Individualized Education Helps Kids Succeed

John and Sophia started kindergarten this year at Carl L. Dixon Primary School in Elmsford. John has a difficult time concentrating and didn’t know the alphabet. Sophia is shy but is completing all the work that is put in front of her. In the past, teachers would have given these students similar grade-level work, even in a small group setting. Whether struggling or strong in skills, every student deserves to be able to progress as far as possible.

Since the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, the Peekskill and Elmsford School Districts have partnered with United Way of Westchester and Putnam and Learning Ovations to use the A2i Professional Support System, which identifies each student’s needs and provides strategies on how to address them in their kindergarten and first-grade classrooms. A2i, which stands for assessment to instruction, is a research-validated system, created by Learning Ovations, that is drastically improving the third-grade literacy rate of students across the country.

There are 763 students in 32 classrooms using the A2i tool between the two school districts in Westchester County. A2i

is not a program or a curriculum. It is a professional support system for teachers. It is used to assess students and, through specific algorithms, determines the exact number of minutes and type of instruction that allows a child to progress with the most reading growth in a year.

“Through the use of A2i, our teachers get information on the children as well as strategies on how to use that information to help the students succeed,” said Dr. David Mauricio, Peekskill Schools Superintendent.

Dr. Marc Baiocco, Elmsford Schools Superintendent, concurred. “With A2i, we are not just speaking about individual student outcomes. We are actually addressing individual student needs.”

Through research funded by The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) at the US Department of Education and the National Institute of Health, seven randomized studies have concluded that through the use of A2i, 94% of all students are able to read at or above grade level by the end of third grade.

This is compared to the 38% of children nationwide entering fourth grade who are reading below grade level.

The results from the districts’ winter midyear assessment are incredible. The students from both districts are in-line with the research results and are reading at or above grade level. The students are excelling through A2i, and the remedial needs of the students have been drastically reduced.

Dr. Baiocco said that A2i has helped address the needs of students like John. “We have students coming in and out of our Response Through Intervention program rather than having to stay there,” he said. “Once we address their needs, they go back to that individualized learning style and flourish. This is because we have homed in on those needs and addressed them, so that the student can continue progressing.”

A2i helps more than just those who need remedial help. “We are finding students that are already reading a grade level above and, in some cases, even reading two grades above grade level,” said Dr. Baiocco.

As a kindergartner, Sofia is reading at a second-grade level. Literacy work from the elementary school, where second grade is taught, needed to be sent to Dixon Primary School to meet her needs.

“A2i allows us to address the students who truly need intervention and additional support. It also assists us in homing in on the skills necessary for our middle group of students and build in this whole enrichment philosophy,” said Dr. Biaocco.

“We are not just speaking about individual student outcomes; we are actually addressing individual student needs.”

Both the Peekskill and Elmsford School Districts are thankful for the support and opportunity they have been given through United Way of Westchester and Putnam.

“United Way is an untapped resource for many school districts, but also a great partner with a common vision,” Superintendent Mauricio said.

Dr. Biaocco added, “United Way has been incredibly supportive in everything we do. More importantly is the opportunities that the United Way of Westchester and Putnam has provided us. It lives up to the spirit of what United Way is all about.”

The next assessment will be done in May, and we cannot wait to share the results with you.