July 16, 2015

As schools in England and Wales begin to join those in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland on their summer holidays, it’s a good opportunity to look back on the past year at Renaissance Learning.

Photo of Roderick Hunt receiving the Outstanding Contribution award at What Kids Are Reading Awards
Roderick Hunt receives the Outstanding Contribution award from Dirk Foch, Managing Director of Renaissance Learning, at the inaugural What Kids Are Reading Awards

Motivating reading for pleasure

This morning a student somewhere in the UK and Ireland took the 14,000,000th Accelerated Reader quiz of the academic year. By the time every school breaks for the holiday period, we expect the number of AR quizzes taken over the 2014/15 year to be approximately 50% higher than in 2013/14. Our Quizzing for Nepal initiative saw a record-breaking 96,000 AR quizzes taken in single day. We recently made our 27,000th AR quiz available, adding even more quizzes every week.

While we can count quizzes, teachers and librarians are counting the number of children motivated to read for pleasure. 14 million quizzes taken means 14 million books read; this amounts to over 170 billion words read by children nationwide. Regular reading practice is among the strongest indicators of future academic success, as learning to read enables children to read to learn. We are proud to support and encourage hundreds of thousands of children as they make progress with their reading skills.

As for which books have proved most popular with students this year… you’ll have to wait for the publication of the What Kids Are Reading report in a few months’ time.

Proven by research

Findings of the Education Endowment Foundation research

This year saw the publication of an independent study by the Education Endowment Fund and Durham University, which showed that students using AR make on average an additional three months of reading growth compared to their peers, and students from low-income homes make an additional five months of progress. Commenting on the publication of the report, the lead researcher Professor Stephen Gorard, said: “The study shows that poorer children can catch up with their peers as long as the right choices are made by schools.”

For the second year running, the National Literacy Trust has published an independent study into the effects of Accelerated Reader on students’ attitudes towards reading. Dr Christina Clark, who conducted the research, concluded that: “Children and young people who use AR tend to enjoy reading more, do it more often and think more positively about reading than their peers who do not use AR. They are also more likely to see a link between reading and their successes.”

Informed by curriculum-linked assessments

Our STAR Assessments received a significant upgrade in the autumn term. For the first time in the UK, the STAR Reading and STAR Maths assessments incorporate learning progressions. These maps of the skills students need to know have been built for the new national curriculum by NFER, and mapped to the STAR tests. The result is a 20-minute computer-adaptive assessment that provides an unrivalled level of curriculum-linked feedback on the skills student have mastered and those they need to focus on next.

Also for the first time in the UK, STAR now reports Student Growth Percentiles. These measures show the quality of a student’s growth compared to his or her academic peers. At a glance, teachers and curriculum leaders can answer the question, is their growth good enough?

With so much data available in so little testing time, it’s no wonder more than 3 million STAR tests have been completed this past year. As schools in England replace national curriculum levels with more accurate and easily understood reporting measures, many are turning to STAR to monitor student progress accurately and efficiently.

Supported by outstanding professional services

Icon showing two heads

None of this would be possible without the support of an outstanding professional services department. Our team of implementation specialists have delivered over 3,000 training sessions to staff at schools using our programmes. Last month alone they delivered over 400 sessions, preparing schools to hit the ground running in the coming academic year. Together with our school-based consultants, our coaching team have also delivered nearly 700 on-site training days.

We held a total of 17 day-long workshops for AR, AM and STAR customers over the course of the year. More than 500 teachers and librarians attended these events to receive in-depth training and professional development. These events are only possible with the kind support of our host schools, who open their doors to local AR and AM users – thank you!

Icon showing a telephone headset

Alongside our training programme, our customer services team is on hand to offer advice and assistance. We have answered more than 23,000 calls and 18,000 online chats in the 2014/15 school year. On average, we answer calls in 4 seconds or less, and online chats in 12 seconds or less. Because we are dedicated to high-quality customer service, we ensure that 0 calls or chats are answered by a machine. When you contact us, you’ll always speak to a member of our team.

…and even more planned for 2015/16

The coming year will see further enhancements to our programmes and an even more extensive training programme. We are planning a series of approximately 20 workshops, expect to deliver another record number of training sessions, and are prepared for a growing number of customer support enquiries. All the while our content team continues to add dozens of quizzes to AR each week.

We wish all our customers well for a richly-deserved summer break and look forward to working with you in the coming year.

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