The Lawrence School District is finding new ways to keep students engaged in its Extended School Year and summer reading programs, using the digital FastForWord and Reading Assistant Plus platforms.
Lawrence superintendent Ann Pedersen said that the programs help students prepare for the new school year. “We look forward to counting the number of credits earned at the end of summer school,” she said. “This allows students to enroll in additional courses for graduation.”
Both summer programs run five days a week for six weeks, the Extended School Year program for special education students and the FastForWord summer reading program for students in first through eighth grades to help them avoid regressing over the summer.
There are 28 students enrolled in the Extended School Year program and 240 enrolled in the summer reading program. High school students looking to make up credit for incomplete courses can also participate in the programs.
Extended School Year offers specially designed instruction for students in kindergarten through 12th grade with individualized education programs, to help them maintain their academic progress. Amanda Buttafuoco, the district’s supervisor of pupil personnel services, said that students appreciate the support they receive.
“The students enjoy the program, and we get a pretty good turnout each summer,” she said.
“The teachers are typically the special education teachers from the school year, which makes the program run smoother and helps the students to feel more comfortable. The program continues to help students from regressing the skills that they learned throughout the year and prepare them for the new school year.”
While several weeks of school during the summer might not be the most exciting activity for kids, Lawrence Elementary School Principal Jackie Beckmann said that the teachers in the reading program do a great job of motivating the students.
“The last week of school, my teacher try to meet with all of the students they would be working with over the summer to establish that relationship and make sure that they start off motivated,” Beckmann said. They’re doing great in school — we just want to help keep it going — but I think it definitely helped as well.”
She added, “We determined the students that would be participating based on teacher recommendations from the school year of students who are making growth with their reading, because we don’t want them to lose momentum.
“We want to continue that growth and achievement.”
In the reading program, teachers work remotely with students using FastForWord and Reading Assistant Plus.
The reading teachers divide their sessions up by level and individualized needs. Students use the software 30 minutes per day, five days a week, and meet with their teachers virtually three times a week.
Lisa Tariq, principal of the Lawrence Early Childhood Center, highlighted the method’s effectiveness. “Reading Assistant Plus is designed to track students’ reading fluency and auto-corrects for students on the spot,” she explained.
“We implemented this program during the school year, and based on our End of Year Gains meeting in June, 69 students made an average gain of nine months in less than 83 days. Overall, with the success we’ve seen, we extended the opportunity to our students to avoid the ‘summer slide.’”
Beckmann agreed. Since the virtual reading program was implemented, she said, “I think we’re getting closer to having students all be on grade level for their reading abilities.”
She added that she monitored students’ progress weekly, and has seen improvement in their memory, attention and processing.
Beckmann noted that the FastForWord program can also be applied to math and science.
“A lot of students have leveled up, which shows growth and improvement,” she said, “and the teachers have enabled them to keep motivated.”