Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

Using Focus Skills to ensure understanding and mastery

Ellis Guilford Comprehensive School, Nottingham

(Written prior to school closures March 2020)

We were looking at ways of developing literacy within the school.

One of the first things we did was to visit a school in Stoke who had been using Accelerated Reader (AR) for several years. This was our first fact-finding task to discover more about what exactly AR does for pupils and teachers within schools, and we really liked the idea of something that we could use to demonstrate impact and that’s exactly what we needed at the time, something that was trackable.

A high proportion of students who attend Ellis Guildford Comprehensive School are from areas of social deprivation and as a school, we are always looking at new ways to drive up literacy levels. We were hearing and seeing that, in other schools, there was something more than a series of lessons that was working for pupils. It was something continuous, something that fundamentally changed the culture of the school. And, at the time, we were also trying to spread literacy across the school, rather than just in LRC. With Star Reading tests, we now have accountability for students – students feel they’ve got accountability and motivation to increase reading and grow reading over a set time

“best of all, we can show that it is making a difference”

We’re lucky that students have chrome books being leased to them, this allows us to carry out testing at beginning of year and subsequently, reading testing takes place another three times throughout the academic year (four in total). Last year, year 7 and 8 groups came in either once a week or once a fortnight. Set 5s come in every week now and we saw better growth for more consistent groups and best of all, we can show that it is making a difference – lower ability groups were tending to rely on lessons and reading quick but the majority now will always take a book out on loan that is within their unique ZPD range, boys particularly really enjoyed the quizzing element.

This year I’ve followed several useful Renaissance groups, and someone shared a resource of a book template to help getting into habit of quizzing. Going forward, I will ask students to fill out this resource whilst in the library before quizzing.

Instructional Planning Report – “the report makes the teacher or teaching assistant proactive within those lessons – it focusses their teaching”

Students are changing their attitude towards reading, some students were very resistant to reading because they simply couldn’t read well. Now, we do let children know they’re working at different levels, but it doesn’t matter so much when they start quizzing because they don’t get hung up on fact that they are at lower levels. Therefore, the change in attitude towards reading is evident. Where before, some students, often those most at risk of misbehaving or displaying behaviour issues during lessons, some of them actually went with the Accelerated Reader programme more than other students, it was a real eye-opener. Now we can reward them sufficiently, we have certificates being given out as well as pizza-parties for our top readers, quizzers and growers.


Last year, pupils accumulated the most amount of points after the Easter term until the end of the year and they did enjoy meeting these targets – I think, collectively they felt that they had a responsibility to fulfil. What’s really interesting is that some year 7s say they remember AR from primary school and could even remember their passwords from last year!

“you can now group them and use the instructional planning report to see what individual skills each pupil has mastered and what they are yet to master, still.”

I want to make use of the data more for teachers and I’m hoping, in time, our teachers will have a better grasp of Accelerated Reader and Star Reading. I think the Star Reading programme will be invaluable for our teachers because once you know whether pupils are growing or not, you can now group them and use the instructional planning report to see what individual skills each pupil has mastered and what they are yet to master, still. Therefore, if teachers begin to regularly work with their individual groups more often then they will be able to offer more appropriate intervention, subsequently allowing them to share this vital data with other teachers.

“the instructional planning report identifies each particular skill that individual pupils or classes are struggling with.”

We have our final training session coming up soon and I’m hoping all our AR teachers will be there. We’ll be looking at various reports in more detail including the instructional planning report which identifies each particular skill that individual pupils or classes are struggling with and, following this, can inform effective intervention. This is the type of data I know that Star Assessments can provide for us and these are the reports I’ll be printing off- diagnostic report, growth report, screening report all that I know we should be referring to more regularly.

“We are seeing good cross-curricular recognition of the data that Star provides.”

Individual Student Success Stories


Because he knew how to quiz and did quiz as soon as he came in. He was often late to school because he lives so far away and because he has two younger siblings, he always had a sense of responsibility to look after his peers. Now, with quizzing, he enjoys the chance to show pupils how to quiz properly whilst sharing his own knowledge and experiences of Accelerated Reader. Because it was something he could do well it empowered him and he felt he had a positive role within the class. In a year the student completed 21 quizzes and had an average percent correct of 91.4%. The student said he liked the different ways you could prove success. It didn’t have to be all about the points accumulated.

“I didn’t really like reading before but with AR I could just get on with it. It was something I could keep going with. I liked the competitive side. I remember even now that I had the highest average percent correct for the quizzes in the class.” 

Last year was the most books I have ever read in a year. I actually sat there and read books”.

“I do miss it this year. I am not keen on long books but there was plenty of choice and variety with the books on offer. I remember the Boffin Boy books. I liked them.”

“It made me think about an author. And their imagination. And the time put in to creating a story for someone else to read.”

The student explained that his resilience increased around reading. “I never gave up on a book.” The student also explained that he appreciated books for AR because he was getting whole books read. Therefore enjoyment levels were much higher.

English Additional Language

One student had very weak English, their trajectory line, provided by the performance report, looks very impressive. She started the year on a score of 341 and finished the year on a score of 396. To gain 6 months on her reading age for a student who was not taught English until four years ago is a real achievement. This data told us that she would’ve had similar levels to other English-speaking pupils. These results gave her the confidence to start taking books out in her spare time and she even volunteered to speak to parents during parents’ evenings about Accelerated Reader. She now wants to be ambassador in LRC since her reading age went from 8.05 – 8.11. For her, that was significant because she really does struggle with English but now, she wants to be heard reading every lesson – this is her new goal, it’s changed her whole attitude to reading without being pushed or persuaded to go above and beyond. None of these wonderful outcomes would’ve happened if wasn’t for the fundamental confidence that Accelerated Reader has given her. She quizzed on 62 quizzes over the year and her average percent correct for quizzing was 88.2%.

“AR was helpful because you have to understand the book and your teacher can see if you are doing the reading. My reading would not have improved as quickly if I hadn’t been on the programme”.

“I wanted to come to the LRC as I was confident”. “I now want to help others enjoy reading like I do. I know it is important to get the right book. I found I read the book quicker if I enjoyed it.”

Value for Money

We definitely believe we’ve got value for money – in terms of the difference it’s making for students – particularly the above.


We can now do so much more with whole year groups. We input all data for all English & tutor forms enables us to monitor cross-curricular progress. We are seeing good cross-curricular recognition of the data that Star Assessments provide. We encourage students to quiz and win prizes over time to encourage them to read more and quiz more.


For more information on how Focus Skills from Star Reading can support your school, click here.

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