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Press Release

UChicago-Developed Tool to Serve Rocketship Education and Expand Within the Knowledge is Power Program in Fall 2012

For Immediate Release
Contact: Katelyn Silva
University of Chicago
Urban Education Institute

August 20, 2012 – STEP™ (Strategic Teaching and Evaluation of Progress) continues to be a literacy solution of choice for successful charter school organizations. This fall, STEP will expand within the national Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) and add Rocketship Education, based in San Jose, California, to its client list. 

STEP, developed by UChicago Impact at the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute (UEI), is a formative assessment and training program that meets students where they are as developing readers.

“There is a major difference for teachers in assessment tools that provide an indication of students’ achievement as a reader, compared to those that provide actual information on what aspects of reading a student has mastered, what they are struggling with and where these particular set of skills fall within the developmental continuum of learning to read," said Molly Branson Thayer, director of Literacy for the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute. "The former only tells a teacher which children are performing at, above, or below grade level. The latter makes planning and implementing instruction truly differentiated and data driven. This is what sets STEP apart."

STEP’s instructional improvement tools provide teachers and leaders with evidence about what students in pre-kindergarten through third grade know and need to learn. It teaches them how to develop instruction based on evidence, align school resources to maximize reading-learning time, and build teacher capacity to push students’ reading achievement.

The STEP tool is differentiated from other literacy tools by its robust and ongoing professional development, reading “steps” (three per grade level) that pinpoint where students are as readers and that offer interventions based on unique and diverse student needs, and an intensive focus on comprehension.

“KIPP and Rocketship Education are examples of forward thinking organizations that prioritize teachers’ classroom needs when implementing a literacy solution. They have provided centralized support to implement STEP and it has paid off. The two KIPP campuses that first implemented STEP five years ago in New Orleans are far outperforming the district schools,” said Branson Thayer.

KIPP is a national network of 125 college-preparatory public charter schools with a track record of preparing students in underserved communities for success in college and in life. According to a 2010 Mathematica Policy Research study, students at KIPP middle schools make substantial academic gains in math and reading, even though they are entering KIPP with lower entering tests scores than their peers in neighboring district schools. KIPP will expand the STEP program from 14 to 25 schools in the 2012-2013 school year, which will ensure that STEP is reaching students in nearly seventy percent of KIPP’s elementary schools.

KIPP boasts a 100 percent rate of third-grade classes outperforming their district and 75 percent outperforming their state in reading.

“The STEP program has been a powerful learning tool for teachers at KIPP,” said Richard Barth, CEO of the KIPP Foundation. “We are excited to make this program available to even more KIPP elementary school teachers so they can continue to help their students climb the mountain to and through college.”

Rocketship Education, a network of college-preparatory K-5 charter schools, will use STEP in all seven of their schools located in Santa Clara County, California. Rocketship Education is the leading public school system for low-income elementary students in California according to the 2011 California Academic Performance Index. 

“We’re thrilled to enter into this partnership with STEP because we believe that the program will provide our teachers with the rigorous assessment tools and professional development they crave to be even more effective literacy instructors,” said Aylon Samouha, Chief Schools Officer for Rocketship Education. “From our conversations with other high-performing schools, our research into alternatives, and from piloting some of the STEP professional development last year, we believe STEP will be an important asset in our quest to eliminate the achievement gap between low- and high-income students.”

STEP is a literacy solution of choice in 29 cities and 18 states. Clients include Uncommon Schools, New Orleans Public Charter and Neighborhood Schools, Achievement First, Baltimore Public Schools, and Chicago Public Schools. 

Timothy Knowles, John Dewey Director of UEI, said, “KIPP and Rocketship are critical national partners in UEI’s efforts to dramatically improve literacy results nationwide. Our partnership with both of these high-performing charter management organizations means thousands more American children will have the foundation they need for success in college and life.”