Herndon, Virginia, April 23, 2018 — Although every elementary school has different student needs its teachers must support, each needs an extensive library of books for its students. Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) in Cary, NC, the 15 largest school district in the United States, has 114 elementary schools. Curating a vast library to address different reading levels, interests, and languages at each school was expensive, and students could only check out books when school is in session. To give students access to a vast library of books they can access anywhere and at any time, WCPSS turned to the online literacy platform Big Universe® from Fuel Education®(FuelEd®) for its elementary schools.
Big Universe provides schools with an affordable, comprehensive literacy solution featuring a ready-made library of more than 13,000 high-quality leveled eBooks from well-known publishers. The mobile platform includes integrated tools such as embedded assessments, a student recommendation engine, analytics to demonstrate reading growth, and engaging reading practice opportunities. With Big Universe, WCPSS is leveraging eBooks in several different ways across the district.
Big Universe is a big part of the district’s summer Reading Camp for students in grades 1-3. As part of the state’s Read to Achieve Act, the district hosts the camp for students who are not reading on grade level based on state assessments. During the three-week camp, students read books around a central theme, participate in read-aloud sessions, and complete “I-Wonder” projects during which they create their own research question around the theme and read books to find the answer.
“Big Universe was a perfect answer to two questions: ‘How do we give these hundreds of students at our reading camp access to books?’ and ‘How do we give all students – whether they are in summer reading camp or not – access to books over the summer?’” said Sherri Miller, Director of K-12 Literacy at WCPSS. “Now we have fewer students losing ground over the summer because they can access books anywhere, 24/7 with any device, including a family member’s phone.”
Miller says the online platform has also helped the district’s educators incorporate reading across the curriculum. Using Big Universe’s search functions, Wake County’s elementary curriculum developers search for titles at different reading levels that relate to a lesson, create custom-curated bookshelves, and embed the link to the bookshelves into lessons. This has been especially helpful in science and social studies lessons, as well as English Language Arts. The district implemented an English Language Arts curriculum called Expeditionary Learning Education (EL Education), that requires students to engage in independent reading both for pleasure and to learn about topics being studied. Big Universe’s search functionality has also helped English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers provide students with books in different languages.
Most importantly, the online nature of the platform gives students access to books anytime – before school, during school, after school, on holidays and in the summer. When the local YMCA and Boy & Girls Club and the City of Raleigh, all of which serve WCPSS students, said they wished they had access to books for more literacy-focus programming, Miller told them every WCPSS elementary school student has access to Big Universe. So as long as the organizations are able to provide internet access and devices, students have access to thousands of books.
“Big Universe has become a big part of our elementary school instruction because as our needs grow, so does the platform’s functionalities and selection of titles,” said Miller. “They seek our input. When we needed more books, decodable readers to help students practice phonetic patterns, or text-to-speech features, they listened. Many of the product features Big Universe has added came to fruition because they reached out to their end-users. To us, they’re not a vendor. They’re a partner.”
Click here to read more about how the WCPSS uses Big Universe.
About Fuel Education
Fuel Education® partners with school districts to fuel personalized learning and transform the education experience inside and outside the classroom. The company provides innovative solutions for pre-K through 12th grade that empower districts to implement successful online and blended learning programs. Its open, easy-to-use Personalized Learning Platform, PEAK™, enables teachers to customize courses using their own content, FuelEd courses and titles, third-party content, and open educational resources. Fuel Education serves more than 2,000 school districts, offering one of the industry’s largest catalogs of K–12 digital curriculum, certified instruction, professional development, and educational services. To learn more, visit fueleducation.com and Twitter.
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