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California Schools Turn to SaaS After Budget Cuts

Study Island, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) tool from Archipelago Learning, is becoming more popular in California following education budget cuts and pressure to improve student results.

The 2011 California Educational Opportunity Report highlights the reasons behind Study Island's growth in the state. The report, released in March by UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education & Access, surveyed 277 high school principals about learning conditions in their schools.

Findings of the report include:

  • Student achievement and progress is suffering because high schools are offering less time, attention, and quality programs;
  • School reform has slowed significantly, citing staff cutbacks and the elimination of professional development;
  • Inequality is growing in school districts; and
  • High schools are encountering more demands from families because of the economic crisis.

SaaS programs, which are typically paid for monthly, are Web-based, eliminating the cost of additional hardware, licensed applications, installation, set-up, upkeep, and maintenance.

More than 1,200 schools across the state are now using the Web-based Study Island service which provides resources to help students learn subjects based on California's Content Standards, California High School Exit Examination, and Common Core Standards. It also offers math and reading skills for kindergarten and first grade, fine arts, health, and technology for elementary and middle school, and preparation for the high school Algebra II Skills Mastery.

School districts in California that have recently implemented Study Island, created by Archipelago Learning, or have expanded its use, include Los Angeles, West Covina, Torrance, and Rialto Unified.

Baldwin Park Unified School District, located in the central San Gabriel Valley region of Los Angeles, uses Study Island in its elementary schools for math and reading, as well as in its middle/junior high schools and high schools.

"Study Island is a cost-effective solution that can be used in a variety of ways," said Arturo Ortega, assistant superintendent of the school district. "Our subscription allows schools the flexibility to utilize it in the way that works best for them. One school may choose to use it only in the computer lab during regularly scheduled classes, while another may use it in the lab, before and after school, during recess and lunch, in the library, and in individual classrooms. We can maximize our usage of Study Island as much as we want and, for the price, we get a lot out of it."

Features of Study Island include:

  • Traditional assessments and interactive games based on California standards;
  • Immediate feedback and automated instruction;
  • Real-time progress reports;
  • Answers to multiple-choice question rotate positions;
  • Customizable and printable worksheets;
  • Ability to log in from anywhere;
  • Digital writing portfolios;
  • College and career readiness tools;
  • Parent notification system; and
  • A professional development module for teachers with online video tutorials, lesson plans, and interactive whiteboard resources.

Fern Elementary School in Torrance solely uses Study Island in an intervention capacity.

"One of Study Island's benefits is its ability to allow students to study individually in standard test format, or interactive game mode by providing engaging, self-paced instruction and positive reinforcement. Study Island also creates an atmosphere of healthy competition which motivates the students to study," said Principal Valerie Williams.

For more information, visit studyisland.com.

About the Author

Tim Sohn is a 10-year veteran of the news business, having served in capacities from reporter to editor-in-chief of a variety of publications including Web sites, daily and weekly newspapers, consumer and trade magazines, and wire services. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @editortim.