Picture it: Thirty students in your classroom, each at different levels, with varying needs and interests. Yet, there is just one set of learning standards, one big state exam and one of you. The predicament arises when learners struggle to keep pace with a mandatory curriculum, raising questions about the effectiveness of a one-size-fits-all, grade-level approach to education.
Imagine now if technology could help us change this narrative. Imagine it could be a catalyst for good in restoring our foundational principles to get us back to the heart of education. What if, with the right tools, we could truly reach every student?
How did we get here?
Until the late 19th century, American students of differing ages and abilities were all taught in one room by one teacher. The “one-room school house” might ring a bell. With such a diverse group of learners, early teachers had no choice but to put differentiation at the heart of education.
As time passed, larger schools were built, standards were set, curriculum development was the priority and the focus shifted from individual goals to grade-level expectations. Yet, all along, teachers voiced their concerns, acknowledging that students learn best when they feel seen, set their own goals and move at their own pace.
More standardization, less progress
Recent findings from The Nation’s Report Card, a longstanding assessment in math and reading, have heightened concerns. Although the assessment has been consistent since its inception in the 1970s, the scores from the last school year for teenagers were the lowest seen in over a decade.
With the ongoing teacher shortage, compounding impact of the pandemic and increasing growth in class sizes, teachers are faced with even larger learning gaps among students. Given the limited hours in a school day, it is nearly impossible for a single teacher to provide personalized instruction to all students. While some students might not get the specific help or clarification they need, others might be held back, waiting for the rest to catch up.
As we strive for effective assessment methods, are we neglecting the fundamental strategies that played a role in our previous achievements? Along the way, have we veered off course from the primary goals of education?
Getting back to the heart of education
Technology enables us to go back to our roots by alleviating teachers of mundane, time-consuming tasks, emphasizing individual student focus and delivering tailored practice. At the same time, these tools should preserve the intrinsic aspects of teaching, empowering educators with the insights needed to quickly gain a good understanding of students and intervene when needed.
Those were the guiding principles behind ReadTheory, an adaptive reading comprehension platform that helps educators move beyond grade-level expectations and get back to the heart of education.
“ReadTheory helps me to hit the needs of every single student in my class without creating more work for myself to differentiate assignments,” shares Caitlyn Herron, a middle school educator and ReadTheory user.
Establishing itself at the forefront of innovation, ReadTheory was ahead of its time and embraced artificial intelligence (AI) within its framework in 2018. Its advanced algorithm has an unmatched capability to adapt continually to each student’s unique level while delivering real-time feedback to the student.
In parallel, it provides educators with actionable insights through comprehensive yet easy-to-understand reporting. Since Herron’s classroom is Harry Potter-themed, she refers to ReadTheory time as “wizard time” and establishes station rotations to hold small group interventions. During small groups, she focuses on specific skills and standards and can give all students what they need in a unique, engaging way.
Most of all, each student’s level is kept private between her and the student. All students practice at their own pace and continually achieve more, getting the right level of both challenge and support. Herron allows students to set their own goals in addition to having classroom goals. As students win badges and progress on their own paths, they gain confidence, self-reflection and life skills essential to whole-child development.
As we embark on the 2023-2024 academic year, there presents a moment for recalibration: a new year, a fresh start and perhaps a renewed commitment to every student. By deeply understanding each student and leveraging modern tools, we can offer individualized instruction that propels every student along their distinct journey. In doing so, we aim not merely for standard benchmarks but for the holistic development and success of every child.