The Long Review, May 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 tries to answer that question this
school year as 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.
Reading and Math
As the school year at VCS nears its end,
we’re able to look back and evaluate how
effective the Pearson-Dell solution has been
in improving students’ performance. Just as
we imagined when we started this experiment
last summer, the results are not black
and white but rather shades of gray.
What worked: Literacy
rates are improving. Head of
School Leigh Byron’s presentation
to the VCS board
of directors showed greater
math and reading literacy
in six of eight grade levels.
Grades that showed the
most progress also clocked
the most amount of time on
Caveat: Improved scores
recorded by the SuccessMaker program do not automatically
correlate with improved scores on standardized testing;
for one thing, the latter involves taking students off the
computers and having them fill in circles with no. 2 pencils.
State scores will be announced in August; we will report
those results when we get them.
What worked: The idea that data-driven instruction
could become a day-to-day reality. Teachers are able to
use data to create a log for each student and monitor their
progress. School leaders use the results in weekly meetings
in which classroom strategy is discussed.
Caveat: These practices do not originate from the
software itself. Byron insists that this atmosphere exists
because the faculty embraces the program and uses it to
complement their work in the classroom. “They are able
to identify the exact point where students are tripping up
in the program and then work on it back during regular
instruction,” Byron says.
What worked: Students
are enthusiastic about learning.
The multimedia features
and gaming aspects
of the program engaged
students at all grade levels.
Reports from students indicate
that they look forward
to “SuccessMaker Lab” three
days a week. (See a studentproduced
video about the
program at techlearning.com/may11.)
Caveat: Again, the only
way this or any other technology
is going to work is if the entire school
culture embraces it. “Without that,” Byron
says, “you won’t get anything done.”
What worked: The customer-vendor
relationship. Byron praised Pearson for its
ability to “address problems before they
became problems.” There was constant contact between
representatives of both companies and school leadership.
Dell also acted much as a business advisor when it brokered
new relationships with other service providers, such
Caveat: The relationship depends on which region of
the country you are in and the personalities of all the players.
Byron advises holding many meetings both over the
phone and in person to ensure that you feel comfortable
with vendors before committing to any implementation of
End result: Village Charter will continue to build on
the SuccessMaker program. The school has committed to
a subscription for next year and has begun purchasing Dell
Netbooks in an effort to be fully one-to-one within the next
three years. If you and your school leaders have any further
questions about the VCS experience, please contact the