English Language Learners in Colorado Show Significant Reading Gains with Pearson’s Cornerstone

Across the nation, English language learners (ELLs) must keep pace with their native English-speaking peers in all core academic subjects while, at the same time, learning English. This challenging learning curve keeps many ELLs from achieving at their highest potential and can negatively impact their ability to graduate from high school. But a recently implemented intervention program in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, which is using LongmanCornerstone, an ELL elementary curriculum from the education and technology company Pearson, is rapidly turning the tide for these at-risk students.

The community of Glenwood Springs is home to many working families who support the resort towns of Vail and Aspen. At Glenwood Springs Elementary School (GSES), nearly half of students enter school with no English reading, speaking or writing skills and must receive ELL services to help them learn language arts, social studies, science and math.
GSES’s program is part of a state-mandated effort to close the achievement gap between English learners and native speakers. To address this challenge, district ELL Director Sharon Moya applied elements of the Response to Intervention (RTI) framework, from analyzing student data and identify specific learning deficits to designing an intervention plan, creating a procedure for progress monitoring and working with Pearson to implement the program.
As the linked video shows, the remarkable improvements GSES children experienced with Cornerstone has led school officials to implement the program in every K-5 ELL classroom across the entire school district for the 2009-2010 school year.
Superintendent Judy Haptonstall said that Cornerstone is helping ELL students achieve success, “I’m proud because of the growth we’ve seen in kids this year, which is the best we’ve ever been able to do. I’m also excited about the potential for every second language learner in the district because we will be moving the program across the district now that we’ve had such great results at this school.”
Glenwood Springs’ assessment scores indicate that Cornerstone is helping teachers effectively address struggling students’ needs, with students showing significant reading gains on Pearson’s Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA), which measures accuracy, fluency and comprehension to assist with tailored instruction. When tested in September 2008, 70 percent of first-grade students were reading below benchmark and 30 percent of students were reading at the expected grade-level benchmark.  After only five months, the number of first graders reading below-benchmark level decreased by nearly a half. And, 48 percent of students were reading above-benchmark level, with 28 percent demonstrating gains of two or more years in reading proficiency.
Glenwood’s teachers agree that Cornerstone has rapidly improved student achievement through differentiated instruction and personalized learning that integrates reading skills with a variety of subject areas, like social studies and science. Of Cornerstone, first-grade teacher Jeanine King said, “In September, the kids came to me at below level reading, writing and speaking English. In January, when I retested them again with [Pearson’s] DRA2, I found that they have made at least a year’s growth in only that four months time.”
With tears in her eyes, King continued, “I’m so proud of them….to know they can go on next year in second grade and be part of a regular classroom to just be able to learn all that they’ve done…it’s just amazing.”
            By developing all the essential basic language skills, like phonics and oral language, as well as higher-level critical thinking skills, Cornerstone helped third-grade learners also make significant gains on the DRA. At the beginning of the school year, only 11 percent of ELL third graders were reading at grade level. By midterm, that number jumped by nearly one-third to 37 percent, with 26 percent reaching an advanced level on the DRA. 
Third-grade teacher Gissela Dillow, a former English learner herself, added, “The way Cornerstone has integrated all of the phonics and the oral language – bringing in music and using all these higher-level thinking skills…all of the sudden, the playing field has been evened out for these children. And, that’s what’s made this program so successful with them.”
Students also have responded positively to the learning program. Jairo Pelac, a fourth grader learning with Cornerstone for the first time during the 2008-2009 school year, said, “I feel proud of myself because when I came here I didn’t know English and now, I do. And, I have learned a lot…I’m proud of myself.”
To learn more about Cornerstone, its proven instructional model, and how it is used nationwide in a variety of program models, including RTI, visit www.longmanschool.comGSES’s success story can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEYmKbzmQBE.
About Pearson:
About Pearson — Pearson (NYSE:PSO), the global leader in education and education technology, reaches and engages today’s digital natives with effective and personalized learning, as well as dedicated professional development for their teachers. This commitment is demonstrated in the company’s investment in 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. The company’s respected brands include Longman, Prentice Hall, Addison Wesley, Benjamin Cummings, MyLabs, and many others. Pearson’s comprehensive offerings help inform targeted instruction and intervention so that success is within reach of every student at every level of education. Pearson’s commitment to education for all is supported by the global philanthropic initiatives of the Pearson Foundation. Pearson’s other primary businesses include the Financial Times Group and the Penguin Group. For more information, go to www.pearson.com.