NAME: Darlene St. Peter, supervisor
of special education
SCHOOL: Indian River (DE) School District
WHAT THEY USE: Scholastic Read 180 (www.scholastic.com/read180)
How her schools use it: We needed to make teaching reading a priority—not a supplemental or remedial program, but the center of focus. We started 90-minute Read 180 classes for all students who need help with reading. There are three sessions during the 90 minutes: one-on-one teacher/student, reading at grade level, and computer-instruction technology.
Why she likes it: Teachers like that they get a Lexile score, which is more helpful than a grade-level reading score. The program shows them who is struggling so the teacher can redirect the focus of the lessons. They like its multisensory approach, which is especially important for learning-disabled students. The books are high interest, and the program ensures students understand basic concepts before going on to more challenging reading skills.
What she wishes it would do: I wish Read 180 would further develop the program at the high school level for students who have had success at the middle school level and face competing priorities as they progress through school.
NAME: Dr. Shawn Smith, principal
SCHOOL: Huff (IL) Elementary School, District U46
WHAT THEY USE: HOSTS Learning (www.hosts.com)
How his school uses it: We had not met NCLB adequate yearly progress, so
we had to make some dramatic changes or face closure. We hired three HOSTS teachers, and use the HOSTS technology to guide instruction for identified high-risk students. Their work, in combination with improved classroom instruction and a dedicated teaching staff, helped to improve overall student performance.
Why he likes it: The HOSTS teacher can create an individualized learning path and then create a learner link that will generate a prescription and find areas of weakness and resources to help. During the session, the learner link does continuous assessment. Because our staff took the time to integrate the HOSTS program effectively and work with the students, we now have 70% passed reading tests and 80% math.
What he wishes it would do: I would like to see HOSTS partner with other educational organizations to help schools and districts link and align products to better meet the needs of individual students.
NAME: Tommy Floyd, Chief Academic Officer
SCHOOL: Madison (KY) County Schools
WHAT THEY USE: Carnegie Learning Bridge to Algebra (www.carnegielearning.com)
How his schools use it: I came on board in July, and one of my earliest tasks was to implement a math intervention pilot involving several math software programs. Kentucky legislators had worked out a plan to determine the impact of technology-based differentiated intervention programs on student achievement. For this pilot, we have three middle school classrooms where teachers combine the Bridge to Algebra and Algebra I program with daily instruction.
Why he likes it: We chose Carnegie because it allowed teachers to stay in control of the instructional pace. The program offers differentiated instruction tailor-made to student needs, and the students can’t fool the program. The teachers like the reports, and the company offered extensive training, not just on how to use the software, but how to be a better math teacher.
What he wishes it would do: We’re currently using connected math for 3-D visuals, and Carnegie is working to implement text reader software—so I’d like to see something for visually impaired students added.
NAME: Mark Kettering, principal; and Melinda Dover, at-risk coordinator
SCHOOL: Diboll (TX) Junior High School
WHAT THEY USE: Read Now Power Up!, which combines Steck-Vaughn’s Power Up! with Renaissance Learning’s Read Now (www.renlearn.com or www.steckvaughn.harcourtachieve.com)
How their school uses it: We use the Power Up! program to get our sixth through eighth graders back on grade level. Students meet with the at-risk coordinator for 50 minutes a day where, as a group, they read and discuss chapters from a Harcourt paperback reader. Then they take a quiz that assesses various reading skills such as vocabulary and comprehension.
Why they like it: We like that the program is all-inclusive. It has everything the teacher needs (high-interest books, computerized tests, workbooks, activities), so there’s no need to look for extra resources. It addresses all learning styles and uses real-time data, so the teacher can see immediately what skills students need to review.
What they wish it would do: It would be nice to include a list of web sites that the students could visit to get further information about certain topics, especially when we use the nonfiction books.
NAME: June Weston, instructor
SCHOOL: Westside (OK) Alternative School
WHAT THEY USE: A+nywhere Learning System (www.amered.com)
How her school uses it: The A+LS computerized courseware program covers all curriculum areas. It takes the curriculum and breaks it down into workable parts presented in short bursts. It gives students a little bit of background and minimizes fluff to get down to what they need to know.
Why she likes it: Our building serves gifted and talented high school alternative-regular education, special needs, and students that for various reasons are not successful in regular school. This program allows me to identify the specific needs of these children and to create an individualized path for each student. Students can work at their own pace and get immediate feedback. The side benefit is that the kids are paying better attention to state testing, and their scores are improving.
What she wishes it would do: I wish it included state history. However, the program does have an authoring program, so I can add my own lessons and tests.
Christine Weiser is a writer and editor who has reported on K-12 education technology for more than 15 years.