Closing Literacy Gaps for Diverse Learners Through Virtual Instruction in Indiana

Closing Literacy Gaps for Diverse Learners Through Virtual Instruction in Indiana

Indiana Math and Science Academy West – Indianapolis, Indiana
Justin Kirby
Special Education Teacher, K–3
577 Students
Grades K–8
Reading Eggs
Reading Eggspress
84.2% Economically Disadvantaged
67.9% African American
27.7% Hispanic
32.8% English Language Learners
12.9% Students with Disabilities
The Challenge: 

Indiana Math and Science Academy West (IMSA West), a public charter school in Indianapolis, experienced an abrupt transition to virtual learning during the 2020-21 school year. One area in need of critical support was early literacy and reading instruction for K–6 learners.

Coupled with learning losses due to pandemic disruptions, continuation of IMSA West’s inclusion model—in which students receiving special education services learn alongside their peers in the general education classroom—meant that students would enter the school year with added complexities to their already unique needs.

IMSA West supported its youngest populations through renewed implementation of the Reading Eggs pre-K to 6th grade learn-to-read program. Placing students onto an individualized pathway of scaffolded, game-like lessons aligned to the five pillars of reading, Reading Eggs is an integral part of IMSA West’s foundational literacy plan.

Although IMSA West began using Reading Eggs prior to the transition to fully virtual instruction, the program offered critical support in a time of need.

“I don’t know how we would’ve done distance learning [without Reading Eggs],” said Special Education Teacher Justin Kirby. “We are big fans of the program, mainly because of its ability to reach students on their current level of reading.” 

Mr. Kirby continued, “All of our students, especially our SPED [special education] and ESL learners, arrive to us on different levels. Having a program that reaches them where they are—and helps them arrive to where they need to be—has been super important.” 


Using Edmentum’s Reading Eggs program, Indiana Math and Science Academy West helps K–6 learners of all ability and achievement levels close reading gaps and reach foundational literacy milestones during the transition to fully virtual instruction.
How They Did it: 

Students at IMSA West begin their Reading Eggs journey with a short placement test that provides teachers a just-in-time snapshot of current reading levels, determining where each learner should start building foundational reading skills.

Kindergarten and 1st grade students work in the program daily, while older learners engage in the program at least once per week. Focus is placed on the number of lessons students complete successfully, as opposed to time spent in the program.

“Every student is different and meets their own goals at a different pace,” said Mr. Kirby.

Students find the program engaging and often are instructed to “play” in Reading Eggs because the program makes reading feel like a fun activity, as opposed to a series of assignments.

“My favorite feature is the fact that the kids think they're tricking us by playing it,” remarked Mr. Kirby.

Another favorite feature for both learners and educators is the program’s built-in incentives. After successfully completing activities and lessons, students earn Golden Eggs as currency that can then be used to purchase rewards in the program. 

“For the most part, the kids like going through the maps [sequenced lessons], partly also because of that reason,” said Mr. Kirby.

Reading Eggs has proven to be beneficial not only to students but to teachers as well.

“[Reading Eggs] is a tool that our teachers can use to easily assign lessons so that students keep growing,” stated Mr. Kirby.

Further, the Reading Eggs reporting dashboard allows teachers to measure progress and Lexile®-level gains and to ensure that learners are meeting literacy milestones.

“A lot of times, [teachers] will even add bonus points for the kids that are showing that effort and growing,” Mr. Kirby explained. “To also be able to say as a teacher, ‘Hey, this past year, you've actually read 200 books,’ it just creates an opportunity to instill that confidence because the kids don’t realize how much progress they’ve made.”

“I don’t know how we would’ve done distance learning [without Reading Eggs].”
Justin Kirby
Special Education Teacher, K–3

So far this academic year (August 2020 to January 2021), K–3 students at IMSA West have made great gains. In total, learners have completed nearly 3,800 lessons and read at least as many accompanying e-books from the Reading Eggs Library, earning an average Lexile growth of 47.

Further, Reading Eggs has allowed students to build their confidence with each map—a set of 10 lessons accompanied by an end-of-map quiz—they successfully complete.

“The fear of being wrong is so significant for a lot of our kids, especially if they have some SPED or ESL needs,” said Mr. Kirby. Since implementing Reading Eggs, Mr. Kirby shared, “I see some grit in some students that I didn't necessarily see before. . . . I think that the great part about Reading Eggs is . . . if they don't really understand something, the program approaches them in a way that doesn't make them feel minimized.”

Mr. Kirby explained that the program also makes it easier for educators to intervene. “Reading Eggs makes it OK to be wrong and creates a safe opportunity to learn from their wrong. And that teaches students that it’s OK to ask for help. I see that learned behavior translating to the classroom.”

Further, the program helps students approach learning in a digestible way.

“Thinking about two specific boys in the 3rd grade, they just excelled because of the way Reading Eggs creates healthy, manageable chunks,” reported Mr. Kirby. “It's also creating these small victories for kids that they might not have ever really had before. These concepts are real-life strategies that help students prepare for their tests or end-of-year assessments.”

"I think that the great part about Reading Eggs is . . . if [students] don't really understand something, the program approaches them in a way that doesn't make them feel minimized.”
Justin Kirby
Special Education Teacher, K–3
The Future: 

As for long-term implications, Mr. Kirby described how he envisions Reading Eggs supporting continuity of learning for IMSA West students.

“I think the Reading Eggs program is so significant for me because I know that, if using the program year after year, a student in kindergarten is going to be able to access and pick up from the same work that they were doing in 1st grade and then build on it into 2nd grade. And then, by the time they get to 3rd grade, they should become a stronger reader than they probably ever thought they could have been.”

For more infomation:

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