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Teachers Use iPads for Reading Assessments

New Britain teachers in kindergarten through grade 3 will have a new tool at their disposal this fall. The Consolidated School District of New Britain is purchasing 40 iPads for K-3 teachers across the district, to be used to help them improve students’ reading skills.

The New Britain Early Childhood Collaborative issued a $20,000 grant to the school district to partially fund the iPads will be used to help teachers administer the DRA 2 (Developmental Reading Assessment) reading test, which is required to be administered three times a year.

The DRA 2 test is used to help teachers determine the reading level of their students and is a strong indication of their strengths and weaknesses in fluency, accuracy and comprehension. The school district has always used paper testing, requiring the teachers to score the exam and enter it into the student data system. Teachers would then analyze the results and determine their focus for instruction for each child.

“Before the iPads were purchased, teachers would have to administer the tests in fall, winter and spring, while administering running records as a progress monitoring tool to see if the children were progressing,” said Maydie Bombart, District Coordinator of Language Arts. “The iPad, through the use of a Tango Software product, has the DRA 2 available on the iPad so teachers do not have to score it, and we can have it downloaded directly to our data system. This saves the teachers time and speeds up the administration of the test, which adds teaching time in the classroom.”

The software also contains a progress monitoring tool that can be used as often as the teacher deems necessary to assure that the student is progressing. The capability exists to group the students by different needs so the teacher can more closely target instruction to each child.

There is also an application that directly links to the Florida Center for Reading Research, so a teacher can enter that website and choose from a multitude of lessons that would help provide instruction. In addition, there is a section on intervention, so that teachers can address any problem areas.

The software has a Spanish version, allowing teachers to determine how proficient our bilingual students are in their native language. This information helps a teacher determine what they need to do to move a child along a continuum of learning.

Merrill Gay of the Early Childhood Collaborative said this grant award is part of the Collaborative’s broader mission to ensure that all New Britain children are reading at grade level by third grade.

“Last spring, less than a quarter (23.1 percent) of New Britain’s third graders reached ‘Goal’ on the reading portion of the CMTs,” Gay said. “That is the lowest rate anywhere in Connecticut. This is a huge problem for New Britain since children who aren’t reading at grade level in third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.”

Gay said improving instruction in school is just one piece of the puzzle. Outside of the schools, the campaign has targeted kindergarten readiness, chronic absence and summer learning loss as key areas for work.