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Strong Reading Gains at Mission Heights Junior College

Mission Heights Junior College at Manukau has reported strong reading gains using the Reading Plus ® software resource.

"We are very excited by the results. We have not experienced rates of improvements such as those in past years" -
 Assistant   principal, Melanie   Kindley

When school principal Joan Middlemiss and the Senior Leadership team at Mission Heights Junior College developed their strategic literacy goals for Year 7 to 10 students at their school, they searched for an innovative solution to support both their vision of personalised, 21st Century learning and raised student achievement.

The school is committed to providing innovative and personalised learning opportunities to all its students and has recently been investigating ways to improve reading comprehension and fluency.

Reading comprehension is a critical component for all academic subjects. Students who can read fluently with good comprehension have a clear advantage and will be more likely to experience academic success than students who are struggling readers.  Any enhancements in a student’s reading comprehension and fluency will positively impact in all subject areas.

Exploration into peer-reviewed and evidence-proven resources resulted in the school deciding to implement Reading Plus, a web-based software program.  Large- scale research and numerous studies have demonstrated that Reading Plus is proven to significantly improve reading comprehension as well as reading fluency and vocabulary.

"Reading a lot is one of the most powerful methods of increasing fluency, vocabulary and comprehension, and becoming educated about the world" - Shany & Biemiller, 1995, Stanovich, 1993.  Reading Plus ® assists students in "Reading a lot" by increasing the speed at which they can read and the vocabulary they need for comprehension.

The Reading Plus ® program also satisfied MHJC requirements for student access at home as well as school, and for operating on a wide variety of hardware platforms.
"I was able to read faster and understand  better" - Student

"Reading Plus has changed my reading skills" –   student

In a community where many students speak two or more languages, the ability of Reading Plus to support a wide range of reading needs saw the establishment of a staff Reading Plus implementation team.

These key teachers were charged with the task of introducing the programme to the school, holding a school-wide trial and obtaining feedback from students, parents and staff.

"Students   were   able   to  talk   about   the   reading  strategies   they   needed  to   develop   and   access  offline   material   to  support   this" -   teacher

Reading Plus revolutionises reading instruction by automatically monitoring, measuring, and adjusting reading   rates while students are engaged   in silent reading practise.

For the first time teachers have a means of gauging comprehension and fluency as a student practises silent reading.  In addition, students engage with 25 foundational reading skills, which are vital for comprehension.

"I have noticed my sons’ vocab   and comprehension have improved during the course of the year, he is also getting through his books a lot  quicker" –  parent

"I know it really helped my child.    A wonderful resource for children who find reading and comprehension a struggle.  It’s fun and enjoyable" – parent

Students experience personalised instruction and practice with these skills, and are provided with offline resources to further support comprehension and stimulate evidence-based writing activities.

The school recognised the potential of Reading Plus to collect and collate data from each student as they read, without the need for external testing.

The Reading Plus reporting system provides real-time measures of the students reading speed, comprehension level, and vocabulary level. Web access allows staff to have up to the minute data at any time, for

individuals, classes, and the entire school.

}Data   has   looked   really positive~  –   teacher

For   instance,   an analysis   of   the class   reports   after   10   weeks on   Reading   Plus   showed    the average   student   improvement in   reading   speed   for   a   year 9   class   was   100+   words   per minute.   Every   student   in   this class   had   developed   a   reading speed   in   excess   of   250   wpm.

}He now   enjoys   reading and   will   even   read books   for   his   own enjoyment~  –   parent

These gains are noteworthy given that research results suggest a normative silent reading rate of 250 wpm should be achieved by year 13.

The implementation team also conducted a school-wide analysis of the Reading Plus data.  Students who used the program three times per week over 10 weeks made an improvement, on average, in their reading speed of an additional 115 words per minute. Concurrent reading comprehension was measured as having improved by over two year levels.

Further evidence of the impact of Reading Plus was provided by the schools e-aSTTle results, which confirmed that reading comprehension gains for both struggling students and advanced students exceeded expectations.
Due to the strong reading gains achieved last year, and positive feedback from students and parents, Mission Heights Junior College are now using Reading Plus as a school wide eLearning tool in 2013, and the future.

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