Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

A new strategy to improve reading, as recognised by Ofsted

Theale Green School, West Berkshire, England

Theale Green School in West Berkshire has been using Accelerated Reader and Star Reading since 2014.

In 2020, Head of English Emily joined the school already familiar with Accelerated Reader, using the reading assessment resource in her previous school.

Being an advocate of the quality of data and insight that Accelerated Reader and Star Reading give to staff and school leaders, Emily took complete administrative duties for the programme’s operation at Theale Green School.

Subsequently, in May 2022, Theale Green School received a ‘Good’ Ofsted inspection report with specific praise for the school’s reading development strategy:

Reading has been a real focus for the school, and leaders have developed a range of strategies to ensure pupils’ reading is improved. Computer-based programmes are used successfully to monitor reading progress. Pupils who fall behind receive additional support, including in the use of phonics to help them read words.”

Following this incredible feedback on the school’s commitment to ensuring reading remains a strength among all students at Theale Green school, we spoke to Emily to learn more about Accelerated Reader’s role at the school.

Emily explains:

Getting the most out of an indispensable programme

“Having seen the positive impact AR can have at another school, I knew this meant utilising the abundance of data and insight AR and Star Reading provide.”

We wanted to ensure that the school got the most out of the Accelerated Reader (AR) subscription. Having seen the positive impact AR can have at another school, I knew this meant utilising the abundance of data and insight AR and Star Reading provide, rather than just focussing solely on how many words and books are read.

Now, we’ve transitioned our focus to the diagnostic reporting aspect of AR. The diagnostic reports allow us to focus on book point targets and raise every student’s ZPD and reading age.

We also took the slightly controversial step of sharing students’ reading ages with both parents and staff. There is an ongoing debate about whether that is right for self-efficacy, but we feel that it encourages students to see where they are at and where they need to be to reach their academic potential.

We feel this transparency helps fill the gaps for pupils’ who think their reading is on track and proficient but, in reality, they’re reading at a year six level when they soon need to be reading at a sixteen-year-old’s level.

Star Reading data

“We explained [to the inspector] how we use the differentiated data from AR and Star Reading to identify our weakest readers across the school and how we subsequently support them with appropriate intervention.”

For me, the most valuable tool is the Star Reading assessments we conduct three times a year. Star Reading assessments allow us to track students’ progress accurately and determine who needs intervention, especially for the bottom 20% of reading-adept students.

All the books in our library have AR labels that outline each book’s respective ZPD range and points total which is information that students receive after completing their Star Reading Assessment. Knowing this information makes accessing texts in the library more simple and efficient for all students.

When Ofsted visited us in May 2022, they wanted to know what we’re doing to support reading, particularly for our lower 20% of students. This year, we’ve focussed more on comprehensive targetting all students and their respective reading development.
We’ve maintained strong reading standards throughout the school by ensuring continuous praise for students who are continuously meeting their targets such as a pizza party for a class who hit their target as a collective.

We explained and gave examples of how we’re using AR as a proactive, positive way of measuring students’ progress. As a result, Ofsted were interested to know more about age-appropriate books and how we accurately assign them to all students. We were also able to show the inspector how AR allows us to offer a variety of books to all students, enabling them to read and quiz on non-fiction texts, quick reads and novels alike.

Finally, we explained how we use the differentiated data from AR and Star Reading to identify our weakest readers across the school and how we subsequently support them with appropriate intervention within library lessons that happen once a fortnight, such as reading aloud to students.

Raising standards across all subjects

“Star Assessments are now our main tool for identifying struggling students.”

Moving forward, Star Reading will also allow us to offer intervention across all subjects. For example, the Focus Skills within Star Assessments outline what age each student is currently reading at and what specific skills in the reading domains they need to master to see growth.

Having these Focus Skills have allowed us to identify students who need additional support with a fundamental reading of English before they can interpret texts in other subjects such as Modern Foreign Languages and Science. Reports like the Instructional Planning Report from Star Assessments are now our main tool for identifying struggling students.

I can confidently say that Accelerated Reader has contributed significantly to the school’s overall literacy development strategy. Even the Oftsed inspector noted that our successful reading engagement initiatives are supported by “computer programmes”.

A future focus

As we advance into the next academic year and beyond, I want to focus more on reading for pleasure. I wanted to see more students actively picking books that they like, are interested in and that, thanks to AR book labels with ZPD ranges, they know they can access.
Similarly, we’ll ensure that our new cohort of Year Sevens will get the necessary support to excel academically. We’ll conduct Star Reading assessments for this cohort within the first few weeks of term, and the following data will be shared across departments so that all staff understand each student’s fundamental grasp of reading.

Emily has a Master’s degree in Learning and Teaching from The University of Oxford, and she is clear that Accelerated Reader is a must-use for reading data analysis because of its accuracy. Emily expressed the importance of using AR and Star Reading data for deep dives into groups and individual students’ progress to keep students on track and, most importantly, offer appropriate intervention where needed.

Click here to find out how your school can utilise Accelerated Reader and Star Reading to support your reading development strategy.

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