Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

Shared Education Partnership

Bridge Integrated Primary School and St Ronan's Primary School, Northern Ireland

Bridge Integrated Primary School and St Ronan’s Primary School have been using Renaissance solutions since 2017 & 2018, respectively. In 2017 both schools formed a shared education partnership. A partnership of learning and activities planned by the teachers from both schools with Numeracy and ICT focuses on developing new skills and enjoying new experiences together. 

We spoke to staff at both schools about how the Complete Literacy Solution from Renaissance, which consists of Accelerated Reader (AR), Star Reading (SR) and myON, the digital library, has supported staff and pupils across both schools. Because of the strong product usage statistics and the subsequent impact they are having on pupil engagement and performance, both schools have since signed up to become official Partner Schools with Renaissance. They have formed the first Shared Partnership with Renaissance for the first time. 

The principal of St Ronan’s Primary School, Kevin, has experience of Accelerated Reader in a previous school. Both he and the Vice-Principal of Bridge Integrated Primary School, Tracey, felt the programme would be helpful for both schools as they advance. In 2018, by the end of the first year of St. Ronan’s subscription to AR and SR, over 185 children have used the programmes.

Kevin explains that as the staff got used to Renaissance solutions, they subsequently got used to the various reports produced by AR and SR. Now, as a school, students conduct Star Reading assessments as their primary summative reading test. Kevin also explains that St Ronan’s will propose Star Reading is rolled into all P4 classes due to the stark difference in reading proficiency demonstrated by pupils in that first year.

This acceleration of reading included staff witnessing reluctant readers becoming more prepared to engage with reading. Kevin suggests that following the introduction of AR and SR, staff noticed that whole school English papers had a discrepancy in narrative and non-narrative books.

“Pupils will choose books based on their ZPD scores and AR reading ages so that reading is more accessible and enjoyable for each pupil.”

Consequently, St Ronan’s introduced myON, the digital library, to support non-fiction texts. The hope was that if the school used all three Renaissance solutions (AR, SR and myON) simultaneously, this would improve general reading comprehension. Kevin suggests that St Ronan’s hopes more pupils will choose books based on their ZPD scores and AR reading ages so that reading is more accessible and enjoyable for each pupil.

At Bridge Integrated Primary School, Literacy Coordinator Karen says that the school initially conducted their Star Reading assessments termly, but now they carry them out half-termly. Karen emphasises the importance of completing the baseline Star Reading assessment at the beginning of the term with subsequent assessments every half term. Karen states that as the school has seen the benefit of the quality and quantity of data extracted with more assessments administered, the school felt it necessary to increase assessment frequency to one per half term.

“When pupils returned in March 2021, they all conducted a Star Reading assessment to allow staff to identify how much reading development loss had taken place.”

At the beginning of the 20/21 academic year, St Ronan’s conducted their baseline Star Reading assessment in early September. Another assessment followed this in October and November time. The frequent assessment was due to the school’s ambition to get pupils reading as much as possible to make up for lost reading development due to lockdown. The school also acted during lockdown to increase the amount of reading happening as best as possible. This included book packs being sent home to all pupils. When pupils returned in March 2021, they all conducted a Star Reading assessment to allow staff to identify how much reading development loss had taken place.

St Ronan’s also shares that one class had maintained good reading results throughout lockdown. The class had worked together on a class novel and could do so by using myON, the digital library. Literacy Coordinator at St. Ronan’s, Patrina, suggests that despite dips in some pupils reading engagement, on the whole, pupils engaged in all aspects. She explains that it helps that staff always check if class novels have an Accelerated Reader quiz available on them. St. Ronan’s additional Literacy Coordinator, Mr Byrne, is a bit of a bookworm, and he gives recommendations for class novels based on AR and myON compatibility (for both schools!). Mr Byrne has also been described as a “walk-in Waterstones”!

Kevin reiterates the collaboration between both schools in details as specific class-room based practice by pointing out that one class from each school will work on a novel together. This shared novel collaborative activity continued throughout lockdown, too, as pupils worked and communicated remotely to complete the project.

Vice Principal of Bridge Integrated Primary School, Tracey, suggests similar remote work took place with literacy development at BIPS. With myON, some class teachers set specific books each week with a particular topic. Tracey recalls that staff noticed a bit of dip with reading during the lockdown. Therefore, both schools initiated different strategies to make reading more accessible for pupils, including myON and click and collect. Some classes were even encouraged to conduct AR quizzes from home during a specific period during the lockdown where teachers could instantly monitor the quality of quizzing.

“More pupils are reading books that are better matched to their unique level of reading ability, there are far fewer discrepancies with reading assessments.”

