Middle school students who are struggling with math or reading have the ability to harness power and technological capabilities of the desktop computer in their quest to catch up on these important skills.
Michael Shelton, along with Principal Julia Maconochie, told members of the Dearborn School Board at their April 26 meeting that the school is seeing big results among at-risk and challenged students from SuccessMaker, a computer-based instructional learning system that employs adaptive technology to assess where a student’s proficiency level is, then fill in the gaps through lessons designed to bring them up to grade-level.
“We’ve had SuccessMaker in our building for five years, and over time, we’ve seen improvements in the Scholastic reading tests and math tests since we implemented it,” said Maconochie. “What’s great about it is that it uses technology that students are familiar with, and enjoy.”
SuccessMaker is a computer program that is based on assessing where a student is at, and then moving forward with lessons to help those who need additional reinforcements. The program allows students, after they choose their own avatar, to solve real-world problems in order to help them develop critical thinking skills and comprehension through personalized lessons.
The lessons are essentially one-on-one, allow students to work at their own pace, and are correlated with Common Core State Standards and Michigan’s educational benchmarks, said Maconochie.
“If an eighth-grader is reading at a third-grade level, we have data that indicates that for every 20 lessons, they move up about one grade,” she explained.
The success of the program is measured by assessments done within the program, but also, improvements are noted on standardized tests, such as the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP).
Because middle school is made up of several classes, students in need of supplemental instruction give up one of two electives to attend SuccessMaker computer labs for 58 minutes per school day until they are performing up to grade level. Students who need help–if they are having trouble only in one subject–will complete lessons in either math or reading.
The program is available at all seven of Dearborn's middle schools and a handful of elementary schools, though because is not eligible for Title I funding, only special education students can take lessons.
At Stout, there are 200 students in the SuccessMaker plan, many of whom are not considered to be challenged.
“It doesn’t matter whether they are special education or not,” said Michael Shelton, the director of Special Education for Dearborn Schools. “If they are having trouble, we’re going to give them what they need.”
The district is considering implementation at all of its elementary school buildings.
The trustees agreed to purchase $26,700 in new licenses for to expand the SuccessMaker program. Also, trustees approved licensing for for $41,750 and for the Special Education Department for $64,450.