The $10,000 per Student Question for School Districts

school district

Several studies argue about whether repeating a grade is helpful or harmful to students; yet few studies discuss prevention by developing readiness.

student retentionAccording to the National Center for Educational Statistics, retaining a child can result in bullying or victimization and increase the likelihood of dropping out of school before graduation. This fact, coupled with the exorbitant costs associated with repeating a grade, prompted us to dig into a solution. Nationally, the majority of retention decisions are among Kindergarten and First Graders with reading proficiency being cited as the number one measurement. The greatest contributors to the reduction in retention rates over the last decade has been the lowering of the standards bar and avoidance-based promotions aimed at preventing the negative results that may occur from retention. Unfortunately, few schools are focusing on actually increasing literacy as a means of decreasing retention rates.

The national average cost for retaining a student is $10,700 according to the latest statistics. The direct cost to society of retaining 2.3 percent of the 50 million students enrolled in American schools exceeds $12 billion annually. Kindergarteners and 1st graders combine to make up roughly 25% of the overall total. This cost, coupled with the data from studies showing the negative consequences of retention, can cause school districts to extend unwarranted promotion that ultimately contributes to America’s dismal illiteracy and dropout rates. Considering the fact that preventing one single student from retention could save a district $10,000 in extra expenses, it doesn’t take long to realize addressing reading proficiency needs to take a higher priority among curriculum decision makers. This proactive approach during early ages can have a measurable, positive impact on the overall education system.

States vary with their standards and definitions for “readiness” and “proficiency” and the corresponding actions they pursue. Florida and New York have instituted so-called “Promotion Gates” that include early testing and standards to help identify those students in need of additional attention. The introduction and implementation of No Child Left Behind in 2001 also prompted schools to take a fresh look at exposing readiness by testing at critical transitionary stages throughout the educational grade system. However, awareness is only part of the story. Determining the root issues that contribute to illiteracy and providing solutions that address those root issues make up the silver bullet the educational system has been missing. Two major contributors to the shortcomings in our students’ reading proficiencies include: 1. Lack of student engagement in the activities and lessons presented in the selected curriculum, and 2. Absence of key teaching modalities within curriculums aimed at communicating with students who have various learning styles and skills.

The results of a study being conducted by the University of West Georgia will be released in July 2015. This Independent Research studied the effects of teaching early literacy with Augmented Reality, a type of 3D technology that adds virtual reality components to a real world experience. The study was conducted in Kindergarten classes within a Title 1 school. Augmented Reality technology has been tried and proven in other industries such as medical, aviation, and even the US military; but its application and successes within an educational curriculum is only recently emerging.

Curriculum developers using Augmented Reality are among the pioneers who are facing the challenges of illiteracy head on. District-level decision makers who wish to address the costs associated with retaining young students would serve themselves well to consider implementing an Augmented Reality based, supplemental reading solution into their PreK to 3rd grade classrooms. The costs associated with adding such a program are far less than the $10,000 per student expense that is incurred by repeating a grade.


cynthia kayeCynthia B. Kaye
CEO | Chief Zoo Keeper
Atlanta, GA

Twitter: @alivestudiosk12

Augmented Reality Early Literacy Program for Apple Macs

apple mac augmented reality

apple-200x200Alive Studios is introducing the Mac version of its Augmented Reality early literacy software program at the ISTE Expo in Philadelphia, PA. This product release is expected to be welcomed by School Districts who use Mac Technologies exclusively.

Letters alive, a supplementary reading software program for 3-8 year olds, will be available for Mac users with OS 10.6 or better. This program includes the world’s first full-year curriculum ever written for early education using Augmented Reality. “Early learners will be taught letters, words, and sentences while being fully engaged by the mind-blowing visual effects of Augmented Reality,” stated Janice Sinclair, Principal at Gerard Prep School and user of the software. Letters alive has 26 animated animals representing the letters of the alphabet that come to life with amazing 3D effects and help students through all the learning activities.

With Apple’s recent purchase of Metaio, a German company making Augmented Reality software, all eyes are on what Apple’s next moves will be. The possibilities are limitless. Augmented Reality technology is already successfully being utilized in the medical, aviation, and entertainment industries. However, Letters alive is one of a small handful of products that has launched in the early education space.

“The PC version of Letters alive has been available for over three years and is currentlyLetters alive augmented reality in education being used in more than 1,000 classrooms around the world. Its low cost and ease of use has made it very popular among schools looking to use technology to fight early literacy problems,” stated Cynthia B. Kaye, CEO (and Chief Zoo Keeper) of Alive Studios. Independent research has proven the effectiveness of using Augmented Reality in an educational program. Kids who were taught with Letters alive realized a 48% increase in letter naming fluency and a 112% increase in letter sound fluency over students not using the Augmented Reality software. More successful results will be released this July from another study using Letters alive with At Risk students.

The release of Letters alive for Mac at the ISTE Expo on June 28 is sure to draw favorable attention with several school districts around the country using Macintosh computers exclusively. “Until now, their younger grades have not had an opportunity to experience Augmented Reality in their literacy programs,“ added Kaye. Alive Studios, the developer of Letters alive, also introduced Math alive earlier this year for PC’s and Mac’s. Math alive is a game-based supplemental math program for 3-8 year olds that features Metaio’s Augmented Reality technology along with 45 skill-based games that provide instant feedback to students.

Product Availability
Alive Studios will begin shipping the Mac version of Letters alive in July 2015. The products are the first of their kind within a full-year curriculum utilizing Augmented Reality for early learners.