Mary Walter Elementary School — Fauquier County School District, VA

Students Make Dramatic Gains in Literacy
DOwnload case study

“When I saw Core5 enable a third-grade student to progress from reading at a pre-primer level to a third-grade level in a matter of months, I knew Core5 was the program for us.”
- Alex O'Dell, Principal, Mary Walter Elementary School, Fauquier County School District, VA


Students at Mary Walter Elementary School come from a variety of backgrounds that can affect their literacy skill development: 54% of students are economically disadvantaged, 26% of students are learning English as a Second Language (ESL) and 15-20% of students in mainstream classes require special education. Teachers are challenged to meet the instructional needs of a student population with a wide range of skills and abilities. Alex O’Dell, Principal, Mary Walter Elementary School stated, “For several years, our SOL (the state of Virginia’s Standards of Learning test) scores continued to go down, especially in reading. None of the interventions we tried worked.”

Mary Walter Elementary needed to find a way to help students close literacy skill gaps, accelerate learning for their ESL students and students who struggle, and improve their students’ SOL scores. They believed a personalized learning approach incorporating an adaptive technology-based literacy program could provide a solution, but their efforts were stymied by programs that didn’t deliver results.



Lexia® Core5® Reading was recommended to Chrissy Yonkey, Reading Specialist at Mary Walter Elementary, by a colleague with prior Core5 experience. They only had a small number of licenses, but Yonkey was eager to try it in her student centers. O’Dell gave her the go-ahead. “I told her to try it, but I thought it was going to be another one of those programs that will promise a lot and deliver very little,” O’Dell recounted. Yonkey was hopeful her students would benefit from a literacy program that enables them to work independently at their own pace and adapts to each of their specific needs. This personalized approach would help her students close skill gaps and accelerate their learning.



Core5 delivered more than O’Dell or Yonkey expected. “I immediately fell in love with Core5,” remarked Yonkey. “It felt good to see that students using the online portion of the program were receiving effective, differentiated instruction while I worked with students individually delivering lessons that targeted their specific literacy needs.”

Students were excited to be working in Core5. They were engaged with the program’s graphics and game-like atmosphere. Most importantly, they responded to the personalized learning approach. Yonkey saw potential benefits for students of all abilities at Mary Walter Elementary— accelerating learning for those who struggle and extending learning for those who are advanced.

Based on this success, Yonkey and O’Dell began to strategize how they could most effectively utilize Core5. “When I saw Core5 enable a third-grade student to progress from reading at a pre-primer level to a third-grade level in a matter of months, I knew it was the program for us,” stated O’Dell. “That student later achieved a high score on his SOL reading test. I felt his success on the SOL had a strong connection to his work in Core5. I made the decision to purchase a Core5 site license and to use it school-wide.”

Core5 data detail the dramatic gains that students at Mary Walter Elementary School are making. Data show a substantial increase in the percent of students working in or above grade level in Core5—more than doubling—increasing from 40% to 99% in less than one school year.1 “Our students are advancing their literacy skills using Core5 and our ESL students are doing especially well. The program is helping them with their decoding and vocabulary,” commented Yonkey. “They’re learning quickly.”

O’Dell now mandates the use of Core5 for K–5 students of all abilities. Of Core5’s many benefits, O’Dell places significant value on the program’s ability to expose students’ emerging and existing skill gaps. He stated, “Core5 helps our students build foundational literacy skills, identifies skill gaps as they emerge and provides my teachers the instructional materials to address those gaps. The real-time performance data in Core5 enable our teachers and administrators to monitor student progress on an ongoing basis.”

Lisa Allen, third-grade teacher at Mary Walter feels the offline resources really benefit her students. She commented, “Core5’s offline instructional resources offer practice in skills that we as teachers cannot review every day. These activities help students build and extend their vocabulary and spelling skills.” O’Dell concluded, “Lexia Core5 Reading is a comprehensive technology-based literacy program that benefits students of all abilities through its personalized learning approach. It’s an all-in-one stellar package that seamlessly integrates into the classroom and has been truly effective for us.”

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1Students meeting recommended usage (N=300) at least 50% of the time with at least 16 weeks of use between 8/24/16–5/14/2017