Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

A New and Robust Literacy Strategy at Harold’s Cross National School, Ireland

Harold's Cross National School, Dublin, Ireland

Harold’s Cross National School have been using Accelerated Reader and Star Reading since 2018 to support the school’s literacy strategy. In 2021, we discovered that Harold’s Cross National School had carried out the most Accelerated Reader quizzes for a primary school in the whole of Ireland.

We spoke to Literacy Coordinator and teacher, Mark, following this phenomenal achievement, who explained why Accelerated Reader is used so prevalently within Harold’s Cross National School.

“After seeing success in another school, we immediately highlighted AR as something we would be interested in.”

Initially, we went to see Accelerated Reader (AR) being used in another local school. After seeing their success, we immediately highlighted AR as something we would be interested in!

Due to being a DEIS school, we’re required to put together a plan to improve literacy outcomes. Prior to the implementation of Accelerated Reader, our focus was on the development of oral language success. Having noted improvement in this area, we decided to focus on a second area: reading.

Prior to implementing AR we noticed that our younger children loved reading, but this interest appeared to falter as the children got older. By introducing AR, it meant we could have strategies in place to encourage all the students, including the older ones, to read.

“I love to do AR quizzes. I love to read the books. I love to reach my target.”

– 2nd Class Pupil

Accelerated Reader has helped change the culture of reading for everyone in our school, including parents! Several volunteer parents kindly helped set up our library over the summer holidays.

We took every book we had and categorised them with AR book labels that signpost children to books within their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), a range which children are allocated after they complete their Star Reading assessment.

The majority of books that weren’t available on AR were outdated. We realised we needed to buy a lot more books suitable for the lower bands of book complexity. So, we began fundraising to purchase new books from Book Nest in Ireland and Laburnum House.

“Our teachers find Accelerated Reader to be a fantastic tool for themselves and for their pupils.”

Engaging pupils and staff

Our teachers find AR a fantastic tool for themselves and for their pupils. Pupils are made aware of their respective reading age and ZPD range, making picking accessible texts easier, and upping their motivation to finish more books.

With AR, our reading culture is much stronger. We can see evidence in pupils conversations around various book types all the time. For instance, if a pupil has started a new book series, they would share the series with their friends. Often this could result in pupils reading the whole series and asking if the library currently has other books by the author!

AR keeps children very self-motivated as when they hear their peers’ targets have increased, others also want to raise theirs!

“Now, our reading culture is much stronger.”

We’ve noticed that Accelerated has helped with maths skills. By increasing targets, children are faced with estimation skills based on how long is outstanding. AR keeps children very self-motivated as when they hear their peers increase their targets, others also want to raise theirs.

“I really like it because we read books we do not have at home.”

– Úna, 3rd Class Pupil

Reliable standardised data

With Star Reading, we’re able to provide a clear and accurate illustration of progress in each pupil’s end-of-year report card, which we send home to parents. These report cards include student growth percentiles and reading ages from Star Reading data along with national standardised results in Drumcondra reading tests.

“The data from Star Reading gives us a clear picture of continuous progress happening for all pupils throughout an academic year.”

The data from Star Reading gives us a clear picture of continuous progress happening for all pupils throughout an academic year. But, most importantly, it highlights those pupils who are struggling and at risk of going below benchmark and therefore needing urgent intervention.

When we introduced AR in 2nd Class last year, students were successful at achieving their reading points from AR quizzes. However, Star Reading assessments illustrated that some were struggling with reading accuracy and comprehension. Using the Focus Skills from Star Reading, we offered tailored intervention to support each pupil in the respective reading domain they were struggling with.

“The quizzes make it more fun and you can hit a target. You have motivation.”

– Rachel P, 3rd Class Pupil

By the time these same students carried out their third Star Reading assessment, we had noticed a dramatic improvement in their reading accuracy and compression. With Star Reading reports, we can see evidence of reading understanding and ability.

