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Lodi Unified School District hears mixed report on reading intervention programs

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Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:00 am, Thu Oct 18, 2012.

Two popular reading intervention programs in Lodi Unified School District are most effective for students testing at very low levels, district staff revealed during a presentation to the board of trustees on Tuesday.

Ed Eldridge, assessment coordinator, and Lisa Kotowski, curriculum administrator, explained the results of two reading intervention programs: "Read180" and "Language!"

"Language!" and "Read180" both had better results when used by students in need of intensive intervention, meaning they tested at Far Below Basic levels.

"Language!" is an English language arts program for students reading and writing at two or more years below grade level. It is used by Lodi Unified students in third through sixth grade with poor results.

Using this program, students at Far Below Basic were able to move up by one level, but they moved up two levels when they didn't use the program. The program was not as effective with students at the Below Basic or Basic levels.

"Read180" is a reading skills program used mostly in seventh through 12th grade.

More students at the Far Below Basic and Below Basic levels made two or more years of growth when studying with "Read180." The program was not as good for students at the Basic or higher levels.

The district doesn't have many options for other programs.

This year's new language arts and reading curriculum, "California Treasures," does contain intervention elements, but they are for kindergarten through third grade. In the older grades, an outside program is still needed to pull students up to grade level.

Eldrige and Kotowski also reported their findings from two different iPad pilot programs.

The general iPad pilot program launched last year as a way for teachers to test the waters with the devices. The district purchased 230 devices for $189,000.

Technology in the classroom and in the hands of children is a major tenet of the Common Core Standards, a new set of requirements for schools coming down the pipeline for the 2014-15 school year. Eldridge said the direction of the pilot program was meant to get a feel for how new technology can fit in class. iPads were used in a range of classrooms, from a combination elementary school class to a high school course.

Eldrige encouraged the board not to look at the specific numbers from each classroom, but to focus on the teacher's comments.

Teachers in the iPad pilot program were generally positive about the role of the device in their classroom. The iPads allowed students more time for research instead of waiting to use a computer lab. Progress trackers were built into most learning apps, allowing easy feedback.

Teachers said students even came in during recess or free time to use the iPads. The learning curve was minor, and students were able to focus on a task for an extended amount of time.

The pilot was not without challenges. Keeping the devices synced and up-to-date was a time intensive task. District network restrictions kept teachers from assigning certain apps, and some teachers were nervous to be responsible for such expensive devices.

Edridge was reluctant to share specific numbers of improved test scores of students in the iPad program because there was such a small sample size for each class.

"I would like to see the numbers, even if it is a small size," said trustee Ruth Davis.

Another pilot program might be needed, this time to test comparable groups on how much use of the iPads improves test scores, said Neely.

Rosetta Stone's iPad app was used by students struggling to learn English in kindergarten through sixth grade. Lodi Unified was the first district in the nation to test the app's use with students for whom English is a second language. The program cost $15,500 for 30 iPads and $400,000 to purchase 3,000 Rosetta Stone licensees.

More students who were classified at the Far Below Basic Level in 2011 were able to move up at least one level by using Rosetta Stone compared to students who did not use the program. But very few were able to jump two levels.

Students ranked at the Below Basic level showed the same amount of improvement whether or not they studied English with Rosetta Stone.

Nearly 90 percent of students ranked Proficient either remained at the same skill level or dropped one or two levels after using Rosetta Stone. Of students not using the app, 76 percent remained at the same level or dropped one or two levels during the same time period.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com. For more information about local education issues, read our Education Café blog.

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