Somerville Public Schools, New Jersey

At Somerville Public Schools, designated by the State of New Jersey as a high-performing district, literacy is key to succeeding with standards across the curriculum. “If you target reading scores, everything else falls into place,” said Tim Teehan, District Academic Achievement Officer, noting a strong correlation between state assessment scores in the content areas and student reading levels. The 2,500-student district, where 40% of students are eligible for free and reduced lunch, implemented myON in grades K-8 during the 2014-15 school year.

“Because myON offers a large number of digital books, both informational non-fiction, and fiction, teachers have the needed resources to engage students who require texts that are accessible at their level and with supports,” Teehan added. “All students can use the same title, or various students can be reading various books. Struggling readers, who may be self-conscious, are less worried about what their peers are thinking and can focus more on reading and improving.”

Somerville’s Wildly Important Goals—the central focus for each grade range—include providing meaningful daily opportunities to apply literacy in primary grades, infusing ELA Common Core Standards into pedagogy to ensure sustainable growth for every student in grades 3-5, and providing engaging opportunities to infuse writing throughout the school day for middle school. 

"Because myON offers a large number of digital books, both informational non-fiction, and fiction, teachers have the needed resources to engage students who require texts that are accessible at their level and with supports."

The district employs a “3-D PD” approach that affords teachers the opportunity to observe and provide feedback to colleagues, model best practices for each other, and reflect on their own practice. With myON, a core group of teachers participate in PD sessions, then deliver turnkey training to their colleagues. 

Data is used for targeted discussions with educators, as well as students and families. “We show students their reading levels and discuss how they can improve, and include that information on report cards, so parents can see where their kids are reading,” Teehan said.

The “always on” feature of myON provides the high percentage of students who come from homes without physical books an opportunity to read outside of school time. Most have access to devices and locations with Wi-Fi within their communities.

“The fact that we can make myON resources available after hours as well as during the school day benefits students and teachers alike,” Teehan said. That includes bolstering student achievement related to state-mandated Student Growth Objectives, which are developed by teachers and comprise 15 to 20 percent of their annual performance evaluations.