In 2020, after the first lockdown, schools in Ireland were instructed by the Department of Education to not conduct any standardised tests, which would usually give us helpful data.

Instead, when pupils returned to school in September 2021, we looked at the Star Reading results from the previous year, which gave us a strong baseline of expected and comparable progress for the new academic year. This data allowed us to have better conversations with parents: for example, several were concerned that school closures had heavily disrupted their children’s learning, but we had evidence to show how their children were still progressing.

“The results from this baseline Star Reading assessment allowed us to have better conversations with parents.”

Information for key stakeholders

The Reading Age metric within AR and Star Reading is helpful to assess progress. And in general, we have noticed that scores in Drumcondra reading tests are pretty much on par with Star Reading standardised metrics.

The reports within Accelerated Reader and Star Reading are very clear. When new staff join us or when teachers move into different year groups, we show them what to look for in AR, and Star Reading reports. We explain how to increase pupils’ targets and subsequently how you can discuss these targets with the individual pupil and their parents.

“AR reading is AMAZING. It improves my reading because I can read lots of books that I haven’t read before.”

– 2nd Class Pupil

The reports within AR and Star Reading are very clear. When new staff join us or when teachers move into different year groups, we show them what to look for in the programme. We explain how to increase pupils’ targets and subsequently how you can discuss these targets with the individual pupil and their parents.

We discuss assessment data at staff meetings, referring to the different reports. We particularly look at the Instructional Planning Report within Star Reading, which provides tangible strategies to support pupils’ reading development in specific domains.

Some teachers use the Instructional Planning Report to provide additional support to pupils who are identified as below benchmark or not making significant progress.

“Our staff are really buying into AR and Star Reading.”

With this accurate, standardised percentile data and tangible interventional strategies, our staff are really buying into AR and Star Reading.

Return on investment

In our search for a new literacy development programme, AR and Star Reading stood out because they make it easy for us to judge the effectiveness of our teaching and interventions.

“I like AR because it is challenging and I like challenging myself.”

– Jacob, 4th Class Pupil

We feel we’ve definitely seen a return on investment with Accelerated Reader and Star Reading. The children really enjoy the programme and have built a love for reading.

“We feel we’ve definitely seen a return on investment with Accelerated Reader and Star Reading.”

The best evidence of AR’s impact has been the results of pupils’ reading after they returned to school post-lockdown. We were sure the reading data would show they had dropped off during lockdown; and for some kids, that was the case. 

“I like how you do quizzes and the star reading is good because you can move onto different colours.”

– Doireann, 4th Class Pupil

However, by and large, we were really impressed at the overall standardised test results from Star Reading. The data looked really good, and it illustrated that, on average, our pupils reading progress had only dropped off by one percentile during the lockdown.

“Accelerated Reader helped us to maintain reading engagement for all pupils throughout.”

On average, we managed to stay roughly where we were pre-pandemic, and that’s largely because Accelerated Reader helped us to maintain reading engagement for all pupils throughout.

What Mark’s colleagues say…

“I think Accelerated Reader is an excellent programme. I love using it with my class. It creates a love for reading among the children. I find it very useful for continuously assessing the children’s reading and comprehension skills. I find the Star Reading test results excellent for communicating with parents about how the children are getting on. I love that the children’s books are at an appropriate level for them and that the emphasis is on ‘reading for meaning’ and comprehension through the quizzes that they take.”

– Ms S. Kindlon, 2nd Class

 

“The Accelerated Reader programme has been very useful as it gives teachers the information they need to monitor pupils reading practice. The comprehensive set of reports given are very good as they reveal the level in which the children have been reading and how well they have understood what they have read. It has been a very enjoyable and worthwhile programme thus far.”

– Ms Lowe, 2nd Class

To find out how your school can utilise Accelerated Reader & Star Reading to support your school’s literacy strategy, click here.

If you have a question for Mark about anything mentioned in the article, please email it to support@renlearn.co.uk, and we’ll forward it to Mark, who is happy to chat with other schools. 


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