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Students Make Outstanding Reading Gains Using MVRC with Fidelity

Michael Vergara Published: December 19, 2016

An Interview with Shelli Treely, Reading Coach, Moran Elementary School; Osceola, IN

During our last school year (2015-16), approximately 60 students worked on MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach (MVRC) with fidelity. The 18 third-grade students who worked on the program contributed to our most successful passing percentage of Indiana’s state-mandated reading assessment. During the first semester of this year, Moran Elementary students are showing exciting gains based on their recent MindPlay Universal Screener reading scores. Last year’s third-grade students, currently fourth-graders, were highlighted at the district level for reading growth. Their “IREAD” state scores were outstanding, and the 18 third-graders on MVRC had more hours on the program than any other grade. Out of all of our five Title I schools, we had the highest percentage of students passing “IREAD” basic criterion test. We even ranked high compared to our non-Title I schools.

Only one of our 50 third-grade students did not pass “IREAD.” That has not happened in a while. MVRC was one of the things we did differently last year. We are just beginning, but the data looks promising. This year we are seeing the most growth with our second grade students based on their recent Universal Screener scores. After only one grading period, from August 25 to November 2, 2016, they had a .42 gain in reading. This is very encouraging.

This year 20 fifth-grade students using MVRC with fidelity showed a .35 gain in reading at the end of the first nine-week grading period. Even though 16 students are still at critical, their reading skills are improving. These 20 students are ELL, exceptional education (EE), and general education students; seven of them are EE students. They gained one third-grade level in one quarter of the year.

Outstanding Student Reading Gains
One second-grade student graduated from MVRC in first grade. Because he was a half-point away from graduating from ELL, he was placed on the program again this year. Our policy is that all ELL students remain on MVRC until they test out of ELL. He is a couple of years above reading grade level on MVRC. He is at 100 percent on phonics and not quite 100 percent on grammar. He is at grade level four for independent reading and grade level five for fluency.

One fourth-grade student was on MVRC last year. In October 2015, her Universal Screener benchmark score in third-grade was at the second grade reading level, and she ended the year at a fourth-grade reading level—exceeding. After the first grading period this year, she is at a fourth-grade reading level in comprehension—meeting; fluency is at a fifth-grade level; listening vocabulary went up, and she is holding her own with phonics. Her confidence has improved, but if she gets discouraged while working on the program, I pull up her report and show her how well she is doing. I may say, “This is why we want you on this program. This is how it is helping you.”

Praise, Lunch Parties, and Free Books Motivate Students
Research on the impact poverty has on a student’s ability to learn, has raised our awareness on the importance of explaining the target and showing students their growth on a regular basis. We embrace the theory and communicate with students about the reading growth they are making. They are doing something that is incredibly difficult for them two hours a week, and we acknowledge that. We consistently show them how they have grown since their initial benchmark score.

Success is a Great Motivator.
I have two reward programs for my students. Any student who reaches fidelity and shows growth every month gets invited to a MindPlay party: Once a month, these students have lunch with Mrs. Treely in her room and get a cookie and a small prize, like a pencil.

With all of the reports generated by MVRC, it is easy for me to find something to praise for each student. They enjoy coming to my room to have fun and celebrate their success. If a student meets fidelity every week, s/he comes to my room and chooses a book s/he can keep and take home. For a short week, students get to choose two books. In November, they can earn up to seven books for their home library.

All books for the incentive program are donated by retired teachers and graduating fifth graders. They also earn a Knight Code Award, an in-house award used when students are “caught” doing something right. It is a big deal. They know how to get the reward and like choosing their own books. It works!

We have some dynamite teachers at Moran Elementary who have a wealth of experience teaching phonics skills in the early primary grades. We view MVRC as one slice of the pie to help students get on grade level.

MVRC catches and teaches the reading skills that the teacher may not be able to drill down and address on an individual basis. We want to accommodate students who work on MVRC. To ensure fidelity, we have extended the school day so they can work on the program before and after school. A lot of students capture half of their minutes that way. Using this approach, they can take advantage of reading remediation without being taken from classroom instruction. Teachers and technology are contributing to our students learning to read fluently.

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