Karen recalls that in the latter part of lockdown, pupils carried out quizzes in guided reading groups. myON supported the group activity to ensure all guided readers had access to reading materials from home. Whole-class and whole-school celebration in virtual assemblies encouraged pupils to celebrate reading engagement, success and growth. Karen notes that now more pupils are reading books that are better matched to their unique level of reading ability, there are far fewer discrepancies with reading assessments.

“The instant information and feedback staff receive from Star Reading after pupils complete their assessment allows us to concentrate our subsequent support techniques.”

Karen mentions that pupils have gotten to the stage of actively reading and quizzing because they want to and are motivated to maintain high reading levels. The competitive element of Accelerated Reader quizzes element appeals to staff, not just the pupils! Plus, the short time and autonomy required for pupils to conduct an AR quiz or Star Reading assessment mean pupils and staff aren’t bogged down with horrendously long comprehension tests. Additionally, the instant information and feedback staff receive from Star Reading after pupils complete their assessment allows us to concentrate our subsequent support techniques.

Kevin shares this gratitude for the efficient and detailed information they receive in Accelerated Reader, and Star Reading reports. He explains how both himself and Tracey at Bridge Integrated Primary School compare assessment notes, including discussions around generalities such as average ZPD scores and reading comprehension development. Kevin stresses that the fundamental goal of the shared education partnership between St Ronan’s and Bridge Integrated Primary School is to promote cross-school collaborative work and sharing of best practice amongst both staff and pupils. Everyone regularly talks to each other from both schools, he explains.

Kevin states that both schools have since gotten out of their silos and started working collaboratively with different schools, enabling schools to share what they’re doing well and what they need to improve. And that is a crucial point to remember, too; what works well in one school might not be due to different demographics, resources, staff, or whatever the case may be. Still, Kevin reiterates, at least ideas and strategies are being shared. That has been the best spin-off from the shared education partnership.

Tracey provides an example of cross-school collaboration by explaining the joint efforts of both schools on World Book Day this year. Mr Byrne set up a new scheme to raise money for charity for both schools to participate in, called ‘the masked reader’. Mr Byrne would pick an extract from one teacher’s favourite book from each school, and both pupils and staff had to guess which teacher’s favourite book it was.

The key message behind the scheme was to highlight the importance of reading. If the teacher couldn’t read, they wouldn’t have a favourite book, and if the pupils couldn’t read, they wouldn’t be able to guess the teacher! Staff in both schools also produced a video of the masked singer! Mr Byrne still has the full video and the outtakes!

“A balance of fiction and non-fiction is also an essential factor needed to introduce pupils’ reading exposure; that’s why St. Ronan’s introduced myON.”

Kevin reveals that the reports staff can export from Star Reading, such as the Growth and Diagnostic Reports, are extremely useful and illustrate student progress in a simple fashion. He suggests that previously, St. Ronan’s would only ever refer to word counts within these reports. Now, when staff refer to reports such as the Diagnostic Report, they look at additional progress measurements, such as comprehension rate or reading time. Kevin emphasises that a balance of fiction and non-fiction is also an essential factor needed to introduce pupils’ reading exposure; that’s why St. Ronan’s introduced myON.

Tracey states the value of using the Diagnostic Report from both Accelerated Reader and Star Reading. She advises it’s helpful to compare the reports from both solutions as it paints a comprehensive picture of the pupil’s current progress. When a pupil struggles with reading or showing signs of decelerating, Tracey will refer to the Diagnostic Report to see where the pupil needs support.

Karen agrees with this by suggesting that BIPS want all KS2 teachers to understand and investigate why pupils are falling short of 85% in their Accelerated Reader quizzes. Because of this expectation, the staff set a target for all pupils to overachieve in their quizzes and assessments. Karen states that the school’s primary focus right now is exploring how staff can improve pupil’s targets that have been affected by lockdown.

Karen remarks that one of the most effective strategies that staff have utilised to ensure pupils meet their targets is keeping each pupil fully involved in the assessment process as much as possible. The critical thing is to share with pupils what target the teacher would like to set for them over the next six weeks. Karen recalls that the teacher will continuously connect and communicate with the pupil to keep them updated on their target progress in this time.

“Pupils have since become more articulate about their progress and will even stop me in the corridor to tell her how many points they acquired in their last Accelerated Reader quiz.”

Updates may include sharing the pupil’s word count with them; Karen perceives that this tactic often results in the pupil becoming more motivated to increase their word count. Pupils have since become more articulate about their progress and will even stop Karen in the corridor to tell her how many points they acquired in their last Accelerated Reader quiz.

Regarding who else the school shares the report information with, Tracey describes that staff will often keep parents updated with their child’s respective reading development. She suggests that staff would share reports with parents at teacher-parent meetings. Karen continues by stating that teachers at Bridge Integrated Primary School would often share a report of the number of words a pupil had read, and this is a great way to celebrate success with the rest of the school.

