There’s Differentiation…

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Teachers everywhere describe how tough it can be to engage every student around the same knowledge and ideas without spending tons of time customizing materials, since the learners they serve possess such varying skills and interests. These teachers know that a “typical pattern of teaching the class as though all individuals in it were basically alike” (Carol Tomlinson and Susan Allan, 2000) is not going to cut it. Instead, they seek to design responsive classrooms that accommodate, engage, and honor students as individual learners—a process known as differentiation or differentiated instruction.

Differentiation consists of a range of instructional and procedural strategies that teachers implement—recognizing their students’ learning differences and uniqueness—to help all students learn and progress effectively. It’s a teacher-facilitated approach for varying content, process, product, and/or environment to suit every learner. The work of varying these elements is driven by ongoing assessment, flexible grouping of students during instructional time, and designing respectful tasks for all students. (Our infographic and eBook on differentiated instruction cover these elements and approaches in more detail.)

Many teachers do some or much of the above automatically, intuitively, because they’re student-focused and see their students as individuals. They know their students achieve at higher rates when learning environments are intentionally designed to maximize their individual cognitive development (Sousa & Tomlinson, 2011). It’s not easy, but it’s part of the art and craft of teaching.

With tools like Achieve3000’s, teachers who are seeking differentiated content find a wealth of high-interest nonfiction articles at the widest range of Lexile levels available today. Our scaffolded instructional routines for reading and responding to the articles help teachers meet students where they are, respectfully, without increasing teachers’ prep time demands. And there’s so much more—check out this chart showing the many ways Achieve3000 powers differentiated instruction:

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…and Then There’s Precision Differentiation™ for Acceleration and Equity

While recognizing that thoughtfully differentiating instruction can be a time-consuming and challenging process, we also know that it helps kids connect to learning, and we want to support schools and teachers in making it easier to bring into classroom practices. We do that by offering schools what’s needed for a “Precision Differentiation” approach—a capability that is uniquely Achieve3000’s. (We even went for the registered trademark!)

A Precision Differentiation approach drives acceleration and requires:

  • Equitable access to content for all students
  • “Just-right” leveled text and “just-on-time” re-leveling
  • Flexible use models
  • Research-defined usage targets
  • Customizable delivery options

We provide “just-right” text by differentiating at 12 Lexile levels in English and 8 in Spanish—the most levels of differentiation available for online instructional content today—and offering personalizable instructional scaffolds that help learners of varying readiness, some with different native languages, work toward meeting the same academically challenging standards as their agemates.

With these capabilities, our solutions give all students equitable access to grade-level ideas and information. This is something people at Achieve3000 are passionate about, believing that all kids deserve age-appropriate, high-interest content for building the literacy skills and strategies that will unlock their future success. We also love how differentiated texts and scaffolded instruction bring classrooms to life by enabling everyone in academically diverse settings to participate in collaborative learning conversations on the same topic.

In terms of “just-on-time” leveling and re-leveling, we first benchmark students’ reading comprehension in English or Spanish with our validated assessment, LevelSet (created with MetaMetrics, developers of the Lexile Framework for Reading), at the start of the school year. And we continue to assess students’ reading comprehension through embedded multiple-choice activities in each lesson, all year long. Our system uses this assessment data to analyze and adjust students’ Lexile measures monthly, ensuring they always receive content at a reading level that challenges them without frustrating them.

This aspect of our methodology—automatically stepping up text complexity as reading comprehension improves—is what we mean by “just-on-time.” Our system recognizes students’ progress and continues to push them to grow, month by month. Although LevelSet is provided for interim (December/January) and post-assessment (May/June) as well, it’s the precise, monthly, automatic Lexile adjustment that helps students attain growth beyond expectations.

(One key point here: Not all publishers who offer content differentiated by Lexile actually offer something like LevelSet; in some cases, students are choosing their own reading levels for Lexiled texts, making it tough to accurately drive and measure student growth relative to grade-level benchmarks.)

Another way we support schools in taking a precision differentiation approach is by making our platform truly flexible—so it’s simple for teachers to implement using a variety of formats in a range of environments. Whether a classroom is 1:1 or only has a projector connected to a single desktop, teachers can take advantage of our differentiated content and features for flipped and blended learning. Students can work independently or collaboratively, in a computer lab, from a cow/cart, or on a tablet device. Teachers can lead instruction with the whole group, small groups, and for pair/share and one-on-one. Every teacher can adjust instructional procedures, pacing, and priorities to precisely match the needs and realities of her classes. She doesn’t have to follow a script that dictates exactly how to proceed and can integrate use of the tools to maximize their effect.

And how will that teacher know what to do in order to maximize effect? This brings me to the fourth thing that helps us enable a precision differentiation approach. Every year, we analyze data from over 1.2 million Achieve3000 students in our National Lexile Study. This data repeatedly shows that students demonstrating the highest Lexile acceleration (greater than 3X expected growth) complete 80+ Achieve3000 lesson activities between pre- and post-LevelSet and get an average minimum score of 75% in their first try on those activities.

Having quantity and quality of use metrics like these means we can predict what and how long it will take for students to accelerate their learning so they can catch up and meet or exceed college and career readiness targets. Some students may only need to work through 40 lessons in a year, while others need to take on 120. This precise understanding helps schools establish plans for integrating literacy learning across the curriculum so all students can meet their individual acceleration targets.

Finally, our customizable delivery options make it possible for schools to precisely differentiate instruction. We’ve been working with districts and schools for almost two decades and know that none are exactly alike. Because every implementation is unique, the best solutions are endlessly customizable—they can integrate easily and seamlessly into all aspects of a system’s instructional and technical ecosystem.

We take a service approach that recognizes varying needs and optimizes solutions accordingly. For example:

  • We offer editions for students, teachers, leaders, and families that enable each user to focus on what matters most.
  • Our professional learning services can target exactly what specific teachers need to improve their practices and take your culture of literacy to the next level.
  • We can deliver a close curriculum alignment for your basal reading program or social studies text, or pair your fiction with our nonfiction, to help a school build from existing program investments.
  • Our data integrations and rostering options are continuously growing.

Whatever your classroom, school, or district needs, we believe in precisely supporting your implementation based on your specific literacy goals and plans, and we have the breadth and depth of experience to ensure success.