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Engaged Students, Involved Families, and Dramatically Improved Scores


In many ways Pinewood Elementary School was an ideal testing environment for the LeapFrog SchoolHouse multisensory, research-based supplemental early literacy curriculum called Th e Literacy Center. Before the program was introduced, the school faced enormous challenges. Pinewood Elementary was one of the lowest-performing schools in its district, and the achievement gap between minority and nonminority students was great.

But that was before Principal Guzman introduced The Literacy Center curriculum.

In 2000, when the school began using Open Court Reading, teachers quickly realized that many students, particularly those with Limited English Profi ciency (LEP), lacked the essential early literacy skills to work independently. When Principal Guzman learned of The Literacy Center supplemental curriculum, she knew she’d found a solution. “The Literacy Center curriculum seemed to answer a lot of the problems. The program was multisensory so students were engaged and quickly began to see learning as fun; it was individualized so that it could be used in mixed-ability settings; and it allowed teachers to easily track progress.”

During the 2003?2004 school year, students used The Literacy Center daily to supplement their Open Court instruction. As one teacher says, “The interactive nature of the [Literacy Center] program made students enthusiastic about learning and reading. They literally begged me to go on the program every day. And because their work was so engaging, I was free to work with small groups.”

Pinewood’s Third Graders Outscore District

After just a year with The Literacy Center, more of Pinewood’s third-grade students were performing at or above grade level than third-grade students district-wide. This is especially meaningful when you know that 87% of Pinewood’s students are minority students and 82% of the student body receives free or reduced-price lunches.

Pinewood’s Third Graders Surpass District’s Scores

Third-Grade End-of-Year Reading: % of Students Scoring At/Above Grade Level

Though gains were made among all minority groups, students with LEP outperformed the district by the largest margin, exceeding the district scores by 38%. (Test scores reported by school.)

The Literacy Center Levels Playing Field

Certainly one of the most exciting aspects of Pinewood Elementary’s success was The Literacy Center curriculum’s ability to create parity among minority and nonminority student groups. For example, in Pinewood at the beginning of the year, before The Literacy Center had been introduced, kindergarten Caucasian students’ book and print awareness was 77% higher than African-American students’ book and print awareness. After just one year of working with The Literacy Center, the gap went from 77% to just a 3% diff erence.

But beyond scores, what kinds of gains were being made?

Pinewood’s kindergarten students grew from knowing only a few letter names to knowing nearly the entire alphabet and from having only one student who could begin to identify beginning sounds to having nearly all students identifying beginning sounds. Perhaps most important of all, students were beginning to realize that learning can be fun, engaging, and stimulating.

Book and Print Awareness Scores Double

Kindergarten Book and Print Awareness: % of Students Scoring At/Above Grade Level

For three of the fi ve subgroups of kindergartners whose performance was tracked—African-American, Hispanic, and LEP—the percentage of students scoring at or above grade level at least doubled over the course of the school year. Students identifi ed as LEP experienced the greatest gain.

Students Beg to Take Materials Home

When work is fun, work gets done. And so it is with Th e Literacy Center. Because of its engaging and interactive nature, students were literally pleading to take the materials home so that they could use them—and so that others at home could use them as well.

Non-English-speaking parents asked to have LeapPad?personal learning tools (PLTs) and books sent home with their children. Nearly every student in the language resource teacher’s class could name a sibling, a parent, or other family members who used the LeapPad PLTs regularly to improve their own English skills. Incredibly, not a single LeapPad PLT or book was lost in the course of the year.

Pinewood Becomes a 100% LeapFrog School

The Literacy Center, which offers a unique multisensory learning experience, did more than teach young students early literacy skills—it created new possibilities among students, their families, and the Pinewood teachers. Students were actively engaged in the learning process. Family members saw the fun in the program and asked their kids/siblings to bring the PLTs and books home. And teachers, too often spread too thin, were given the gift of more free time to work with smaller groups.

“If The Literacy Center works in our school, it can work anywhere,” says Principal Guzman. “Next year I plan to add the LeapTrack® system for all my fourth and fifth grades, too. By the end of the year, we’ll be a complete LeapFrog school. I highly recommend this learning program.”

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