When Jersey CUSD No. 100 launched a 1:1 initiative several years ago, students in the small, rural district quickly embraced the daily use of computers. That technology, however, didn’t carry over into all subject areas. To make writing instruction more engaging, the district set out to find an online, interactive program.
“I wasn’t seeing growth or improvement in grammar, which was still paper-and-pencil in grades 8-12, or the transfer into students’ writing,” said Beth Morgan, a teacher and head of the English department at JCHS. Located about 45 miles from St. Louis, JCHS enrolls approximately 1,000 students in grades 8-12. “We’re a rural school district and we don’t have a lot of money. NoRedInk offered a free version, so we decided to try that.”
After experiencing success with the free curriculum, JCHS upgraded to NoRedInk Premium in 2016-17. NoRedInk Premium provides a complete, adaptive writing curriculum for students in grades 6-12. It is now used by every teacher in the JCHS English department.
“Illinois is an SAT state. My goals are growth in students’ SAT scores and transference of their grammar skills to speaking, listening, and writing,” said Morgan.
NoRedInk’s Curriculum Library includes diagnostic tools, adaptive exercises, quizzes, and passage quizzes. JCHS teachers and students use these materials during the first five to 10 minutes of every English class.
“We call it our daily bell ringer,” said Morgan. “On Monday, we give a diagnostic that focuses on a specific skill, and we examine the data. If my class scores below the 80th percentile on any topic, we’ll cover that in class. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, we’ll pull up a lesson in NoRedInk during whole group instruction and complete a few practice exercises, then students will complete the rest on their own. On Friday, we have a quiz to measure their growth.”
Consistency is key to students’ and teachers’ success, according to Morgan. “We use NoRedInk daily, which benefits all students,” she said. “By consistently using it at all levels, there are many areas of grammar and specific writing skills that we no longer have to review or re-teach each year, which saves time.”
JCHS teachers guide their students through the writing and revision process using several of NoRedInk’s writing features, including Quick Writes, Guided Drafts, Self Review, and Peer Review.
“We use all of these components,” said Morgan. “I love ‘Peer Review.’ It helps both the writer and the reviewer improve. I also love seeing students’ original draft side by side with their final version. NoRedInk makes it easy to see their growth. In the past, that wasn’t always the case with writing; we were looking for what made an ‘A’ paper or a ‘B’ paper. Now we look for that growth and improvement for each individual.”
JCHS teachers use NoRedInk’s live tracking capabilities to prioritize, instruct, and intervene. They track students’ progress against state and national standards and assessments, and filter the curriculum to align their instruction with the SAT and MAP.
“The data is really helpful. It makes it easy to not only show growth, but to achieve growth,” said Morgan. “Using the color-coded diagnostic data, I can easily create assignments or see which areas I need to work on with specific students.”
Prior to 2018, JCHS used NoRedInk to help students prepare for the ACT. “Students who used NoRedInk saw an average gain of 5 to 7 points in their English ACT scores,” said Morgan.
Two years ago, the school began using NoRedInk for the SAT. “Students have really improved their SAT scores, and they will tell you it’s because of NoRedInk,” she said. “For our students who took the PSAT and SAT, their average growth, in English, was 60 points in 2017-18 and 50 points in 2018-19.”
Students also appreciate being able to access NoRedInk online 24/7. “Last year, I had a student who went from a 30 to a 36 on the ACT, and she said it was because she had NoRedInk at her fingertips whenever she wanted to access it,” said Morgan.
“Teachers have absolutely seen a difference in students’ MAP scores as well,” she added.
“We have over 1,000 students and eight different English teachers in our building. NoRedInk has made our lives a lot easier. It helps us stay on track, and students are less likely to be confused because we’re all using the same verbiage,” said Morgan. “The main benefit has been students’ success. They know they’re responsible for learning the material and they see the difference it’s making.”