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How Texthelp tools like Equatio and Read&Write help BCSC meet its district goals, so that all learners can succeed

About

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation (BCSC) in Columbus, Indiana, currently serves 11,500 students in their K-12 school district across 21 instructional sites. 44% of their learners are economically disadvantaged, 14% of students have disabilities and 12% are English Language Learners (ELLs) with over 60 different languages spoken across their district.

Summary

  1. BCSC has district-wide access to Read&Write and used funding to purchase a district-wide license for Equatio to meet their inclusive education goals, across all subjects.
  2. All K-12 BCSC learners (11,500 learners, across 21 instructional sites) now have access to both Texthelp tools to break down barriers to learning and help them feel more empowered and engaged in learning.
  3. BCSC use both Texthelp tools to support its teachers through a global teacher shortage - they can now be in more places at once with a hub of easily accessible resources.

The challenge

BCSC has had a long-standing district goal to create flexible, productive, universally designed environments to help the needs and challenges of all of their stakeholders.

To meet this goal, BCSC needed to break down barriers to learning in literacy and math across the district for:

  • Disabled learners
  • Economically disadvantaged learners
  • English Language Learners (ELLs)
  • All learners to provide choice in how they learn
  • All staff members

A focus on literacy

In 2003 BCSC adopted Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as an instructional framework and started looking for tools that could help their learners who needed it most. 

All Texthelp tools are designed with UDL in mind. Our literacy software tool, Read&Write offers help for everyday tasks to meet the needs of different learners, like reading text out loud, understanding unfamiliar words and proofing written work. Read&Write is also aligned with CAST’s UDL guidelines - that’s what drew BCSC’s attention to the tool and in 2005, they began their Read&Write journey. 

After years of their students with learning differences loving the tool, BCSC realized the potential Read&Write could unleash for all their learners and how it would meet their longer term UDL goals of normalizing the use of technology, so no child feels singled out or different. In 2009, BCSC rolled out Read&Write district-wide.

Making the appeal for math

After seeing the success Read&Write brought their learners for over 13 years, BCSC wanted to extend that support to their math learners to meet their UDL district educational framework.

Nick Williams, Director of Technology Innovation made an appeal to the school board for learners to be given district-wide access to Equatio:

“There are not many things that I can go to our school board or any of our stakeholders and say, ‘this investment is going to help all students’ - but all of [Texthelp’s] tools do. Equatio fits a gap that we felt our LMS, Google Docs, and our adopted resources lacked - an accessible math tool. Equatio fits UDL representation, action and expression needs for all of our students and our 2000 staff members.”

Through government funding sources BCSC were able to add Equatio to their district-wide portfolio of Texthelp tools, to help all their learners succeed.

Speaking of our tools Read&Write and Equatio, Nick Williams, Director of Technology Innovation at BCSC said: 

“It's not just a secondary language arts resource, it's not just a K-2 assessment that we're looking at. We are looking at tools that provide help and learning opportunities for every single student in our district. There is nothing else [like Read&Write and Equatio] that does that for our district in terms of tools. They are reliable. I could go through ticket numbers, but we get very, very few tickets for any Texthelp products because they just work and are easy to use, easy to navigate and our students are used to them.”

Meeting district goals

How Texthelp tools meet BCSC’s district goals for:

Students with learning differences - Texthelp tools are assistive technology tools at their core which help support learners, and boost their confidence and learning experience. Read&Write’s toolbar provides features that help with organization, research and study skills including screen masking and text to speech. Tools like Equatio help make math and STEM more accessible and engaging with features like a screenshot reader to have math content read aloud or Equatio Prediction which helps support those with reading and writing difficulties. 

