of the mark last year. Now the school has myON, the digital library, Neil is confident┬áthat the school can meet this non-fiction target purely down to non-fiction texts available on myON. He reveals that during the lockdown, when pupils were mainly relying on myON to access texts, on average, pupils read over 40% non-fiction texts!

Although the school initially introduced myON as a lockdown reading resource, Neil explains that myON did help maintain reading engagement during a period of remote learning. He continues, now that pupils are back in school, there are still many policies and procedures around using library books, including sanitising and quarantining them properly. Therefore, Neil emphasises that the school still use myON as a helpful reading engagement resource because of these logistical obstacles. He suggests that without myON and making Accelerated Reader quizzes accessible from home during the lockdown, the school wouldn’t have had a way to monitor and maintain reading engagement remotely.

Neil reveals that the school’s governours receive an update of the most recent Star Assessment data and the school’s standardised test data at the end of the year. In September 2020, the school had a visit from the inspectorate. Neil outlines that the school could produce Star Assessment data during the initial baseline assessments at the beginning of the year. He explains that because of the lockdown throughout 2020, the school had no standardised test data to share with the inspectorate. However, they were able to share their Star Assessment data.

“Star Assessment data, including Star maths data, illustrated where students had dropped off throughout the 19/20 academic year. The inspectorate was very impressed that we had data to show them!”

Neil explains that the school’s Star Assessment data, including Star maths data, illustrated where students had dropped off throughout the 19/20 academic year. He admits that the inspectorate was very impressed. This Star Maths data was an eye-opener for staff, Neil reveals. He explains that the team saw the damaging impact that the lockdown had on maths development due to a lack of face-to-face teaching. Consequently, Neil explains that the school prioritised maths with extra resources and videos. Since pupils have returned to 100% capacity, he explains that this initiative proved to be a big help in getting pupils’ maths development back on track, according to Star Maths data.

Darren discusses how Star Maths supports teachers in the classroom by helping staff identify areas where students fall behind in certain areas, such as geometry, long division, etc. Identifying these areas of regression enables staff to address them in the best way they can for the pupil’s unique needs and requirements. He suggests that he would place a big emphasis on intervention. Still, at the end of the assessment, pupils get a certificate, making the evaluation much more about motivation and self-confidence than just data analysis.

Darren explains that one of the critical features of Star Assessments is the Instructional Planning Report which allows staff to group students by ability. After these groups have completed their latest assessment, the report will indicate the Focus Skills which the pupils must master to see growth. Darren explains that now staff can develop teams and collective effort groups using the Focus Skills, which feed into the school’s SEN plans and personal pupil targets.

Darren elaborates that Star Maths assessments are fluid, whereby staff are constantly assessing pupil data to support pupils showing increasing and regressing development. He affirms that the Star Maths assessment process is key to that collective effort, and when used properly, both Star Maths and Accelerated Maths work perfectly to support the growth of all pupils.

Neil reiterates that the celebration of success is so important. He suggests that Darren is especially good at ensuring the success of all pupil, no matter how small, is celebrated to provide motivation and engagement. Neil outlines that in Darren’s class, celebrating objectives and targets is always top of the staff’s list of priorities. Darren concurs by stating that he can’t underestimate the process of communication with pupils and parents, focusing on current progress to keep pupils on track. For instance, there are many book lists for children to access when they’re in the school library on the school website.

Darren embellishes that the school has a transfer process for P6 pupils to continually work on their current project by identifying the books required for their learning. This process allows teachers to be precise in interventions by ensuring pupils are choosing the right books.

Neil reaffirms that success comes from the pupils. When pupils buy into the dynamic of an honour roll, they remain motivated to achieve beyond their potential. Before implementing Renaissance solutions, Neil saw the success that school’s were seeing from using them across the UK. Neil’s main reason to invest in Renaissance solutions was to encourage reluctant readers in west Belfast to read for pleasure, and now they’re striving for a reading award that they otherwise wouldn’t have achieved.

“The school will continue to use Star Assessments as we feel they offer the best way to monitor intervention.”

For the 21/22 academic year, Neil asserts that the school will continue to use Star Assessments as he feels this is the school’s best way to monitor intervention. He claims that he wishes the school could have more licenses! Additionally, due to the success of Star Assessments during the school’s inspectorate visit, Neil suggests the school will use Star Assessment data more frequently to substitute for the lack of standardised data. In the future, Neil would like to see Star Assessments fully replacing the school’s other EdTech resource for standardised assessment data. He claims that ensuring Star Assessments are the sole provider and analyser for all ongoing assessment data will support staff, parents, and students in the discussion.

Neil maintains that the school are now using Star Assessments to their total capacity. Because pupils have seen much lost learning over the past year, it is vital to keep reviewing data and knowing where pupils are in their progression journey. He suggests that staff will monitor the full benefit of Renaissance solutions throughout the year when the school has an uninterrupted year. Neil claims that the school know they have a system that works in Renaissance solutions, and as they advance, the staff at Christ the Redeemers Primary School want to help all pupils achieve above and beyond their full potential.

To find out how your school can utilise Renaissance solutions to support your teaching and learning, click here.


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