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District Success Story

Ignite Reading Helps Red Bluff Union Close Reading Skills Gaps for 1st-8th Graders

Red Bluff Elementary

Students averaged 2.1 weeks of reading skills growth per week of instruction.

6th–8th grade students closed foundational skills gaps at an even higher rate.

The Challenge

Reading Below Grade Level

Situated within a rural community in Northern California, the Red Bluff Union Elementary School District (RBUESD) is home to a substantial population of migrant families. Within its student body, 14% are multilingual learners, and 73% qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch. Student literacy levels were below proficient prior to COVID, and in the wake of the pandemic, the district knew it needed a large-scale solution to get students caught up. In January of 2022, RBUESD kicked off the Ignite Reading program as a pilot across all three of its elementary schools.

The COVID years had left students within RBUESD, like those across the country, with severe gaps in their learning. Fueled by major attendance issues driven by COVID interruptions, reading skills across multiple grade levels were suffering. In particular, our investigation revealed gaps in the very skills that Ignite Reading was designed to address. Using funding specifically targeted to recover learning for students most negatively affected by those years, the district found an answer in the Ignite Reading program to begin to ameliorate the damage done, and eliminate the gaps created by lost learning opportunities.

Cliff Curry

Superintendent, Red Bluff Union Elementary School District

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Evolving Beyond Elementary School

After a strong pilot at the elementary schools, 5th graders in the Ignite Reading program continuing on to middle school realized they would have to leave their reading program behind. So they went to their principal at Vista Preparatory Academy to campaign for Ignite Reading to continue in 6th–8th grades. The principal listened and in the fall, Ignite Reading expanded to Vista Preparatory Academy.

The Solution

Selecting Student Participants

As a first step, Ignite Reading gave students starting the program a baseline assessment to confirm that they needed the foundational reading skills the program teaches. Students who passed the assessment could be quickly replaced with others.

In middle school, through conversations with Vista’s instructional specialist, the Ignite Reading team was able to leverage a range of school-level data—students flagged for RTI or MTSS or those who had come up in Student Support Team meetings, for example—to identify the students who really needed to close foundational reading skills gaps. From there, Ignite Reading administered more precise diagnostics to understand each student’s individual gaps.

Once program participants were selected, Ignite Reading found that 80% of students had skill gaps that placed them at kindergarten and first grade reading levels:

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Ignite Reading’s baseline assessment also identified which foundational reading skills each student already had and which they still had to learn, so every developing reader could start their lessons with the exact skills they needed next.

Students at every grade level had a wide range of reading skills gaps:

Graph 7

One-to-One Tutoring

Ignite Reading then paired each student with a highly trained reading tutor to teach into their specific skills gaps one-to-one over video for 15 minutes every school day. Tutors follow Ignite Reading’s research-based, differentiated-instruction curriculum and work with students until they have mastered all foundational reading skills.

The Ignite Reading team also helped each school figure out program logistics, including the best place to hold tutoring sessions. For Bidwell and Jackson Heights Elementary Schools, students stayed in their classrooms for sessions; at Metteer, Ignite Reading students transitioned from lunch or class to the library for sessions, with help from staff. Vista’s middle schoolers attended their sessions in the cafeteria.

Detailed Data Supported Student Success

Another critical element of the Ignite Reading program is regular data meetings with representatives from each school in the program. As one of Ignite Reading’s early partners, RBUESD provided valuable feedback on the data they were getting, which helped shape the reports Ignite Reading provides to all district partners.

Data reports comprise a range of details, from academic to behavioral, including space for Ignite Reading literacy specialists and teachers to exchange information about specific students. If a student is distracted in their tutoring sessions or there’s a particular skill they find challenging or they show signs of needing further interventions, Ignite Reading literacy specialists share those observations with recommendations for how to address them. Whether the next steps are small, like moving a student’s workstation so they’re not distracted by their neighbor, or larger, like providing data to support a student’s recommendation for Tier 3 supports, all of the relevant data is clearly organized and readily available to school leaders, teachers, and parents as they work to help their students become readers.

The Results

Analysis at the end of the academic year revealed impressive reading gains.

Students made an average of 2.1 weeks of reading growth per week of instruction, with 6th–8th graders achieving even more growth:

Graph 8

The progress made by 6th–8th graders is especially crucial, as middle school teachers aren’t trained to teach foundational reading skills. That means without Ignite Reading, it’s likely these students may never learn to read.

“We are seeing major improvement in the specific skills covered by the Ignite Reading training regimen. Last year, we extended Ignite Reading into our upper grades, as assessments revealed gaps for these students as well. Results in that target group have exceeded expectations.”

Cliff Curry, Superintendent, Red Bluff Union Elementary School District

All students in the program, regardless of ethnicity, IEP status, or whether they were multilingual learners, achieved the same incredible results:

Graph 9

As a result of these significant student skill gains, RBUESD is expanding their Ignite Reading program for the 23–24 school year, with a goal of serving nearly 500 students across all four schools—and attaining even more exceptional growth.

  • Over a Year of Learning in Just 13 Hours

    Zuria, an eighth-grade multilingual learner at Vista Preparatory Academy, started the Ignite Reading program in January 2023. Her diagnostic assessment placed her at the very start of the sequence of reading, still needing to shore up Basic Alphabet Knowledge, an early-Kindergarten skill. In just 13 instructional hours with an 85% attendance rate, Zuria successfully completed all of her kindergarten foundational skills and started gaining first grade skills. For every week in Ignite Reading, Zuria gained 2.7 weeks of reading growth!

    Ignite Reading App And Student