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FINDing Classworks: Cynthia Bridges, Tech Coordinator

C. Bridges Photo

Reviewer: Cynthia Bridges

Position: Technology coordinator

District: N. Pekin/Marquette Heights District #102, Marquette Heights, IL

Number of Students: 600 students

Products: Classworks FIND and Classworks by Curriculum Advantage


We implemented the Classworks FIND assessment system in fall 2010 in grades 2-8, after using the Classworks instructional software for years. Our goals were to measure students’ mastery of grade-level standards, differentiate instruction to meet each student’s needs, and impro


ve student performance on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT).


Our teachers liked the FIND Benchmark Assessments. Reading was right on target with the state content for each grade. We found the math content was more advanced—about half a year ahead of our standards—so we adjusted students’ individualized lesson plans accordingly. Teachers appreciated that the assessment reports organized each student’s results by strand, so they knew exactly which areas to address. They also liked that students’ performance on the Benchmark Assessments showed a direct correlation to their performance on the ISAT.

Learning Curve:  

We had Curriculum Advantage come to our district for two training sessions. We conducted the trainings in small groups, which worked very well. Then I did one-on-one training with teachers, as needed, which allowed them to proceed at their own rate. We’re now ready to dive into the more advanced features of the system and create our own assessments.

How We Use It:  

In the fall, we administered the Benchmark Assessments to all students in grades 2-8 to gauge their mastery of grade-level standards. A key benefit of Classworks FIND is that it automatically linked the assessment results to targeted instructional activities in the Classworks instructional software, creating an individualized learning plan for each student. For teachers, this was a great classroom management tool since they could assign activities to review concepts that had already been taught, and turn off lessons that wouldn’t be covered until later in the year. In the spring, we administered the Benchmark Assessments again to measure students’ growth.

We also used the FIND assessments in our Response to Intervention (RtI) program. As students progressed throughout the year, we administered the Skills Snapshot probes to assess students skill by skill, and used the results to make decisions about instruction to address their needs.

What’s Ahead?:  

This year, we plan to use Classworks FIND for more in-depth progress monitoring in our RtI program. We will also give our Tier 2 students a second round of Benchmark Assessments that will be one grade below their grade level. The results will show us what skills they did not master from the year before and help us create their RtI plans.

In addition, since Classworks is aligned to the Common Core State Standards as well as our state standards, we plan to use it as a cornerstone for our migration from ISAT testing to Common Core testing. This will put us ahead of many Illinois school districts.

Reviewer’s Notes: 

We are currently reviewing our 2011 state test scores and are seeing improvements. In the fourth grade, which concentrated on math, 96.8 percent of our students met or exceeded the standards in math on the ISAT. In the third grade, which focused on reading, 91.8 percent of students met or exceeded the standards in reading. Our teachers felt that the assessments helped them plan their ISAT prep for all levels in their classroom. They also felt that the lessons in Classworks supported what they did in the classroom.

It’s important to note that we also interact with students quite a bit as they work on the Classworks instruction and assessment systems. The individualization we are able to provide complements the Classworks systems well. Our computer lab has turned into a differentiated learning dream.

Outside Traditional School Structure: Al Vigh

Alvigh Reviewer:  Al Vigh

Position:  Program Director

District/School: Wyoming Public Schools , Wyoming, MI / Frontiers Online Learning Program

Number of Students in District/School: 4600 (district), 85 (Frontiers program)

Product: E2020 is the backbone for our online content. Moodle is also used.


Our goal is to address the varying needs of a wide spectrum of learners who want, or need other options outside of the traditional school structure and time requirements. Using blended learning, in a self-paced, student-centered model, accelerated learners, high-risk learners, and everything in between can find a customized learning environment. We also guide students from the highly structured traditional learning style to a more independent style at their pace in order to make them ready for post-secondary learning.


