The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

March 10, 2013

Raleigh County Schools: Online program improves readers

By Sarah Plummer
Register-Herald Reporter

— Data show Raleigh County Schools’ students are reading better through individualized online learning programs.

Sandra Sheatsley, director of federal programs for the district, said kindergartners are working toward reading up to a second-grade level as they work their way through MimioSprout, a supplemental online reading program.

Rolled out in November in all kindergarten classrooms, the program consists of 80 20-minute episodes.

Sheatsley said that, according to studies on the program, students who complete three MimioSprout lessons a week, speak aloud when prompted to do so by the program and complete all 80 episodes across 12 benchmarks will be working at a second-grade level.

In January, Raleigh County kindergarten classrooms averaged 2.5 episodes a week. In February, classrooms were averaging 3.2 lessons.

As of Feb. 22, 3 percent of county kindergarten students were already past episode 61 of the program, 17 percent have surpassed episode 41 and 51 percent passed episode 21, Sheatsley said.

Sandra Trent, director of elementary education, said students in grades 1 through 8 across the county are also working to improve their reading skills through Lexia Learning.

Trent said Lexia conducted an analysis of Raleigh County Schools’ data. In a sampling of 4,000 students, 2,500 third-graders and 1,500 fourth- and fifth-graders, 74 percent of third-graders and 100 percent of fourth- and fifth-graders needed to review reading skills below their grade levels when the program first started.

“What is different about this program is that it forces some of our older children to back up and fill in the gaps. They may have trouble spelling because they hadn’t grasped some spelling patterns,” she said.

According to Lexia’s data review, students who use the program for 30 minutes per week master an average of 2.5 skills.

The number of skills learned quadrupled for those who use the program for 20 minutes three times per week.

“Students move through the level pretty fast, but the beauty is that it remedies itself. It takes the kids back to the basics and builds on that if needed,” Trent said.

Superintendent Jim Brown commented, “The rule of thumb is that if students are not reading fluently with comprehension skills by third grade, odds are, they are not going to. A lot of the skills start in kindergarten and first grade.”

Brown said the district is working to make it easy for teachers to implement these online programs. “We are trying our very best at removing some of the challenges teachers are facing. One example is that we know we need a minimum of six iPads in every classroom tocreate a station for MimioSprout. If we do that, time for this program is not a problem.”

Trent said data show teachers are using the program often, with 16,000 requests for program reports downloaded by teachers, and teachers have examined individual students’ lessons 3,000 times this semester.

Lexia is being used in grades 1 through 8 in the county.

— E-mail: splummer@register-herald.com