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Response to Intervention

Cabarrus County Schools Expands Student Progress Monitoring System

Cabarrus County Schools will be expanding its use of a student progress monitoring system from Pearson. The district, located in suburban Charlotte, NC, has been using the company's AIMSWeb, a response to intervention (RTI) program, since the 2007-2008 school year. That initial pilot, involving 940 students, will expand to 11,300 in 19 schools during the next school year.

AIMSWeb provides a benchmarking mechanism to measure a student's current skills in specific categories, such as reading comprehension and early numeracy and monitors progress to evaluate student progress over time. In a statement, the North Carolina district said educators are using the program to help make instructional decisions at the core curriculum and individual student level.

Two pilot schools point to success with use of the program as a part of a larger effort. In 2007 at Pitts School Road Elementary School, 57 percent of the students were below the district's benchmark targets in AIMSWeb. Three years later, in January 2010, 60 percent of those students, now in fifth grade, were at or above the target.

A.T. Allen Elementary School baselined first grader phoneme segmentation--the ability to hear sounds in spoken words--at 0.2 phonemes. Adjustments made by teachers to the core curriculum resulted in a growth rate of 0.5 phoneme from winter to spring. This exceeded the district's target growth rate.

"AIMSWeb allows us to share data so easily. Every stakeholder who can impact student outcomes--parents, teachers, administrators--has quick, reliable data upon which we can make education decisions about a student's individualized needs, said Brian Schultz, director of elementary education for the district. "Most importantly, our students are benefiting through better personalized learning."

Greg Liddle, principal at Carl A. Furr Elementary School, a third school involved in a pilot project, said he considers AIMSWeb a "wonderful" tool to track student mastery in several early literacy skills. "By using the data obtained through the benchmarks and focusing instruction according to student needs, we have seen significant statistical growth in early literacy skills. The establishment of these early literacy skills has had a direct impact on reading fluency in the early grades. For example, in 2008-2009 first grade students began the year averaging 30.8 words read [correctly] per minute. In 2009-2010 first grade student began the year averaging 36.0 words read [correctly] per minute."

Liddle said he partially credits AIMSWeb and its ability to target specific skill needs for individual students for this improvement.

The use of the tool has also helped the district get parental buy-in for teaching decisions, according to Amy Jablonski, RTI program coach. "We finally have a way of sharing student progress information with parents that makes sense to them, which really engages parents in the learning process," she said. "Now, we know what is working with our core curriculum, and we are identifying our at-risk population quickly and accurately. To improve literacy, for instance, we're challenging our higher-grade teachers to reinforce the foundations of reading and our kindergarten teachers to target core literacy elements."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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