Moving toward more robust digital learning in English Language Arts
North Hills School District in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, wanted to better engage students in grades 6-12 across its English Language Arts curriculum through a commitment to education technology.
With the move toward more rigorous digital learning, North Hills piloted StudySync, McGraw-Hill Education’s digital English Language Arts curriculum for grades 6-12, during the 2015-16 school year in two sixth-grade classrooms.
StudySync provides a multimedia-enhanced, comprehensive core curriculum with a library of over a thousand texts and text excerpts. Aligned to state standards, StudySync offers reading, writing, listening, and speaking instruction, as well as differentiation resources and assessment tools to prepare students for high-stakes tests.
Meeting student needs is paramount
Shannon Diven is a 17-year veteran of West View Elementary School, where she teaches sixth-grade reading, math, social studies and science. Diven’s classroom piloted StudySync in 2015-16. Also a member of the North Hills pilot committee, Diven says it was clear that students were not learning up to their potential with the ELA platform the district had used in the past.
“The basal series was not meeting our needs” says Diven. “Kids were not performing at a level where they could analyze text or literature. They were not being exposed to reading excerpts or text that was rigorous or challenging enough.”
A more engaged classroom
Diven saw a clear difference in her classroom when she began using StudySync. She says that her students are now excited about reading and are more likely to talk about texts in class.
One feature of the curriculum that has been particularly impactful, according to Diven, is StudySync¬Æ TV. These high-quality videos model student collaboration and discussion.
“They changed the climate of my classroom discussions so much, because kids don’t necessarily know how to have an academic discussion. That needs to be taught” says Diven. “So, we can set up discussions to model StudySync¬Æ TV. Students prepare for their roles and are assigned certain tasks, and since they know what their role is, everybody participates now. All of a sudden, they’re not afraid to say, ‘I think this,’ or, ‘Maybe we should consider that.’ I have no problem with participation now.”
Because students submit StudySync assignments online, Diven can monitor student assignments, score them and provide feedback to her students in real time.
These early pilot successes prompted North Hills to implement StudySync in all sixth-grade classrooms for 2016-17 and conduct additional pilot programs in grades 6-8.
“We believe strongly in digital literacy and technology to supplement learning” says Jeff Taylor, assistant superintendent for curriculum, assessment and elementary education. “We wanted to see if we could better engage students in ELA. I feel that we have.”
So far, Taylor has seen real gains in Diven’s class after using StudySync. Before the pilot year, students in Driven’s class were scoring at about 69 percent on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment.
“After we implemented StudySync, it was about 90 percent. It’s phenomenal to see that much growth in one year.”
Taylor says StudySync aligns with the high expectations North Hills has for all its students.
“We’re committed to providing rigorous curriculum and establishing standards so kids can go beyond them” says Taylor. “StudySync has been a tremendous asset for us.”