District Teams with Lightspan to Improve Student Test Scores
Along with their parents and teachers, elementary students at three schools in Adams County District 50 in Westminster, Colorado have discovered that serious play can result in serious academic gain. During the 1997-98 school year, district officials committed to improving student achievement in Reading and Mathematics selected Flynn, Berkeley Gardens, and Westminster Elementary Schools to participate in an Interactive Technology Project. This project would be accomplished in conjunction with the San Diego-based Lightspan Partnership and its Lightspan Achieve Now program.
Achieve Now is a curriculum program for the elementary grades that connects teachers and parents, schools, and homes in support of improved Reading, Language Arts and Mathematics. It features an entertaining series of challenging, animated learning activities called Lightspan Adventures, which are designed to engage students by using stories, characters and interactivity. According to school officials, it is the kind of program that aligns with the projects stated goals to: 1) improve student achievement in Reading and Mathematics; 2) extend learning time into the home; 3) engage parents in an active partnership with their childrens learning; and 4) excite children about learning through technology.
The significant challenge facing District 50 was to bring a high-technology learning experience to children who may or may not have access to high technology in their homes. Recognizing that children from lower-income homes have the highest need, yet the most limited access, it was imperative that the appropriate technology be selected to maximize the learning experience and allow all children to participate. That technology involved adapting a video game console to a TV to play the CD-ROMs associated with the project. With an estimated 99% of all homes having a TV set, the most engaging and effective learning experience could now be made available to all students.
Working from a comprehensive plan developed by what was named The Genesis Team (a group composed of school and Lightspan officials), the program was a huge success.
Specifically, the team modeled classroom instruction, provided question-and-answer opportunities, and demonstrated curriculum as it aligned to District 50 standards. Lightspan Achieve Now materials, which are indexed to state-required curriculum objectives, were used in partnership with the specific objectives and unique requirements driven by The Genesis Team.
The team guided the implementation and integration of Lightspan Achieve Now into daily lesson plans, classroom activities and appropriate homework assignments. And, because parental involvement in the childrens education was a primary goal, parents were selected to serve as leaders for the program. These parents previewed the Achieve Now curriculum with their children and co-facilitated parent meetings with teachers. The result was something that no individual teacher, district, or consortium could match.
Results Speak for Themselves
Interactive, Inc., an independent research consulting firm, compared the test-score changes of third-grade students in the district over a two-year period in two groups of schools those with the Lightspan materials and those without. Although the schools without the Lightspan materials scored higher at the beginning of the period, the Lightspan schools outscored their counterparts on the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS) at the end of the programs first year.
Third-grade students using Lightspan Achieve Now at home and at school gained three points on the Reading subtest of the CTBS. Matched students at three different schools where the program was not used scored an average loss of five points. Additionally, Lightspan third-grade students gained, on average, sixteen points on the Mathematics subtest of the CTBS compared to a gain of just one point by students who did not participate in the program.
Students using Lightspan Achieve Now consistently realized higher performance in combined reading and mathematics scores across the four quartiles. The greatest combined gain was achieved by the lowest-quartile students, with the lower boundary rising by 13 percent from 937 to 1,055.
Learning at Home and at School
While increased achievement in Reading and Mathematics was identified as a primary goal, the project also sought to increase the amount of learning time spent in the home. A total of 750 parents were interviewed about how the Lightspan materials were used in their homes. Seventy-nine percent stated that in using Lightspan, their children went beyond what the teacher assigned as homework. In the spring of 1998, parents reported a continuation of this effect as their children used Achieve Now an average of three nights a week for 40 to 65 minutes per session.
Achieve Now allows my son, who has special needs, to have aha! experiences regularly, reports one parent advisor. The program gives him another way to effectively tackle various curricula. When hes working on a game and it begins to click in his mind, you can see the light come on. It all comes together with Lightspan Achieve Now, linking what is learned in the games to other lessons learned in the classroom.
The remaining objectives of engaging parents in an active partnership with their childrens learning and exciting children about learning through technology were realized in the homes where Achieve Now was present. On average, the parents reported spending 39 minutes nightly helping their children with homework. Seventy-one percent thought that their children were more enthusiastic about school since they started using Lightspan Achieve Now, and 97 percent stated that their children watched less TV as a result.
Of the program, Dr. Michael Massarotti, the District Superintendent, says, Lightspan is a comprehensive instructional system. It includes essential components to support student achievement coursework, staff development, assessment, and a unique connection with the home. It is highly compatible with our educational standards, specifically in Language Arts and Mathematics, and clearly supports the instructional efforts of our staff. It is a unique tool that gives teachers an opportunity to individualize instruction and challenge learners at their level of need.
The Lightspan Partnership
San Diego, CA
(888) 4 ALL KIDS
This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.