The Long Review, February 2011
Too often, reviews of edtech fall short of reality. Sure, speeds and feeds are important to
consider, but how does this stuff work in the real world? T&L will try to answer that question
this school year, when our editors follow the stakeholders at Village Charter School in Trenton
as they implement Pearson’s SuccessMaker software on a 40-seat Dell PC desktop network.
Six months have passed in our Long
Review process, and the staff and
students at Village are fully immersed
in the Pearson program. Students
attend SuccessMaker labs with greater
regularity than they do gym or art class.
Teachers share printouts of student
scores along with report cards during
parent-teacher conferences. Even
parents chat in the pickup line after
school about how their kids are doing.
The consensus? Cautious optimism.
“We’re pleased with the program. It
has become part of our culture,” says
Leigh Byron, Village’s head of school.
“The teachers have adapted very well
to integrating the program into their
day-to-day lessons.” It took about
two months for the gears to really
start to mesh, Byron says. “It was going into November and
December when we could see the program was taking hold.
It always takes a little while to get going.”
The biggest benefit administrators and teachers have
found is the ability to drill down and analyze students individually.
Students use the program three days a week; each
session is assessed. Teachers can then spot exactly where
a child is facing a roadblock, go back into the regular classroom
while the student is learning, and figure out how to
move him or her forward.
Village students visit two Pearson Successmaker labs three times during the week. Their scores identify
problems, which are addressed back during regular classroom instruction.
Whether improved math and literacy scores as logged
by Pearson will translate into improved state testing scores
remains to be seen. The state tests assess students with
paper and pencil, whereas SuccessMaker is computerized.
That twist is a concern for Byron as the school struggles to
And some of the holistic benefits of SuccessMaker, such
as its ability to interact with other back-office data systems,
like Powerschool, have yet to be realized. Right now Byron
is using the software to meet immediate needs. “We’re building
the foundation with the students and the faculty. It gives
them more confidence to grow incrementally.” Byron has been
impressed by the Pearson representatives’ continued presence
during professional development and student assessment.
His advice for other schools considering a program of
this magnitude: Get the manuals now if you intend to start
something next year. Visit schools that are in the midst of
the program. And make sure to have your facilities and
funding in place before taking the plunge.