Austin Schools Improve Students’ Reading Scores, Reduce Time Spent Testing

Educators at 15 schools in the Austin Independent School District adopted the technology-based reading software programLexia Reading®. Neighboring schools and districts including Eanes, Hays, Dripping Springs, Bastrop, Round Rock and Del Valle also use the web-enabled technology.

Lexia Reading is a scalable, research-based approach that provides educators norm-referenced measures that prioritize the students who are most at-risk, and recommends direct skill instruction to address specific skill gaps. As students work independently on Lexia Reading, they receive structured learning on foundational reading skills. Each of the age-appropriate, skill-specific activities conforms to federal guidelines. The software delivers scaffolded practice, advancing students to higher levels as they demonstrate proficiency.

“We have 373 students using Lexia Reading and our progress has been excellent,” said Suzann Vera, M.S. Ed., instructional coach at Paredes Middle School, in Austin ISD. “During our initial pilot of the program, 84 percent of the students moved from a ‘basic reading level’ to ‘intermediate/elementary levels;’ while 12 percent rose to the intermediate level and are on track to pass the STAAR test. We have 72 percent of our struggling students who are now emergent readers, which means that they have moved beyond the ‘basics’ and are now applying improved skills in their reading.”

In addition to supporting foundational skills development, Lexia Reading also reduces schools’ dependence on traditional testing methods. Lexia Reading’s Assessment Without Testing® provides real-time data on students’ specific skill gaps, as well as norm-referenced predictions of each student’s percent chance of reaching the end-of-year benchmark. In the first month of use, educators can see which students are at the greatest risk of not reaching this milestone. These measures are correlated to outcomes on other commonly used assessments such as DIBELS®, AIMSweb® and MAPS®. With this data, the program then automatically identifies and prioritizes students for small group or individual instruction and provides educators with a targeted action plan for each student, including instructional strategies and structured lesson materials to help each student improve performance on grade-level assessments.

Vera added, “Where usage of the software is structured and at recommended levels, we are getting great results. Teachers using it with fidelity are getting the best results. In some cases, students have advanced at least four skill levels.”

In a recent analysis of a national database of 37,000 students, 62 percent of high-risk students in grades 1–3 closed the gap in one year when using Lexia Reading as recommended.

“I use Lexia Reading with my kindergarten class and find that we both enjoy the results: the students like to monitor their own progress through the program and I enjoy watching them improve so quickly,” said Kari Potter, teacher at Emile Elementary in Bastrop. “I had one child who started the year knowing only two sounds and now is able to ‘sound spell’ in his writing; identifying both beginning and ending sounds. This is a huge improvement in just six weeks. Imagine what this student and all my students will be able to do by the end of the school year!”