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Missouri district taking blended, personalized approach to literacy instruction

Springfield Public Schools implements Raz-Plus from Learning A-Z

Springfield Public Schools is the largest district in Missouri, serving some 25,000 students and employing 4,000 staff members across 36 elementary schools, an intermediate school, nine middle schools, five high schools, a center for gifted education and an early childhood center. Personalization is one of the district’s themes, reflected in its motto—“Engaging. Relevant. Personal.”—as well as in a school choice program that offers over a dozen unique learning options through academies and other alternatives.

As part of its strategic plan, Springfield administrators are in the midst of an ambitious technology plan, “IGNiTE,” focused on providing 1-to-1 devices across the district, and providing resources to better personalize learning. “We wanted to move beyond exclusively print curriculum resources, and toward using tools that are more flexible and personalized,” says Director of Learning Support Allison Pilley. “That’s what led us to implement Raz-Plus from Learning A-Z across all of our K5 schools for the 2016-17 school year.”

Raz-Plus is a digital literacy curriculum resource that combines teacher-led, whole-class and small-group instruction with technology-enabled resources for personalized reading practice. All resources are accessible online and available in printable, projectable and digital formats to make a stronger connection between what is being taught in the classroom and what students are independently practicing outside of school. Raz-Plus includes all the award-winning print and digital resources from its singular reading products, Reading A-Z and Raz-Kids, in one easy-to-use teacher interface.

Pilley says Raz-Plus complemented the district’s approach to technology and blended learning. “Our philosophy has been to stay focused on instruction rather than the technology itself, and to use digital resources to support instruction and student learning,” she says. “The content, resources and data tools of Raz-Plus enable us to do just that, because of how they support teacher-led as well as small-group instruction.” The flexibility of Raz-Plus also provided the opportunity to personalize reading instruction for each student. “We appreciate how students can interact with the curriculum by choosing books that they’re interested in, and marking or highlighting text,” says Elementary Literacy Coordinator Matt Rosebrough. “The platform enables students to progress at their own pace, either in school or at home.”

The same features were important for teaching Springfield’s ELL and special education students. “Our approach to curriculum resources is to implement the same tools for all student populations,” says Rosebrough, adding that this philosophy is important to ensure equity as well as continuity for students who may move between ELL or special education and general education classes. “Because the flexibility of Raz- Plus enables students to progress at their own pace, our special education and ELL students can use the same program that all other K5 students are using,” he says. 

The district conducted comprehensive professional development to ensure that implementation would be successful for the 700 teachers who would be using the program. “We had a trainer from Learning A-Z lead some of the training, and we also had a number of workshops during our other professional development days,” Pilley says. Raz-Plus is already making a difference in Springfield. “Our teachers are teaching with more impact, and they’re using the data tools in the platform to make data-driven decisions and to individualize their instruction,” Rosebrough says. “Our students are also more engaged and motivated, and they love the home access and the freedom of choice in what books they can read. We’re excited about the future.”

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