New England schools improve literacy while kids have fun

In today's information-based society, strong literacy skills are critical for success. Without strong foundational reading skills, students may lack self-confidence, motivation to learn, and face significant hurdles throughout their academic career. As a result, educators are placing ever-increasing demands for higher levels of reading competency.

To meet this challenge, nearly 1,700 schools and learning resource centers across Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont have implemented the Lexia Reading program, which helps students in grades pre-K–12 acquire and improve reading skills while providing educators with integrated assessment reporting and real-time snapshot reports. These data help teachers to target instruction without waiting for the next benchmark exam.

The program offers more than 900 activities for reading skills development. Each of the skill-specific activities conforms to federal guidelines and is appropriate for both struggling and advanced learners. Students using the Lexia program work independently as the software automatically detects when additional practice is needed. This “branching” technology ensures that students demonstrate mastery of each reading skill before proceeding to the next.

Several Boston-area districts including Belmont, Dedham, Malden, Winchester and Winthrop have either implemented Lexia Reading as part of their language arts curriculum or broadly expanded their use of the program for the 2009–2010 academic year. Additionally, school districts in Bridgeport and Hamden, Connecticut, as well as in Southwick-Tolland, Massachusetts, have expanded their use of Lexia Reading. Elsewhere in Connecticut, Enfield School District and Simsbury Public Schools recently implemented the program district-wide.

Students practice their skills through the program's engaging core activities without becoming frustrated or bored. Malden Public Schools regards Lexia Reading as an integral part of reading instruction.

“We’ve seen great success with Lexia, particularly on our key initiatives such as differentiation, small group instruction and Response to Intervention,” said Margaret Adams, director of Balanced Literacy and Title I at Malden Public Schools. “The kids are motivated to do well on the program and they are excited as they complete the Lexia activities and see themselves becoming better readers.”

Bridgeport Public Schools began using the program last year to provide early intervention and support to at-risk kindergarteners while reducing the number of students held back to repeat grades. With 40 percent of the district’s student population speaking a language other than English at home, administrators sought a solution to identify skill gaps and provide individual instruction and practice.

“Lexia uses cutting-edge technology to provide a research-based approach for supporting students,” said Pamela Rosenberg, recently retired director of psychological services, Bridgeport Public Schools. “The time-on-task and the academic progress of our most challenged students indicate that Lexia gave them a comfort-zone in which they could thrive. We are so pleased with the results that we have expanded our program to include students in grades 1–3, district-wide.”

Educators in Simsbury Public Schools also found that the program helped students do well.

“We’ve found that Lexia engages our students in the learning process, provides teachers with critical information to guide the instructional process and gives us a scientifically proven method for helping all students to progress to higher levels of reading achievement,” said Annette Minella, assistive technology director at Simsbury Public Schools. “Lexia is an essential part of reading instruction that can benefit every teacher and every student.”