Overall response has been very positive. Administration and School Board are both highly supportive of our efforts. Students and parents are thrilled to have another viable option that allows their child to progress on their terms.

Learning Curve:

Preparation of the staff and recognition of the differences in content delivery and structure are of the utmost importance. Staff, who are trained and experienced as traditional classroom teachers, are discovering an exciting change to their role as a mentor and a guide.

How We Use It:

Students attend school based on a customized, student-driven schedule.  They start with a set amount of hours per week they need to attend, and that number changes quarterly, based on student proficiency.  For example, a student may be required to attend 15 hours per week in the building, where they have access to highly-qualified, certified teaching staff. The student schedules himself/herself for that required time.  They are held accountable for that time.  At the end of the quarter, if they are meeting a certain performance level, they are given more freedom and flexibility, and less required hours of attendance.

What’s Ahead?:

We will continue to learn and develop best practices for facilitating student learning in a blended environment and explore innovative ways to best meet the needs of students in our community.

Existing Technology Unleashed: Cary Peterson


Cary Petersen_Jefferson County

Reviewer: Cary Petersen

Position: Executive Director of Information Technology

District/School: Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, KY

Number of Students in District/School: JCPS is a K12 system, the largest in the state, with approximately 100,000 students and 6,000 teachers.

Products: HP EliteBook 2740p Tablet PC, HP 17-inch diagonal LCD monitor, HP docking station, HP Compaq Business Desktop PC, HP LaserJet printer


In order to prepare our students for their future careers, we knew that teachers had to embrace technology and use it effectively. Yet even after spending some $30 million on technology products, we discovered several years ago that teachers were still lecturing in front of classrooms much as they had done when the district was founded in 1829. In response, we searched for a way to unlock the potential of our huge existing investments in technology. We wanted a way to get teachers to actually use technology in the classroom, rather than let it sit gathering dust.


The adoption of HP Tablet PCs has been extremely well received on all fronts. After the pilot HP Tablet PC rollout, the number of teachers using computer technology jumped from 15% to 84%, and today the usage rate is approaching 100% in some of our schools. Since the introduction of the HP Tablet PC, the numbers of students receiving high-performance ratings has also risen. A survey of our school principals – a group who ranked technology dead last as a spending priority – showed the vast majority clamoring to continue the HP Tablet PC program.

The mobility of the HP Tablet PC enables our teachers to learn at their own convenience as well. Most importantly, our students are engaged and they’re excited.

Learning Curve:

As part of our Technology Integration Project, we rolled out approximately 6,000 HP Tablet PCs, some accessorized with HP 17-inch diagonal LCD monitors and HP docking stations, over several years as funding became available. To ensure success of the HP Tablet PC rollout, each teacher received three hours of training on computer basics and three hours on Microsoft Windows Journal, the software for creating and organizing handwritten notes on tablet PCs. After that, teachers got a year of follow up coaching from a Technology Integration Specialist.

How We Use It:

Teachers work within the familiar and effective paradigm of writing out material as they teach – solving math problems, for example, or listing the exports of Peru. Teachers traditionally had used overhead projectors to do this, but the HP Tablet PC is a mobile device they can carry around, that can project, not only handwritten notes but also slide shows, websites – virtually anything. It even lets them save notes for students who miss class, or hand them out as review material.

What’s Ahead:

We recently launched an initiative to create 21st Century Classrooms by installing state-of-the-art interactive tools and implementing a Lesson Study professional development model for teachers to learn to incorporate electronic whiteboards, wireless slates, document cameras and student response systems into their teaching.

Reviewers Notes:

More than 60% of our students receive free or reduced-price meals – a sign of economic need – and up to 10% are estimated to be homeless. Yet average student attendance rates are 95% and the dropout rate in grades seven to twelve is less than 5%. Newsweek magazine includes JCPS in its list of the Best American High Schools.

