Waco ISD using new computer program to improve students' reading skills

Posted at 5:18 PM, Feb 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-21 18:42:58-05

A new computer program introduced to Waco ISD schools at the beginning of 2018 is already making an impact.

All of the district's schools are using Achieve 3000 to improve reading skills by catering to each student's individual needs.

Nearly 15,000 students across Waco now use computers daily to complete assignments that test their reading comprehension.

Rhonda Brackins is an English teacher Dean Highland Elementary School. Over the last month and a half, she's watched her fourth-grade students improve their reading skills with the help of this new program.

"It's individualized so that person feels like the program is just tuned in to their needs," Brackins said.

"There's a lot of passages that have a lot of words and it entertains me to read more books about it," said Noah Gutierrez, a fourth grader at Dean Highland Elementary School.

Achieve 3000 is a $285,000 invest made by Waco ISD that's aimed at strengthening literacy rates across the board.

"When we found out we were receiving it, I was really excited," said Thia Allen, principal at Dean Highland Elementary School. "I know that differentiation is a key to student learning and academic success here."

There's also a more age-appropriate version called Smarty Ants for students in Pre-K through second grade.

Each story within the program is matched with the student's abilities, giving them the tools they need to follow along at a different pace.

"If you read at a higher level, you may have content that's a little more challenging," Brackins said. "If you read on grade level, your content is probably suited at a fourth or fifth-grade level."

"I'm reading about Yoga for Everyone. I've learned that yoga is healthy for you and a lot of people can do it and it doesn't cost money," Gutierrez said. 

Teachers also receive monthly progress reports to see which areas each student may need more help with.

"It makes you become a better reader and it gives you a lot of hard words, like in fifth or sixth grade that you don't know yet. You get to read them in fourth grade so you can know them in fifth or sixth, " Gutierrez said. 

A daily activity, that will make a life-long impact.

"If you're able to read, comprehend, write well, speak well, then basically the sky is the limit," Brackins said.

A spokesperson for Waco ISD said this program is also part of the district's plan to save five of its schools at risk of being closed by the state or a charter partnership for failing to meet state standards for at least five years in a row.

Those five schools include J.H. Hines Elementary, Alta Vista Elementary, Brook Avenue Elementary, Indian Spring Middle and G.W. Carver Middle.

The spokesperson added that this is just one part of the district-wide literacy plan. A few pieces are slowing being implemented, but it's expected to go into full effect next year.

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