Digital tools lead to scores worth celebrating
Idaho school celebrates AYP success
The week of state testing Central Elementary School Principal Cindy Thomas is as giddy as a kid on Christmas morning. This year the scores don’t disappoint: 88.75 percent in Reading, 86.16 in Math, 82.91 in Language and 73.91 in Science. Once again, Central and its 360 students will achieve Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in every category.
Against all odds, this school…has met AYP for the past six years. It is the only school in the district to do so.Cindy Thomas
In first year
Central Elementary Results
Teachers used digital learning curriculum to achieve dramatic gains in state test scores for student proficiency.
Against all odds, this school in the fast-growing city of Nampa, Idaho, has met AYP for the past six years. It is the only school in its district to do so. It is also a Title 1 school that serves the largest population of economically disadvantaged students in the district: 94 percent of students receiving free or reduced lunches, 46 percent are minorities, and about 20 percent are English Language Learners.
“When I started here in 2006, I quickly realized that my teachers were working at their max,” recalls Cindy. “The only way I was going to improve performance was to give them the tools they were asking for.” In 2007, she found grant money to update school computers and expand their use of a preK-2 digital learning curriculum called Waterford Early Learning.
Soon every kindergartener at Central was spending 30 minutes a day interacting with digital characters like the “Word Birds” as they tackled reading, math, and science activities. Students worked at their own pace getting extra help or challenges where they needed it most. The digital curriculum reinforced classroom lessons and also acted as invisible assessments, generating student reports that teachers relied on to identify and help at-risk students.
In one year (2006-2007 to 2007-2008), Central year-end state math scores increased from 78.8 percent of students proficient to 92.4 percent. Reading scores jumped even more from 70.2 percent of students being proficient to 91.6 percent . Since then, the school has added two more digital programs to the mix to help sustain these high scores: SuccessMaker (for K-8 students) and ELLIS (for English Language Learners).
Today, test scores remain high—even as the state of Idaho raises the bar on proficiency standards—and Central has received several state awards recognizing student growth.
“The students are eager to use the programs, and that’s really half the battle,” says Cindy about her younger students. Her teachers have seen first-graders start the school year with Idaho Reading Indicator scores of 1, indicating they are having trouble with basic phonics. Then, using digital curriculum disguised as games, they’ve helped these students improve to scores of 3 (the highest score) and enter the Accelerated Reader™ program with the rest of their classmates by the end of year.
To Central teachers, programs like Waterford and SuccessMaker are about more than meeting AYP. They understand that early literacy interventions like these pave the way for their students to be successful readers for the rest of their lives.
Funding has been tight in recent years, and the school hasn’t been able to update their computers, but that hasn’t stopped them from bringing digital learning to their students. “We’re just thankful the programs still work on the technology we do have. To say we’re dependent on these programs is an understatement,” says Cindy. “With them we’re so much further ahead, and our students and teachers are truly successful.