Utah schools customize student learning using reading software

To boost the performance of struggling readers and improve reading proficiency for all students, a growing number of schools and districts in Utah have turned to the Lexia Reading® software program. Schools in the Granite, Jordan and Washington Districts as well as the Family Literacy Centers in Lehi are among the schools and learning centers that regularly use the technology-based reading program to improve student performance.

Lexia Reading was recently named an approved provider of reading improvement computer-assisted instructional learning tools for grades K-3 by the Utah Department of Education.

Lexia Reading’s cost-effective technology provides educators norm-referenced measures that prioritize the students who are the most at-risk, and recommends teacher-led, direct skill instruction to address specific skill gaps. As students work independently on Lexia Reading, they receive systematic and structured practice on foundational reading skills. Each of the age-appropriate, skill-specific activities conforms to federal guidelines and is aligned to Common Core State Standards.

“Before I found Lexia, I was flying in the dark, using my own program that put together a variety of instructional resources and strategies,” said Kim Peterson, reading specialist at Redwood Elementary School in the Granite School District. “I was especially frustrated with the fact that I couldn’t find much to support decoding for my students – many of whom are African refugees. However, when we migrated to Lexia, it completely filled the gap. My students were being challenged, receiving appropriately leveled instruction, being automatically reassessed and given the additional practice they needed to be the best readers they could be.”

In addition to supporting foundational skills development, the program also reduces schools’ dependence on traditional testing methods, while helping improve each student’s performance on grade-level assessments. 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. The program then automatically identifies and prioritizes students for small group or individual instruction, providing educators with targeted instructional strategies and structured lesson plans to help each student improve performance on grade-level assessments. This compilation of student performance data is done without administering a test, allowing schools to spend less time testing and more time teaching.

For Redwood Elementary administrators, the reading software was initially used as a supplemental program in summer school. After recognizing the strength of the program, they made it an integral component of their school’s reading curriculum for all students in grades 1-3 and for struggling readers and English Language Learners in grades 4-6.

“Finding a program that keeps the interest of older, struggling readers is challenging,” said Peterson. “But I found that Lexia Reading is the key to a well-rounded reading program. It provides differentiated instruction the way it should be, student-centric to the most granular level, automatically, and in real-time.”

For Nancy Weitzel, reading program director for Family Literacy Center in Lehi, Utah, the use of Lexia Reading has spanned an entire decade and its impact on struggling readers from ages 5 to 12 has been notable.

“We have had thousands of students use this program over the years, and without fail, their reading skills have dramatically improved. Lexia is at the center of our entire program because it works. I don’t know how any teacher could live without this product in their classroom. The auto-placement feature determines what level each student is at from the outset, plus the comprehensive reports are invaluable tools that we regularly share with the parents and the students so they can understand that their hard work and practice is making them better readers and better students.”

For Weitzel, success comes one student at a time. “We had one 5th grade boy who not only struggled with learning root words, but lacked any self-confidence. We put him on the program; it automatically assessed his reading level and areas for skills improvement. In less than three months, he was successfully and independently reading the Twilight book series. What a confidence builder!”

Peterson, like many educators, faced a common problem: students arrive at school displaying significant gaps in their educational backgrounds as well as being English Language Learners, which creates the added challenge of finding an intervention program that helps teachers assist a diverse group of students.

“Lexia Reading has played an important part in the growth and development of our children,” said Peterson. “It is a real asset to our program. Our students have improved their reading skills and learned to love to read. They aren’t just playing a game on computers; they have to recognize the concepts, understand the vocabulary, and be able to read for comprehension — not just guess. And as an educator, I know that once a child develops a love of reading, the teaching of it becomes easier.”