Using Adaptive Curriculum to Meet Every Student’s Needs


Jay School Corporation in Indiana uses Waterford Early Learning’s reading, math and science curriculum with hundreds of its kindergarten, first and second grade students. The district says the adaptive program meets the needs of all its students— from struggling to advanced—and helps engage students, inform teachers and close gaps early.


For many of the children in Jay School Corporation’s elementary schools, first grade is their first school experience. As a result, students come to the district— which is largely rural and has a high population of under-resourced families—with a wide range of abilities.

Jay School Corporation administrators needed differentiated instruction to help meet these diverse needs. They wanted a program that would adapt to each student’s level, from struggling students to the district’s most advanced learners, in order to ensure all their early learners had the foundational literacy skills necessary to set them on the path to academic success.

“In the whole scheme of things, when a student can’t read, they will struggle with all of the subjects,” Trent Paxson, director of testing and assessment, said. “You have to have an understanding of reading first.”


Jay School Corporation implemented Waterford Early Learning’s adaptive reading, math and science curriculum with 800 of its kindergarten, first and second grade students across seven of its elementary schools. “Every class uses
it every day to help close learning gaps,” Paxson said.

An initial assessment places children in the program at their own level and then progresses, delivering activities and instruction fit for each child’s own pace and ability. Paxson says this helps students who are behind or just learning English as a second language catch up, while still engaging and challenging on-level and above-level learners.

“We found that students above level add more to the classroom discussion because they have learned concepts from Waterford ahead of time,” Paxson said. “When a teacher introduces a concept and the above-level student engages in the teaching too, the rest of the students listen. It’s powerful to hear it from a peer.”

With precise knowledge of how each student is performing, educators are able to adjust individual lesson plans as well as small group and whole class instruction accordingly.

“Our teachers make Waterford a priority. They schedule and plan around it. They look at the Waterford data and can see if a child is stuck in a rut and then work with them to find out why,” Paxson said. “They use Waterford time to provide even more individual or small group instruction.”


Outcomes from a recent research study support Jay School Corporation’s enthusiasm for Waterford Early Learning.


The study compared beginning- or mid-year test scores with end-of-school-year test scores for kindergarten and first grade students who spent more than 1000 minutes per school year using Waterford verses students who used the program less than 400 minutes.

For both grades, student achievement increased across several important reading metrics, like letter naming fluency and nonsense word fluency for correct letter sounds and whole words read. Regardless of income, LEP status or gender, students who used Waterford made significant gains over the control group.

Similar gains were observed as a result of using Waterford Early Learning’s math and science curriculum. Kindergarteners who used Waterford outperformed their peers on all four math strands tested, while first graders who used Waterford performed higher on six math strands. Again, students in the Waterford group saw gains regardless of gender, income, LEP or special education status.

“We’re committed to Waterford,” Paxson said. “Other programs are out there, but the support and stability of the program with Waterford has been great over the years. It’s been consistent.”


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