Breaking down barriers for ELLs - Whether it’s in literacy class or math class, language barriers are still a problem and in most cases, more of a problem in STEM classes due to the academic language used. Read&Write provides support for students who are at all levels of acquiring the English language, from those being introduced to English for the first time to those who are proficient in conversational English, but require additional support because of the complexity of the language. Read&Write has features to help with vocabulary attainment, reading and working with text, collecting and organizing information, and drafting and editing, while also being fully compatible with Equatio. Giving students confidence that the tools that can help them are in more than one place and can be applied to more than one subject. This is an important consideration for BCSC, according to Nick:

“Jesus was a Spanish speaking student, in a seventh grade social studies class. He was having real difficulty reading and comprehending the text. So we introduced him to Read&Write. And on his own, he started making the vocabulary lists, getting pictures and symbols to help him break down the barriers. And then he would also do recordings using the translator, that he would then integrate into his slide presentations. So you can just see his confidence grow, even though he has all of these barriers.”

All learners - Everyone can benefit from having access to literacy and STEM tools. They’re accessible on a wide range of devices to equip students with the tools they need to succeed on their academic journey and help them learn, understand and express themselves more confidently and independently. With features to support both teaching and learning across the curriculum. Whether it’s to help students at all levels with reading and writing or to support math and science lessons in today’s tech-enabled classrooms. Equatio makes math digital so that teachers can help students access and engage with math in more personalized ways. By providing all learners with equitable and accessible tools like Read&Write and Equatio, Nick explains how it helps empower learners and gives them the option of choice in how they learn: 

“My daughter has used these tools just as much as some of our other students. And this is really why and how I can explain to our stakeholders that this tool really is for everyone. She's involved in lots of activities and there's been times where she gets home late and is having a mental block in terms of typing, and she can just write an entire paper by using that speech to text tool and being able to go through and edit it, use highlighters and collect notes. Generally being more productive and saving time.”

All staff members - Due to the impact of the pandemic there's a global teacher shortage. Texthelp tools can help to reduce the impacts of staffing so that teachers can be in more places at once and promote independent learning, with the digital nature of the tools. Nick talks about how Texthelp tools continually help with this:

“We have a French class right now that is traditionally offered in both of our high schools, but we don't have the staffing for it. So we actually have our educator teaching live at one school and our kids connecting remotely from the other high school and she's utilizing Texthelp tools all the time to be able to teach both. And then that would go into our virtual school for virtual students to use the tools to get help when teachers or tutors are hard to find. So having those resources available and training available, I think is helping our students tremendously, especially when it may not be a traditional setting.”

Going above & beyond

With 4 extra initiatives:

  1. Internet access for all
    BCSC believes in equitable learning and that’s why they now provide access to the internet through wifi or hotspots to all learners and their families, ensuring there is internet access in their homes. All their learners can now access tools and resources when they aren’t physically in class. BCSC also provides their learners with Chromebooks and one-to-one computing in grades K through 12 so that regardless of their economic standing, they have access to digital tools like Read&Write, Equatio and other digital resources.
  2. Teacher training
    The global teacher shortage has resulted in BCSC recruiting 60 to 70 new teachers each year. From teachers retiring to changing profession, it is causing a knowledge loss across their district. To alleviate this, BCSC extensively trains all of their new teachers to ensure they are fully skilled in all of the Texthelp tools used district-wide. Training materials include the use of Texthelp Academy, resources received through newsletters, communications and website guides on texthelp.com to constantly keep up to date with the tools. BCSC also has their own Teacher Academy available through training portals to make sure that any staff member, whether starting at the beginning of the year or midway through the year, is successful. 
  3. Technology champions
    BCSC also implements tiers of support for all learners and educators to use Texthelp tools and get the most out of them. Including an assistant director of educational technology and teacher leaders at each site that are trained in the district tools to help other teachers, called ‘Tech Titans’. There is also specific training in place at BCSC for English language learner and special education staff with a knowledge base that is accessible anytime, anywhere, to find the resources they need and get the most out of them.
  4. Flexibility for all learners
    After reading Texthelp’s advice on providing options for learners, BCSC introduced a LEGADO program - an English two-way immersion program. With career and technical education information and classes, fed from several counties across BCSC. From cosmetology class, health and nursing programs to project based learning from K through 12. They also introduced a virtual learning school so students can learn anytime, anywhere.

Our challenge as a district is how can I make sure that all of our students who want to be in these pathways, can be successful in these pathways? With tools like Read&Write, Equatio and the resources that are available - everything Texthelp does and stands for helps break down barriers. Our district is big on that.”

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