Glogster EDU


Reviewer: Sharon Ferguson M.ED. Edu

Position: 2nd grade Teacher

District/School: Fulton County Schools, Findley Oaks Elementary, Georgia 

Number of Schools/ Findley Oaks Students: 58 Elementary Schools/800 students

Product: Glogster EDU

Reviewer’s Notes: A Glog is like a poster, only better. Glogs allow students to create online posters using photographs, images, graphics, video clips, audio files, and hyperlinks. Glogster EDU is a great way to showcase what your students have been learning. Posters are very easy to embed on your classroom Wikispaces, Blogs, or Websites.


When using Glogster EDU, the classroom comes alive and the interest of the students broadens.  Higher-level thinking is obtained and some of the objectives we are looking for to engage our students can be plugged into. This website allows the students to creatively express themselves and offers an opportunity for them to retell/demonstrate the knowledge that they have learned. The highest level of Blooms Taxonomy is to take information learned and create something to represent that understanding.  Glogster EDU allows this to happen through collaboration and while having fun.


Glogster EDU gives the user the opportunity to create something unique and interesting that can be shared.

Learning Curve:  

Whenever something new is introduced to teachers, they are always apprehensive because their plate is full and who has time to add some new application to it. This is the easiest Website to maneuver through. If I can use it successfully anyone can.

How We Use It: 

Teachers can use this site to showcase their students.  Put a Glog together that explains/showcases some of things that their students have been doing/learning in the classroom.  Webquests can be easily put together to make finding the information you need fun.  Learning activities can be collected and linked from a Glog. Students can take the artifacts that they have collected and attach them to a page that includes links, videos, photos, and so much more.

Reviewer’s Notes: Students can show what they have been learning to their friends and family easily. Students can collect artifacts that they have researched, found online, created, and/or photographed, and display their findings in a report form that is creative.

Immediate Data on Student Progress

KUCHES_KRISTY2 Name:  Kristy Kuches

Position Held: Academic Coach

District/School: Heritage Middle School, Volusia County Schools, Florida

Number of Students in District/School: 61,000 in district, 1,200 in Heritage Middle School

Products: eInstruction CPS Student Response Systems, and  Mobi Mobile InteractiveWhiteboards


The overall goal at Heritage Middle School was to actively engage students in their education, while CPS Pulse2 providing both the teachers and the students with immediate data about the learning taking place in every classroom. As we move toward fully implementing a Proficiency Model in our district, the CPS Student Response System will enable teachers to continuously assess students and provide immediate data as to which students need remediation and which have mastered the material. 


Teachers were excited to have a new technology to engage students in the lesson that would also reduce the amount of papers they would have to grade. The idea of immediate data on student progress was also very enticing to teachers. Parents are thrilled to know how their child did on the math test the same day it is given.

Learning Curve:

The CPS System is relatively simple to use, but after initial trainings of the staff, we realized there were two distinct groups of teachers. One group of teachers is tech savvy and the other group is more intimidated by technology. While the tech savvy teachers were able to jump right in after the training, other teachers needed more support. 

As academic coach, it is part of my job to give the additional training and support to the teachers more intimidated by CPS.  Guiding the more intimidated teachers while they used CPS for the first time or modeling the use of CPS for those teachers has definitely broadened the use of the CPS System. Once teachers use the CPS System with the support of an academic coach, or another teacher, they see how easy it is to use and how much their students enjoy it. Support is essential for making teachers feel comfortable with new technology. 

How We Use It:

The teachers at Heritage Middle School use the CPS Student Response System in a myriad of ways. While many teachers started out using CPS for quizzes and tests only in the beginning, they have quickly realized that having immediate feedback on student learning should not be reserved for quizzes and tests only. Some of our teachers use the “Fast Grade” feature to have student input the answers from the previous night’s homework to determine which concepts need reviewed before moving on. Other teachers use the CPS System daily to ascertain learning during key checkpoints in every lesson. Some of our more creative teachers have students “text in” questions during lessons. Students can anonymously ask for help without having to feel embarrassed in front of their classmates.  

