Why K-8 students have sent math, reading scores soaring

Posted 7/13/23

The Warwick Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Lisa Schultz is out to spread good school news.

Schultz is excited about K-8 math and reading scores that contrary to national …

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Why K-8 students have sent math, reading scores soaring


The Warwick Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Lisa Schultz is out to spread good school news.

Schultz is excited about K-8 math and reading scores that contrary to national trends are on the rise.

In an interview last week she reported for the 2022-23 academic year reading scores increased by 26% which was 1% higher than last year, and math scores went up 37% which was the largest increase on record, she said. Reading growth scores were 128% and math was 111%, both of which were higher than the goal of 100%.

At the Rotary Club of Warwick meeting Thursday, Schultz said this was the first time the district reading scores were above the national average and predicted that the overall growth in scores will impact the district’s statewide ranking.

“We’ve never seen growth like that,” Schultz said.

Schultz partially attributes this improvement in scores to learning software i-Ready diagnostics. She explained that the district first adopted this system 6 years ago and uses it as a primary measure for English Language Arts and Math ever since, with examinations held in the fall, winter and spring.

Schultz said software uses the results from the examinations to curate a “My Path" or an individualized lesson progression that targets the specific learning needs and goals for each student. She said that it is mandatory at every school for students to log minutes in their lessons on a daily basis.

“It challenges them,” Schultz added. “This way the kids aren’t bored. We’ve seen this huge impact on how the kids are doing because of i-Ready, because it really works.”

Teachers have also embraced this program with years of professional development.

“They’re seeing the impact that the My Path is having on the students,” Schultz said. “It’s kind of a newer thing that we really pushed these past two years, so we’ve really seen exponential growth more than we’ve seen before.”

“People are buying in,” she added.

Interventionists assist

Schultz also credits improvement to the math and reading interventionists “knocking it out of the park.” Each elementary school had at least one of each, with some schools having more depending on need.

Because of their efficacy, the interventionist positions at each school were included in the budget for fiscal year 2024. She said they all “breathed a collective sigh of relief” at the preservation of such important positions.

“They have gone above and beyond to do that,” Schultz said. “They’ve closed these major gaps. They did even better this year than last year because they’ve been going into classrooms and helping the other teachers teach, too.”

Prior to the pandemic, reading and math specialists split their time between multiple schools. According to Nikki Greene, Lead Math Interventionist for the district, this resulted in “double the work in half the time” which made it harder to connect with the teachers and students at each school. With the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief in response to COVID-19, the interventionists were able to solely focus their time and energy on one school.

“Having us full time at each building did significantly help support those students but also support teachers if they needed any help,” Greene added. “Teachers have also worked really hard.”

Greene said that the data indicated the efficacy of interventionists to address some of the learning loss of the pandemic. Using 2021 as a baseline year, she said every single school has had growth from the year prior. She emphasized that the growth was “across the board,” including Title 1 schools.

“I think that there’re a lot of factors, but I absolutely feel that interventionists played a role in helping with that growth because we were able to get those students who are below grade level, close that gap and get them either approaching grade level expectations or they’ve met expectations,” Greene added.

Identifying those falling behind

Alexandra Kanaczet, a reading specialist at Holliman Elementary School, compares her role to that of a Navy Seal. She said that as a highly trained professional, it is her job to comb through testing data to find those who are falling behind. Once she identifies who needs additional assistance, she employs a series of tactics to help small groups of three to five students. According to Greene, math interventionists met with their designated students, some of whom were performing two or more years below grade level, between two and four times a week for half an hour per session.

She’s worked at Holliman for 11 years, so this year, she watched her first kindergarten class graduate. She said that out of the more than 60 graduating 5th graders, only one student will have to receive literacy support in middle school.

“The data is definitely on an upward trajectory, but when you think about it in terms of students, that’s really changing the trajectory of a student’s life: being able to read, being able to be on benchmark with their peers and when they go into middle school, they don’t have to take that remedial class,” Kanaczet added.

The district has also bought a new reading program called Wit & Wisdom. This past academic year was the first full year after the pilot. Schultz described this program as “rigorous,” with students encouraged to engage in “productive struggle.” Teachers serve as more of a guiding role while students figure things out with each other.

“They’re not being spoon fed answers anymore,” Schultz said. “They have to do a lot of independent thinking, and we’re seeing their brains grow immensely due to that.”

Kanaczet was also a proponent of this program. She said that Great Minds, the company who released Wit & Wisdom, has been very active in Warwick, providing coaching and training to teachers and meeting with students in person. She finds it particularly healthy that the program builds on itself from grade level to grade level.

“The kindergarteners who are using this program now are going to be just so skilled by the time they get to 5th grade just knowing the routines, knowing what’s expected and being great writers and readers as a result of the program,” Kanaczet said.

students, scores, grades


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