Karen sees that the school had a few word-millionaires last year, and she felt it was essential to keep a record of that success for the teacher and pupil to keep referring to as continued motivation. She explains that this cumulative data and information around the pupil’s development helps ensure pupils meet their statutory individual education plan targets. Similarly to sharing word counts with pupils, Karen explains that keeping pupils aware of their latest ZPD scale encourages them to read books that best match their ability.

“The data from Star Reading assessments, such as updated ZPD scores, is so crucial for staff at Bridge Integrated Primary School”

Therefore this results in continued reading development. The data from Star Reading assessments, such as updated ZPD scores, is so crucial for staff at Bridge Integrated Primary School; Karen suggests that the school will use Star Reader as their only standardised test for P3 at the end of the year. The following information from these end of year Star Reading assessments will go back to parents as a form outline of the pupil’s annual development.

Kevin supports the point of using specific metrics to keep pupils motivated. He explains that one pupil who is so enthusiastic about reading, the pupil is currently on 4-million words read, and all they want to do is read. Sometimes we have to encourage them to participate in other activities like playing with lego for a bit. Kevin also declares another pupil in the same class who is nearly on six-million words read.

Kevin suggests that since the implementation of Accelerated Reader, the quality of books in the school is much better this year. Kevin explains that previously, many books donated to the school would have already been read by pupils. Now, both St Ro and BIPs have replenished their libraries with new books. Kevin is confident that from now on, with the shared education partnership, both schools are going to continue to see an influx of better quality books.

Following the customer review sent to both schools outlining their respective Renaissance solution usage statistics, Kevin says that the high average Accelerated Reader quiz percentage for pupils shows that AR, Star and myON work for all pupils. He recalls one pupil in particular with special educational needs is reading at a level below their chronological age.

Kevin explains that because they are still reading books matched to their unique ability and accumulating points in every Accelerated Reader quiz, in some cases, over 100 points per quiz, this enables them to feel competitive with their peers. During the lockdown, the SEN pupil was able to do so much more on top of their structured, guided reading plan, and that was thanks to myON providing them with access to more digital books at home. It’s important to remember that you can’t always measure success with a score. Sometimes it’s more important to measure success by the improvement of a pupil’s self-esteem.

St. Ronan’s Teacher, Marie, explains that with myON, staff can engage pupils with more books that wouldn’t otherwise be accessible in school. She suggests that myON is particularly useful for making non-fiction texts accessible to pupils who might otherwise not be interested in or recognise non-fiction. Marie goes onto explain that myON is much more than just a resource for remote learning. myON allows her to have an interactive text on the classroom screen, supporting whole-class guided reading. She says that P2 was using myON in December to read, discuss, and analyse Christmas texts.

“We’ve implemented myON as a whole-class learning resource as well as as a cross-curricular activity to learn about other subjects and topics.”

Karen declares that Bridge Integrated Primary School also use the option to implement myON as a whole-class learning resource. She addresses how her class has used it as a cross-curricular activity to learn about other subjects and topics. For example, in term 1, Karen’s class could read and analyse a book about the Victorians together to support the history curriculum. She affirms that although myON has been used more during the lockdown since pupils have been back in school, many classes have used myON as a whole-class learning resource.

Kevin points out that the school used myON to support pupils’ learning throughout the anti-bullying and internet safety week as classes could analyse relevant texts available on myON together. In addition, Mr Byrne explains how St Ronan’s also uses myON for cross-curricular support. Mr Byrne set a project for ancient Egypt, including analysing graphic novels and fiction books around Egypt to support the less able readers. He emphasises that the variety of books in myON helps to keep all children engaged.

Kevin explains that with Accelerated Reader, Star Reading, and myON, both schools have full ability to read and a quiz to grow pupils’ reading proficiency. He reveals that he and Tracey will look at ZPD scores and identify pupils in need of intervention to determine how both schools can set appropriate targets. Kevin infers that both schools plan to revisit assessment for learning as they want to focus on children setting their own targets. He reports that pupils are now fully aware of their progress at all times.

“I want my staff to use Star Reading to see how this year’s results have been and analyse the lockdown impact.”

Both schools can utilise myON and Accelerated Reader books to improve reading comprehension. For assessment, Kevin intends on using Star Reading assessments for p3 – p4. As we advance, he outlines his intentions for the whole school to be conducting Star Reading assessments. Kevin states that he wants staff to use Star Reading to see how this year’s results have been and analyse the lockdown impact.

Tracey explains plans to explore same-text planned units with St. Ronan’s in term three as we advance. There will be many more visits of pupils and staff between both schools of up to thirty hours a week. Both schools will be looking at similar texts across year groups. Now we know that we can conduct Zoom calls and collaborate and not just in shared education time. Still, as we advance, the intention is for both schools to be utilising Renaissance solutions in general.

If you’d like to find out how your school can utilise the Complete Literacy Solution from Renaissance, click here.


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