Learning Ally Blog: Access and Achievement

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Now more than ever, people with learning and visual disabilities are flourishing in the classroom, launching productive careers and becoming assets in their communities. This blog spotlights remarkable individuals who demonstrate that having a visual or print disability is no barrier to educational success.


Newark Public Schools Celebrates District’s Big Win In National e-Reading Contest
Newark Public Schools [Newark, New Jersey] – Newark Public Schools (NPS) and Learning Ally, a national nonprofit organization serving individuals with learning and visual disabilities, honored students at Louise A. Spencer Elementary School in Newark for their outstanding achievement in the 2nd Annual Learning Ally Great Reading Games, a national reading contest. Students at Louise A Spencer placed first in the state of New Jersey and in the top 10 percent of participating schools nationwide for the most pages read, with a total of 4,453 pages read throughout the competition. Thousands of students in more than 300 schools across America participated in the 2nd Annual Learning Ally Great pic7Reading Gamesnational reading event. All of participating students have reading difficulties such as dyslexia, or blindness/visual impairment, which impacts their reading abilities. Because of their reading difficulties, these students are often times left out of book clubs and other mainstream reading programs, which can damage their self-esteem and cause students to fall behind in their studies. “We are thrilled to celebrate the students at Louise A. Spencer Elementary School for their hard work and well-deserved recognition in the Great Reading Games,” said Christopher D. Cerf, Superintendent of Newark Public Schools. “Through Learning Ally audiobook technology, and the support of our teachers, all of our children have the opportunity to access critical reading material to enhance their personal and academic achievement.” During Learning Ally’s Great Reading Games, students proved that with the right kind of support, inspiration, teachers and technology, they can overcome any challenge. The Learning Ally audiobook technology gives students a wide variety of more than 80,000 human-narrated books to choose from such as textbooks, non-fiction or literature. Students can download the books directly to their tablets, computers, smartphones, iPods and other devices, giving them the ability to read in school, on the go, or anywhere they have a device. “We are very proud of the achievement of Newark’s students. The NPS- Learning Ally collaboration is a significant part of our Governor’s Literacy Program work and is a great example of the benefits we can realize with strong collaboration among schools, the state education department, and nonprofit non-governmental organizations,” remarked Edward Bray, Learning Ally’s Public Policy Director. Currently, 6,600 students in 51 Newark Public Schools have access to Learning Ally audiobook technology. Approximately 72,000 pages have been read by students across the district since implementing the program at the beginning of this school year. Louise A. Spencer, Roberto Clemente, Dr. William H. Horton, Rafael Hernandez, Ann Street School, Luis Munoz Marin and McKinley School have the most students using audiobooks in the classroom. “I am so inspired by my students at Louise A. Spencer. These children dedicated a great amount of time and energy towards this contest, and it’s so gratifying to see them being honored today for their hard work and dedication,” said Mr. Anthony Dilley, a sixth grade language arts and social studies teacher at Louise A. Spencer. “Learning Ally is truly a great program that has enhanced our instruction, and has given our students unprecedented access to reading material both at school and at home. The best part is seeing their reading levels improve, sometimes dramatically, and then the self-confidence that follows.” “The determination of my scholars to become better readers motivates me daily,” added Ms. An’ Tiona Miller, special education teacher at Louise A. Spencer. “Using Learning Ally as an intervention with my group of scholars has allowed them to have access to a wider variety of texts to enhance instruction and improve their individual reading levels. Seeing my scholars achieve is my greatest joy.” NPS’ partnership with Learning Ally is an example of how the district is investing in technology to create a more engaging educational experience for students and to ensure they are college and career ready. The district recently purchased over 11,000 Google Chromebook laptops with the goal of facilitating 21st Century learning environments. To support this goal, NPS has implemented strategic initiatives focused on the effective use of technology in district schools and classrooms including: monthly Digital Learning Institute (DLI) workshops with teacher leaders who are responsible for supporting instructional technology through ongoing and embedded coaching, a purposeful integration of technology into the district’s core curriculum, and an expanded partnership with a subset of schools participating in a Digital Transformation Pilot initiative. Read full article here. 


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