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A couple years ago Erin Parker and other Clovis Unified School District educators were looking for ways to boost English and math scores for students from disadvantaged communities.

Their research turned up a lot of possibilities, but the i-Ready Diagnostic Assessment stood out, the Fancher Creek Elementary principal recalled.

“We’re looking at each other thinking, ‘Well, what in the world? How is this possible?’ “Fancher Creek principal Erin Parker

“We just kept coming back to that idea that kids would never be without a lesson that was appropriate for them. And there was no other program that we found that had that component,” she said. “And then we, of course, read reviews and things, and we really didn’t know anybody else that had done it. And so we just kind of jumped in.”

Computer Program Creates Individualized Lessons

The i-Ready program is like having a tutor assigned to each student, said Parker, whose southeast Fresno school was one of three Clovis Unified elementaries that piloted the reading and math diagnostics assessments three years ago.

(Photo provided by Clovis Unified School District)

A Fancher Creek kindergartner works at an I-Ready reading station.

Educators were startled to learn that some Fancher Creek sixth graders were reading and doing math at the first grade level. Fancher Creek is one of the district’s Title 1 schools, which have a significant number of lower-income students.

“We’re looking at each other thinking, ‘Well, what in the world? How is this possible?’ ” Parker said.

Some of the low test scores might have been because students were struggling with the test itself “because it is different,” she said. “But a lot of it really showed that they were missing a skill.”

Educators Credit i-Ready With Test Score Rise

The school’s use of I-Ready to diagnose and instruct is bridging those education gaps, she said. Fancher Creek’s enrollment is somewhat transient so it’s difficult to do before-and-after comparisons for all students. But among those who have been at the school the entire time the program has been in use, educators are seeing consistent growth in both math and reading scores, Parker said.

In last year’s fall i-Ready assessment, for example, only 13% of Fancher Creek’s third graders were at grade level in math, according to Clovis Unified data. Fifty-six percent were behind by one grade level and another 31% were two or more grade levels behind.

“Our goal is for all of our students to meet or exceed the standards. And we’re really not going to be satisfied until we do that.”Debbie Parra, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and accountability.

But in the spring assessment, the third graders’ math proficiency had improved dramatically: 64% were at grade level, 30% were behind by one grade level, and only 6% were two or more grade levels behind.

Based on the success at Fancher Creek and the other pilot schools, Clovis Unified decided to expand the i-Ready math diagnostic to all elementaries this year. Fancher Creek is continuing to provide i-Ready reading curriculum in addition to math, so students get about 90 minutes total intervention time for reading and math that are built into their classroom schedules each week, Parker said.

Does Clovis Unified Need It?

Some might wonder why Clovis Unified, which typically ranks among the state’s higher-performing school districts, would need to adopt a new assessment and teaching tool.

“Our goal is for all of our students to meet or exceed the standards,” said Debbie Parra, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction, and accountability. “And we’re really not going to be satisfied until we do that. And so no matter that we are doing well compared to a lot of other districts, we want more for our kids and our families.”

Clovis Unified is paying almost $400,000 this year for the i-Ready mathematics program for elementary students, Parra said.

Unlike other assessment tests, i-Ready lets teachers evaluate students throughout the year, pinpoint where they may be struggling, and then provide lessons that are individualized to the student, Parra said.

For example, a third-grader might be struggling with math. I-Ready identifies not only what the student is having difficulty with now but also the gaps in their first- or second-grade education, she said. “Once those things are identified, now I can catch that student up, so when we get to fractions, they’re on the same playing field,” Parra said.

“It’s not just the remediation. It actually pushes kids who are on grade level and above, and extends their skills as well.” — Fancher Creek principal Erin Parker

Sharing Results With Parents

Teachers can share i-Ready’s diagnostic information with parents and be more specific about the areas where their children might have learning gaps, and how parents can help students meet their goals, Parker said. For example, students can log on at home to access their i-Ready lessons, she said.

And the instructional program isn’t just for kids who have fallen behind, Parker said.

“We have students who are working at the seventh- and eighth-grade level in reading, which we never had before. We have kids who are being accelerated and working on some very complex vocabulary and some great nonfiction content that they are getting because they are prepared for that.

“So it’s not just the remediation. It actually pushes kids who are on grade level and above, and extends their skills as well.”

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