Making an Impact on Reading Achievement at Muscogee County School District

Columbus, GA


After years of not being able to make up ground lost as a result of disrupted education from the pandemic, middle and high school English Language Arts (ELA) educators at Muscogee County School District now have something to celebrate.

“Everybody has shown tremendous growth across the board,” said Margaret (Margie) Riles, literacy content specialist for grades 6-12 at the Georgia school district.

In fact, data gathered at the end of the 2022-2023 school year showed almost three years worth of growth in reading levels for many students in the district’s new supplemental literacy program.

This accomplishment can be attributed to Margie and the teachers she works with to make increasing reading achievement a priority at the district level. They developed a plan for “catching readers” — in this case targeting 6th- and 9th-grade students who are performing below grade level in literacy. Their strategy involved creating district-wide instructional initiatives that included personalized learning and student choice, and adopting a specialized curriculum Savvas Learning Company's iLit45, an intensive teacher-led digital reading intervention program that helped them implement those objectives.

They are now seeing the extremely positive results in improved student reading achievement due to their dedication to addressing students’ learning needs with a focused plan.

Port Byron Schools

Catching Readers at Just the Right Time

In her role, Margie is in constant communication to all the ELA teachers across the district, and what she heard throughout the 2021-2022 school year from them was that too many students were still struggling with their reading as a result of lost learning time from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I could hear the need,” said Margie. “They voiced it directly that there is a definite difference in students prior to going home versus students who are now back in the classroom.”

Since the district was heading into an adoption year, Margie came up with a plan to find a supplemental program that would go beyond their core ELA program, Savvas Learning Company’s myPerspectives®, to provide extra, more-targeted support for students specifically in sixth and ninth grade. She felt that if teachers could “catch” those students as they transition into a new school setting as an incoming middle or high school student, it would send them on an upward trajectory throughout the upper grades and into other subject areas.

“If kids struggle with reading, there's going to be deficits in other areas,” said Margie. “We have a real opportunity here to change that for the students for the better. So then they have that confidence and they feel good about their learning. Then, that hopefully would have a ripple effect in other areas.”

Port Byron Schools

After a search for resources that matched the district’s criteria and mission to help their struggling readers, Savvas Learning Company’s iLit45 was chosen as the new supplemental literacy program.

The Plan for Implementation

Before educators at Muscogee could start implementing iLit45, they first came up with a way to identify the students who would most benefit from it. Since they didn’t have data that year from the state assessments due to COVID, they came up with a criteria where students had to meet three specific data points gathered from three different diagnostic tests, and the students had to be 2-3 levels behind.

“It was very eye opening for a lot of principals to see that they had that many, anywhere from 75 to 125 incoming freshmen, that were two to three grade levels below and were not special ed,” said Margie, referring to distributed learning from the pandemic.

Once they had the students identified, they started training the teachers through an in-person Savvas Educational Consultant, Annette Taylor, over the summer to prepare them for the start of the school year, which began in August. Margie admits there was a bit of a learning curve they had to get around before hitting their stride with iLit45 and the first month got off to rocky start. Many teachers weren’t used to this way of instruction, so they tried to adapt it to their own lessons, which ended up causing frustration.

Luckily, Margie and Annette held another training in September where they could take the time to listen to the teachers, take in their challenges, and then provide them with the guidance they needed to succeed.

“They all said that that day was a game changer for the better,” she said.”

Margie and Annette continued to provide assistance and meetings with teachers throughout the year to make sure they felt supported in implementing this new program.

“They just finished up the school year, and Annette had them really look at the data,” said Margie. “Their attitudes were just so wonderful and they felt good. I think they felt validated because the data showed that what they had done with those kids had worked.”

Learn More About iLit45


Supporting Personalized Learning and Student Choice Initiatives

Educational leaders at the Muscogee school district strongly encourage using personalized learning strategies as well as promoting student agency in its instruction across disciplines. Llit45, a high-quality personalized learning literacy program, comes with both embedded personalized learning instruction and opportunities for student choice, which made it a good fit for the district.

is an important part of Muscogee County School District because it does really highlight personalized learning in a very unique way because the program is so unique,” said RLA/ELA teacher Lavonda Samuels. “And that's what we're leaning to, students having voice and choice in their learning.”

At the beginning of the year, teachers use a norm-referenced GRADE™ diagnostic that comes with iLit45 to place students into the appropriate level of nonfiction interactive readers and give teachers a norm-referenced way to track student progress throughout the year.

From there, the students are prescribed digital interactive readers that provide them with personalized, targeted practice to help with those specific needs. Along with those interactive readers, students also have access to a digital library of over 2,500 engaging titles through iLit45 where they can choose what they want to read based on their interests.

Ishia Granger, who was able to help her ninth-grade students achieve 2.9 years worth of growth in their reading levels last year, appreciated that the instruction in iLit45 built in time for students to read a book of their choice to balance out the assigned reading practice with the interactive readers.

Port Byron Schools

Metacognitive Reading Strategies and Vocabulary Practice

Lacy Martin, whose students experienced an overall 2.7 years worth of growth last school year, likes that iLit45 provides students with intensive intervention that focuses on metacognitive reading strategies — strategies that encourage students to constantly monitor their own reading.

“They're learning to stop and think about the text,” she said. “We all know that you can read a whole page and not know what you just read, but to stop and think and interact with the actual text itself — I think that that's the most valuable thing about iLit.”

Since students in the middle and high school level are expected to be reading to learn, it’s critical they have the tools to comprehend their reading. Science of Reading research shows that retaining and understanding vocabulary words is a critical skill for students to have for reading comprehension. iLit45 provides ample vocabulary practice throughout its instruction, which was very important to Lacy.

Port Byron Schools

“We all know that vocabulary is really important,” she said. “And iLit really equips them with the skills to break down those larger words so that they're not so intimidating … They're stopping to think about [an unfamiliar word], and they're not just dismissing it.”

Moving Forward with Optimism

The gains Muscogee educators are seeing are giving them encouragement that they found the right tool to help them implement the most-effective initiatives that will help get their students to a better place with their reading.

And because of the support Margie and her Savvas partner provided to teachers throughout the implementation process, teachers feel good about using iLit45 as that chosen tool.

“I am optimistic because I think part of why a program or a curriculum or a resource goes well is when the teacher feels good about it,” said Margie. “And so now I've got twenty something teachers out there that do feel good about it, and so I'm hoping that next year it'll even be more powerful.

Muscogee Georgia School District


Savvas Solutions at Muscogee County School District: