New Review: American Reading Company’s (ARC) Research Labs

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[Source: American Reading Company]

American Reading Company’s (ARC) Research Labs is a project-based reading, writing, and research program for students in grades K-12. Resources are available in print format and address the instructional shifts of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) (e.g., “Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction”). Instruction is organized in a workshop structure that provides opportunities for whole class, small group, and one-on-one instruction. Learning List recently reviewed resources for grades 1-5.

Research Labs presents instruction in four 9-week modules that address narrative, argumentative, and informational writing and genre study (e.g., short story, novel). Each writing module frames a “Unit of Study” in social studies or science (e.g., Jobs in My Community, Plants) that integrates reading, writing, and research skills. Through a close reading of a complex “Central Text” for the unit, the class begins to explore and engage with the topic. Using leveled texts provided in the “Unit Research Library,” students independently investigate and decide on a research topic and a set of research questions. Each module contains “Writing Cards” that guide students in the writing process (e.g., drafting, revising, editing) as well as graphic organizers and rubrics that help students organize their thinking.

Lessons include opportunities for formative assessment through one-on-one conferences between students and teachers. Each module ends with a final project that students publish and present to the class. Rubrics are provided to help teachers evaluate students’ writing and to support students in assessing their own work.

About American Reading Company*

The history of American Reading Company (ARC) began with one powerful idea. CEO and founder Jane Hileman, then working as a reading specialist, challenged a group of second graders reading on a kindergarten level to read 100 books. By giving them the choice to read books leveled to their abilities—books in which they were interested—her 100 Book Challenge enabled students to experience reading success and encouraged them to read more. Ms. Hileman and her colleagues used daily conferencing and assessment sessions to coach each student and to ensure that the shared curriculum met their needs. They were offered inexpensive prizes as incentives for reading a certain number of books. Parents were supported in establishing the home routines essential to sustained reading and long-term academic success. As a result, even the most reluctant of students got hooked on reading through Ms. Hileman’s 100 Book Challenge, and soon, all the second graders had dramatically improved their reading scores.

Word of the 100 Book Challenge spread, and Ms. Hileman was invited to bring the program into Philadelphia city schools, where her ideas for reading improvement were put to use in several of the district’s poorest and poorest-performing schools. When two of the schools were recognized for doubling the percentage of students reading on or above grade level, 100 Book Challenge was cited as one of the reasons behind the schools’ successes. With the support of the William Penn Foundation, 100 Book Challenge spread to more than 70 Philadelphia schools. In 1998, the Abell Foundation of Baltimore asked Ms. Hileman to provide her program at ten Baltimore city schools. To fulfill that order, Ms. Hileman decided to establish 100 Book Challenge as a business.

Over time, the company’s core program, 100 Book Challenge, was expanded to include Research Labs (thematic, integrated, project-based learning units in science and social studies) and Action 100 (a response to intervention accountability framework for whole-school transformation). To reflect its national customer-base and its growing list of products and programs, the company changed its name from 100 Book Challenge to American Reading Company in 2004.

American Reading Company’s rapid growth and success in the classroom has not gone unnoticed. As one of the fastest growing companies in the United States, ARC has attracted minority investments from Random House and Ironwood Investments. It was recently recognized as one of the Top 500 Diversity Owned Businesses in the U.S. and is the recipient of the 2006 Ernst & Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

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New Review: Learning A-Z’s Headsprout

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[Source: Learning A-Z]

Learning A-Z’s Headsprout is a supplemental online program to support reading instruction in grades K-5. Learning List recently reviewed the program’s early reading component for grades K-2. Alignment reports are available for grade K only. Instruction is presented in sets of sequential “Episodes” that teach foundational skills using engaging, animated characters in interactive videos. Printable “Sprout Stories” and flashcards provide opportunities for students to practice new skills.

The early reading component of Headsprout provides 80 Episodes that address foundational skills, such as phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension, as well as punctuation and capitalization. The first 40 Episodes are also appropriate for pre-K classrooms.

Episodes are 20-minute interactive videos that provide direct instruction and guided practice in a game format. Episodes are organized in sets that address sequential reading skills (e.g., letters represent sounds, sounds combine to make words, words combine to make sentences, sentences combine to make stories). Sets are built around a unifying theme (e.g., Sea World, Space World) and include thematic, animated characters (e.g., Pip the Fish) and age-appropriate humor.

Headsprout includes a set of 90 decodable readers, or “Sprout Stories” that may be read online, printed, and displayed using classroom projection devices (e.g., interactive whiteboard, LCD projector). Beginning at Episode 5, each Episode has a corresponding Sprout Story that allows students to practice new skills. Sprout Stories present short blocks of text and incorporate Episode characters and colorful illustrations.

 About Learning A-Z*

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[Source: Learning A-Z]

Learning A-Z started as an idea. Bob Holl and Francis Morgan, two entrepreneurs with years of experience in the education industry, believed that every child deserved developmentally appropriate books and activities — at school and at home. With the support of a handful of staff, many of whom still hold key positions today, the pair started LearningPage, a free website that provides teachers with printable activities, and Reading A-Z, a subscription-based website that offers teachers effective, differentiated reading resources and instructional tools.

Today, Learning A-Z provides a number of dynamic websites that deliver hundreds of thousands of resources to students and teachers across the world. As a leading PreK-6 online curriculum provider, Learning A-Z is now used in over half the school districts in the U.S. and Canada, and in more than 165 countries worldwide.

*The content in this section is provided by or adapted from Learning A-Z.

Subscribe to Learning List for access to the spec sheet, full editorial review and detailed alignment report for this material.

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Learning List and EdReports: Differing Reviews of CCSS-Aligned Mathematics Materials

EdReports recently released their reviews of four publishers’ instructional materials aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for mathematics: Math Learning Center’s Bridges in Mathematics (K-5), McGraw Hill’s Everyday Math (K-6), Kendall Hunt’s Math Innovations (6-8), and Origo’s Stepping Stones (K-5). Reviewing the materials for alignment to the instructional shifts of the CCSS, EdReports found only one material, Bridges in Mathematics, to be fully aligned and sufficiently easy to use.

At Learning List, we were surprised by these findings. In contrast to EdReports, we found Bridges in Mathematics, Everyday Math, and Stepping Stones to be aligned to 100 percent of the CCSS at each grade level the material addressed.

For each material, we provide three distinct reviews, including: (1) an overview of the material’s key academic attributes and technology requirements; (2) a detailed verification of the material’s alignment to each CCSS; and (3) an in-depth review of the material’s instructional content and design.

For the alignment review, multiple experienced and certified teachers review the citations (i.e., pages, video, lessons) listed in publisher’s correlation to verify that they address the content, context, and cognitive demand of each standard. For CCSS math products, we also review the material’s alignment to each of the eight Mathematical Practice Standards (MPS), the CCSS-identified habits of mind that students should develop as a result of mathematics instruction (e.g., reason quantitatively).

Our reviewers found that Bridges in Mathematics, Everyday Math, and Stepping Stones address 100% of the CCSS at each grade level. This does not mean that every citation we reviewed was aligned to the relevant standard; rather, it means that our reviewers found that every standard was fully addressed in at least one location in the text. We also found that the MPS are fully integrated in Bridges in Mathematics and Everyday Math. Origo did not submit an MPS correlation for Learning List to verify.

Beyond alignment, our editorial reviews provide an in-depth analysis of each material’s instructional content and design, including multiple indicators of rigor, focus, coherence and ease of use.  For example, our editorial reviews for each of these three materials found that: distracting or extraneous content is limited, instruction is grade appropriate and the material develops critical or higher order thinking skills. While Bridges for Mathematics and Stepping Stones contain inquiry-based activities; Everyday Math did not.  All three materials provide assessments at appropriate instructional points but contain different types of navigation tools and different instructional resources for teachers and students, as elaborated upon in each review.

Reviewing materials is an inherently subjective analysis. Both EdReports and Learning List provide rigorous reviews of each material for educators to use as a baseline for their internal review and selection process. In contrast to EdReports, we found that Bridges, Everyday Math, and Stepping Stones deeply addresses the CCSS.  Our editorial reviews further highlight each material’s attributes of rigor, coherence, focus and ease. Whether each of the materials is rigorous, focused or coherent enough for their students is a decision we leave for schools and districts to make for themselves.

Subscribe to Learning List for access to the spec sheet, full editorial review and detailed alignment report for these materials.

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