Susquehanna Township School District, PA
Superintendent sets aggressive goal for literacy proficiency
"After only a year and a half of using Core5, our PSSA (Pennsylvania System School Assessment) scores rose 14%, and our SPP (School Performance Profile) score went up 10 points.”
- Jacqueline Wapinsky, Principal, Holtzman Elementary School Susquehanna Towship School District, PA
“When I arrived in Susquehanna Township two years ago, the school district lacked sufficient materials to support our core reading program. Our elementary teachers had varying levels of experience teaching phonics, a critical element for literacy success, and we needed to develop a shared understanding of phonics instruction,” stated Dr. Tamara Willis, Superintendent, Susquehanna Township School District. “There was a severe gap in phonemic awareness among students due to inconsistencies in direct phonics instruction. As a result, only 53% of third-grade students were reading on or above grade level.” To address this challenge, Willis focused on the entire elementary student population, served by Sara Lindemuth Primary School (740 pre-K–2 students), and Holtzman Elementary School (550 students in grades 3–5).
Recognizing the severity of the problem, she established the aggressive goal of reaching 90% reading proficiency for her third-grade students by 2021. Willis realized that for her district to make progress, her teachers would benefit from professional development and resources that would support them in delivering quality and consistent instruction across the grades.
Willis learned of a neighboring district’s success with Lexia Reading Core5®, a technology-based literacy program for grades pre-K–5, and decided to take a closer look. She was pleased to see that Core5 was not only engaging and motivating for the students, but offered instructional support for six areas of reading, including, most importantly, phonics. The program’s ongoing progress-monitoring data would help her teachers prioritize and plan their instruction for each student. Her teachers would have data that would identify the precise skill(s) on which each student is struggling, as well as access to scripted Lexia Lessons® to target those skills. Two important factors solidified Willis’ decision to purchase Core5.
First, considering the fact that Core5 is research-proven, not just research-based, with a rigorous scope and sequence, Willis could be confident that Core5 would give her teachers the instructional support they needed to help students become college and career ready. Secondly, the program’s embedded assessment would give her teachers access to real-time, norm-referenced and criterion-referenced data for each student—data that would predict each student’s likelihood of reaching end-of-year benchmark and prescribe customized lesson plans based on that student’s need.
To support her district-wide initiative of reading proficiency for third-grade students by 2021, Willis embraced Lexia’s Implementation Services Plan (ISP) for Core5. Based on best practices identified in the ISP, Willis developed clear first-year goals: every teacher would use Core5 with all of his or her students; teachers would log into the myLexia database regularly to check student progress; and the district would achieve an overall average of 75% of students meeting usage recommendations prescribed by the program—increasing to 80% in year two.
“The on-site training sessions delivered by Lexia were wonderful,” remarked Holtzman Elementary School Reading Specialist Michele Yeagy. “Our teachers are comfortable using the different features of this system. Core5 is very teacher friendly.”
She continued, “It’s amazing how much Core5 offers, and the positive impact the materials have on the children. For example, the student achievement charts motivate them to take ownership of their learning. I find the student reports support my ability to conference effectively with my students. The reports are easy for them to follow and understand, and being able to share the data with students is very powerful.”
Willis set clear goals for performance, as well as clear expectations for how to reach them. She required her educators to use Lexia Lessons as part of their guided reading lesson plans. “If Core5 recommends that a student receives additional instruction on a particular skill, I expect my teachers to be able to demonstrate that they targeted that skill in their guided reading plan,” stated Willis. Having principals check in regularly with teachers ensured accountability and created opportunities for them to empower teachers to deliver effective instruction.
“As an administrator,” stated the assistant principal for Sara Lindemuth Primary School, “I like that I can check Core5 data every day and get a pulse on this building, on a grade level and a classroom very quickly.”
Susquehanna’s commitment to implementing Core5 with fidelity is yielding exciting results. Students in grades K–5 who met recommended usage in Core5 for at least 20 weeks made meaningful progress (N=1,075). There was a substantial increase in the percent of students working in or above their grade level in Core5, growing from 39% to 90% (see Figure 1).1
Susquehanna Township has incorporated Core5 as part of their daily five rotations. While one group of students works online in Core5, the teacher delivers targeted Lexia Lessons to another group as part of small group instruction. As a result, the percent of K–5 students meeting usage in Core5 on average is 78% —an achievement beyond the district’s goal for the first year. As a reading specialist, Yeagy values how Core5 provides scaffolded activities when a student struggles, simplifying choices and delivering explicit instruction. “I appreciate how the scope and sequence offers a systematic approach to learning and how well the lessons are structured,” she stated.
Jacqueline Wapinsky, Principal at Holtzman Elementary, proudly added, “Because of the teachers’ dedication to their students and commitment to the program, after only a year and a half using Core5, our PSSA (Pennsylvania System School Assessment) scores rose 14%, and our SPP (School Performance Profile) score went up 10 points. Our teachers credit their use of Core5 and their commitment to Core5 student usage for this success.”
1Students meeting recommended usage (N=1,075) in Core5 at least 50% of the time over at least 20 weeks from 9/1/2016 through 6/4/2017