What’s Ahead?:

Heritage Middle School currently has 12 sets of eInstruction’s CPS Student Response Systems that are shared between over 70 teachers.  Purchasing more CPS Student Response Systems for our teachers to use is definitely part of our future plans. Continuous training and support will help teachers create and share lessons for Mobi mobile interactive whiteboards and CPS.

Special Ed Reading Coach

Kristine Rinaldi Reviewer:   Kristine Rinaldi Kid1
Position:  Special Education Teacher

District/School: Smith Academy, Aldine ISD, TX

Number of Students in School:  450

Product:   My Reading Coach by MindPlay


Three years ago our district started using My Reading Coach as a reading intervention for Special Education and Tier II & III students. We wanted Smith Academy students to utilize the My Reading Coach computer program and gain the basic phonics skills they lacked to help them improve their reading. With a virtual reading and speech teacher, and consistent praise and encouragement from the My Reading Coach program, our goal was to schedule groups of 10 students in the lab for about 20 to 30 minutes a day.  The My Reading Coach program keeps records of the time the students have spent on the program, what they are mastering, and where they are struggling. The pre-test not only places the students on the level they should start, but has them complete only the levels they need.   


My Reading Coach consistently reviews phonics sounds and rules, vocabulary, word structure, and reading comprehension. The program is generally self-explanatory making training students and staff unnecessary, but hands-on tasks are available for students who are having difficulty mastering levels. The students love being able to come into the computer lab to use My Reading Coach!  Students who were really poor readers, started putting letters together, forming words, and wanted to read more!   Teachers saw their students excited about reading!  Some students who said they ‘hated reading’ and ‘couldn’t do it’ were now reading in their own classrooms, checking out chapter books from the library, and were no longer on the list for retention or Special Education testing. The teachers were impressed to see the carry over from My Reading Coach to the work the students were capable of completing in their classrooms.

Learning Curve:

When My Reading Coach was first used 3 years ago, we only had 10 site licenses and I was worried about trying to fill those 10 seats a few times a day. Soon the demand by the students to use My Reading Coach became overwhelming; we contacted the company and my district representative and received 10 more site licenses, including 2 in Spanish. Soon kids were lined up across the computer room quietly waiting their turn on My Reading Coach; this was in addition to their daily tutorial group!  Some students came to the lab 3 times a day and still wanted to come back for more!  I heard cries of “Wait, I’m almost done with my level!”, when students were asked to go back to their classrooms. In our first year, 250 students accessed My Reading Coach.

How We Use It:

To give the students daily access to My Reading Coach, we had to become creative. We opened the lab in the morning after they ate breakfast until school started, but we still we needed more time. We then opened the lab during the students’ lunchtimes; after the student finished eating, he/she could go across the hall to the computer lab.  During lunchtime a line formed all the way around the room of waiting children who wanted to use My Reading Coach. Students, who needed a more structured setting after breakfast and lunch, before their teacher came to pick up their class, now had an opportunity to further their learning with the individualized instruction of My Reading Coach and be productively active. We hold tutorial classes on Saturdays during our second semester wherein the students receive small group sessions in Math, Reading, and My Reading Coach. The students seem more receptive to learning on Saturday instead of afterschool tutorials.

What’s Ahead?:

This hands on approach to phonics, by showing the position of the tongue, and mouth, speaking and then slowing down, gives students an understanding of the written and spoken language that you would usually only get from a teacher. We will continue to use My Reading Coach this year for all of our Special Education, Tier II & III students for reading intervention. We will also be using the program RAPS 360, from the same company as My Reading Coach, MindPlay. RAPS 360 is a computerized diagnostic reading assessment program that will be used in conjunction with My Reading Coach, as a Response to Intervention (RtI) during this school year. Someday at Smith Academy I want someone to say that our kids, “just read too much!”



Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Best in Tech Today are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.