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MAKING THE GRADE: Cabarrus County Schools Sees Student Learning Outcomes Soar

CONCORD, N.C., and BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — March 30, 2010 —

Nestled in suburban Charlotte, NC, Cabarrus County Schools is making the grade with the implementation of its five-year, data-driven Response to Intervention (RTI) program. District educators are using Pearson’s AIMSweb, a web-based benchmark and progress monitoring system, to determine “what’s working” with their curriculum, personalize student learning, increase transparency and enhance curriculum interventions.

During the 2007-2008 school year, Cabarrus County conducted a pilot program of AIMSweb, which resulted in remarkable improvements in student achievement. Now, school district leaders plan to expand the AIMSweb implementation from an initial 940 students to more than 11,300 next school year.

““Over three years ago, the Cabarrus district administration decided to take a leadership role in North Carolina, aggressively moving toward an RTI program that would really help our students, especially those most at risk, to succeed,” said Brian Schultz, Director of Elementary EducationWe chose to implement a pilot program using AIMSweb as our RTI data management system in a few select schools. Thanks to the program’s success, we are planning to have 19 of our district elementary schools using AIMSweb to make data-based curriculum decisions by the 2010-2011 school year. Without a doubt, AIMSweb has helped us determine what is working with our curriculum and make decisions today that positively impact student learning."

With AIMSweb, Cabarrus County educators can assess real-time data about which instructional interventions are the most effective, making decisions earlier than ever before. AIMSweb’s online, three-tiered approach provides frequent and continuous student assessment results directly to students, parents, teachers and administrators.

In fact, Cabarrus’ pilot program results speak for themselves. In 2007, at Pitts School Road Elementary School, 57 percent of the students were below the district's benchmark targets in AIMSweb when the pilot began. In January 2010, 60 percent of those students, now in fifth grade, were at or above the target after just three years of using AIMSweb data to make instructional decisions both at the core curriculum and individual student level.

At the other pilot, A.T. Allen Elementary School, the rate of improvement for the first grade students in phoneme segmentation, the ability to hear critical sounds in spoken words, from the fall to winter benchmark was .2 phonemes correct, which was .4 correct phonemes per week lower compared to the AIMSweb targets. The adjustments to the core curriculum that educators made resulted in a .5 phoneme correct growth rate from the winter to spring benchmark, exceeding the district's target growth rate. The extensive real-time data available from AIMSweb enabled school leaders to assess the effectiveness of their core curriculum; helping teachers reflect on instruction, the administration to make effective decisions regarding professional development, and school staff to maintain and develop positive relationships with parents.

“AIMSweb allows us to share data so easily. Every stakeholder who can impact student outcomes—parents, teachers, administrators—has quick, reliable data upon which we can make education decisions about a student’s individualized needs. Most importantly, our students are benefiting through better personalized learning,” Schultz said.

Added Greg Liddle, principal at Furr Elementary School in Cabarrus County, “AIMSweb has provided us with a wonderful tool to track student mastery in several early literacy skills. By using the data obtained through the benchmarks, and focusing instruction according to student needs we have seen significant statistical growth in early literacy skills. The establishment of these early literacy skills has had a direct impact on reading fluency in the early grades.  For example, in 2008-2009 1st grade students began the year averaging 30.8 words read correct per minute.  In 2009-2010 1st grade student began the year averaging 36.0 words read correct per minute.  The difference in the data is directly connected to AIMSweb and its ability to target specific skill needs for individual students.”

Educators and parents alike are happy to see the comprehensive data presented in an easy-to-read and interpret report. “We’re seeing more parent buy-in with AIMSweb. We’re no longer talking to parents, but with them. We finally have a way of sharing student progress information with parents that makes sense to them, which really engages parents in the learning process,” said Amy Jablonski, RTI Program Coach for Cabarrus County Schools.

Jablonski added, “Now, we know what is working with our core curriculum, and we are identifying our at-risk population quickly and accurately. To improve literacy, for instance, we’re challenging our higher-grade teachers to reinforce the foundations of reading and our kindergarten teachers to target core literacy elements.”

Not only does AIMSweb help personalized learning for Cabarrus students, it helps make quality staff development decisions. Schultz believes the clear, quality data has nurtured relationships between schools, built on existing expertise to improve teaching throughout the district, and enhanced teacher leadership as teachers work together as a team.

“It’s rewarding to see Cabarrus County taking a leadership role in using AIMSweb to gather data to inform curriculum and make the RTI decisions that produce positive student achievement results,” said Douglas Kubach, President and CEO, Assessment and Information, Pearson. “With significant federal focus and funding aimed at innovative, results-driven solutions, we believe even more districts across the nation will soon be following Cabarrus’ lead, ensuring all students succeed in school, college and careers.”

More information about Pearson’s AIMSweb is available via phone at 866-313-6194 or at the AIMSweb website, http://www.aimsweb.com.

About Cabarrus County Schools
Cabarrus County Schools values, teaches and empowers students in a culture of educational excellence. We aspire to produce globally competitive, lifelong learners through rigorous and relevant curriculum that is taught by highly prepared visionary leaders who recognize the importance of engaging a diverse body of learners. Cabarrus County Schools is the 10th largest school district in North Carolina and ranks 313th in size nationally. In the past 12 years we have opened 13 new schools. Our newest school opened in August 2009 and three additional schools (2 new schools and one replacement school) will open in 2010.

About Pearson
Pearson (NYSE:PSO), the global leader in education and education technology, provides innovative print and digital education materials for preK through college, student information systems and learning management systems, teacher professional development, career certification programs, and testing and assessment products that set the standard for the industry. Pearson’s other primary businesses include the Financial Times Group and the Penguin Group. For more information about the Clinical Assessment group of Pearson, visit http://www.pearsonassessments.com/.

For more information, press only:
Adam Gaber, Pearson, 212-641-6118, adam.gaber@pearson.com