The International School of Ticino (Switzerland) has an 80-90% non-native speaking English language background amongst its pupils. They have been using Renaissance solutions to support their pupils literacy growth and enhance numeracy skills across the school, and to inform planning and progression for teachers. Recently, we sat down with their Principal Andrew Ackers, to discuss the impact of our solutions at their school.

Star Reading was recommended to us by a teacher in the school who had worked with the programme before. The reason we look to these programs is because we are an IB school and what we found was that it's very much a framework rather than a curriculum. So sometimes we have issues with tracking a child’s reading - it was very inconsistent. To track mathematics, you relied upon the scope and sequence but you then didn't have any other measures to be able to have that consistency.

What your programmes did and we really thought was a very good opportunity is that they actually took the child on a journey.

And so, the child is then part of a process that helped their learning, rather than just assess their learning or told them very sporadically you either passed or failed.

Implementing Accelerated Reader

We started with Accelerated Reader and the way we developed that was with our Librarian. Each week, she would use the books to effectively set the students on their levels. This was lead with the teachers in class, where they would do class readings alongside the Accelerated Reader programme.

They would basically be doing a triangulation model of where they would have the teacher judgments, we had the CAT data there as well, alongside Accelerated Reader to effectively check that their reading levels and their progression was happening.

School demographic

We effectively have a 80-90% non-native speaking English language background with varying degrees within them, so this was a great way for them to really engage with reading and see the challenge of it, but also put them on this personalised learning path. Instead of them being seen as always reliant upon the teacher the child could do the survey, the game, the results and then find out how to then move to the next step. We then did the same with myON, which made perfect sense in a covid situation where effectively, we could start expanding our library much quicker.

Supporting teacher planning with Star Assessments

We use Star Maths in the relative similar situation with our mathematics because we also have the same problem of where we are the scope and sequence. We didn't want to just do the testing to test and see.

“we wanted a program that would help a child to challenge themselves and inform the planning and progression for the teacher, so I wouldn't say it's necessarily reduced the workload but I actually think it's enhanced the way that the students and the teachers are doing, because it then enables those to implement the PYP framework”

Supporting their reading and their general access to books and mathematics has given us some benchmarks to be able to feel more confident, with about how they would do it, rather than just teacher judgment.

Personalised learning with Star Assessments

I think across the whole school when we've used the Star Assessments it reinforces our key message of the personalised learning which very much helps pupils focus on themselves, and it also opens the door to a conversation in the same way with the families.

We do Star Assessments three times a year, we can sometimes do them more. A nice example was actually post the pandemic. We reopened in May 2020 so quite early, and we decided to redo some additional Star Assessments. We did the maths one, and the reading as well, and what we found is that we've now got quite consistent. For example, in September, we see a massive drop off in their reading and also in their mathematics, but there has also been targeted times, for example, we did one with a particular class, because we really felt that they were struggling with the reading levels and we wanted to check so we then used this as a tool of intervention with a number of children with our Inclusion Coordinator, where we were all able to sit down to look at the data across some focus points and really got some good feedback from it.

Measuring the reliability of Star data alongside teacher predictions

For most students, its always kind of fitted in line with the teacher judgement and expectations. What I’ve had to be careful of though, is that it doesn't become the only lead.

We have also found that maybe once a conversation happens with the child about a book that they didn't react as well to in the assessment online because of a language barrier that it may have been due to the way the question was phrased, then once they were able to explain it to the teacher, they could do it.

Creating a culture of reading

We've been using Accelerated Reader now maybe two or three years but within that I have seen that it has helped us as something we need to do more and I think we always will. A nice example is with myON, I walk past many lessons where they've got the iPads out using the myON subscriptions to look through books and to find research that is relevant for the unit of inquiry, and that's from effectively grade 4, year four in the UK onwards and that's really, really good to see. This is where I’ve maybe not had the resources in the library to pass that off, I've then been able to use this subscription to really keep that going.

Celebrating success and students enthusiasm towards reading.

Recently, we did a big house competition which our Librarian ran about the minutes pupils have been reading. So, we use the Accelerated Reader programme because at the end of each book they read, they then need to take the quizzes. We did this, and that was a real good buzz, we announced the winner in assembly.

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