Are We Ready for iReady?


  • peer editingOne night about 15 years ago I was leaving a restaurant and the hostess called out, “Have a great evening!”  When I responded, “Thank you and you too”, much to my surprise the young woman came running after me and said, “Are you Mrs. Werps?”  I told her that was my former name and she said, “You were my sixth grade English teacher.  I recognized your voice!”  This young woman was in college and went on to tell me how much she loved English class and had fond memories of how I arranged the desks in a horseshoe so we could discuss readings and our writings.  She said she learned so much about how to be a good writer in those classes and enjoyed the discussions and interactions we had.

I had almost forgotten about that until today I took a look at a program called iReady which is being piloted by some teachers in the Baltimore County Public Schools.  As a recently retired teacher, I decided to take a look.  As a private tutor I like to keep up with what is being used and more importantly, what looks good and what doesn’t.  Guess what category iReady falls into…

According to the company that sells IReady, “Research proves that i-Ready can deliver transformational results for all students.”    I looked all around for the research but couldn’t find anything solid.  It also claims to accurately predict student success on measures of Common Core Learning assessments but I couldn’t find any detail on that either.  If I missed something, someone please point it out to me. I saw that once again, much is promised but no proof of concept is present.

I guess the first clue was when I first looked at the site and saw the tab for personalized learning.  There they were again, those two little words that seem to taunt me.  I decided to use the student sample and clicked on the one for fourth grade.  It said reading comprehension but a more accurate description would be persuasive writing.

Before I go any further, I am not saying this progam is worthless.  As I keep reminding those who overreact to my opinions, I am not anti-technology in education and believe it certainly has its place.  This program, like many others, could be used well with teacher discretion.  It could be an enhancement to teaching, it could be integrated into teaching or it could be used to assist students who have been absent.  However, for a student to go though the lesson and complete it without any supervision or real teaching would be  canned, so devoid of any student-teacher interaction.

Years ago when I taught writing – at the elementary and middle school levels – and also to adult English language learners. I discovered that what always worked best was the sharing of writing with others, the discussions, the feedback and the resulting revisions.  So what is iReady missing?  If you haven’t guessed by now, it is the human element.  The fermentation of the elusive and magical “ah ha!” moment requires human feedback. The communication between teacher and student, among students, and at home when writing is shared with parents is just something a computer program cannot offer.  Why is it so difficult to understand that people, especially children, need human interaction for the learning process to be good?  Well, that’s a question I’ll leave you to ponder.

For me it’s all about what the children need to grow and learn.  And sorry folks, that just doesn’t come from a machine (yet).  This will not come as a surprise to the teachers.  The teachers, by the way, the ones who have gone to college to study teaching and learning, the ones who hold the licenses to be in the classrooms every day with 24 students or more — the teachers get it.  Sadly, the teachers are not a part of the decision making process, do not have much of a voice in the kinds of tools they are expected to use.  Some teachers in BCPS have commented that iReady is not approrpiate for  Gifted and Talented students and is too difficult for average students.  I agree with that from what I saw in the student sample.  You can fill in the blanks for our more challenging students.  Again, this is not a program that you just turn students loose on and leave them to it. Students need a real teacher.  Hopefully,  further examination of this product by members of the department of Curriculum and Instruction is underway and some form of certification of efficacy will be made available to the public before this program or others like it are integrated into the general program of studies.

It would appear, from looking at this program, once again, that the use of technology is out of balance.  Hopefully iReady is a true pilot, and on teacher recommendation, will be rejected in its current form, or sigificantly revised to allow for the kind of face-to-face instruction that every licensed educator knows is necessary for student success.  (and to graduate globally competitive)




About Anne Spigelmire-Groth

Thank you for reading my blog. I was a teacher for 35 years, 30 in the Baltimore County Public Schools and five years in International Schools in the Netherlands. Experience: Elementary classroom, elementary reading specialist, middle school reading specialist, middle school English teacher, elementary school library media specialist, adjunct college instructor, and National Board Certification in Library Media.
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3 Responses to Are We Ready for iReady?

  1. Kathleen Rambo says:

    Your words so resonate with me. I too am a recently retired (2013) BCPS elementary teacher. I am consistently appalled by what I read in pertinent blogs and what I hear from former colleagues still in the trenches. Your comment about the possibility of this program being appropriate if used with teacher discretion is key. The rub, however, is that individual teacher discretion appears to no longer be “allowed”. Programs of all kinds seems to be mandated by so called”leaders” whether at the school, area, or county level. Discretion ,autonomy , best practices, and teaching styles are a thing of the past. All the things I loved about being a first and second grade teacher are no more. RIP to a once fulfilling profession.


  2. parent says:

    Thank you Anne, for always reminding us what really matters in teaching.


  3. Pingback: Are BCPS students iReady for ELA computer learning? | STAT-us BCPS

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