North Star Academy Charter School (K-12), Uncommon Schools Network
Many of the nation’s most successful charter networks use—and love—STEP. Among them is North Star Academy, a multi-campus charter school in Newark, New Jersey that is also part of the high-achieving Uncommmon Schools network. There, 95 percent of students are African American and 80 percent are eligible for free or reduced school lunch.
“The first year I was teaching at North Star, we used another reading assessment,” said Juliana Worrell, a kindergarten teacher who joined North Star in 2007 and who now serves as principal of North Star's Alexander Street Elementary campus which opened in 2014. “But the data didn’t allow us to differentiate instruction enough. We couldn’t meet students where they needed to be, especially on comprehension.”
Once North Star began using STEP, Worrell said, students posted immediate and significant improvements in their reading in a short period of time. In the first year, kindergarteners had to be at Step 2 to be promoted to first grade. By year two, the school was able to lift the bar to Step 3 to enter first grade. Today, promotion to first grade is set at Step 4.
“Our lowest students are reading at grade level,” said Worrell.
Uncommon Newark, Uncommon Schools Network
Likewise, STEP draws enthusiastic praise from North Star's larger charter management network, the well-regarded Uncommon Schools Network's Newark chapter.
“STEP is hands down, the finest early literacy assessment I have encountered anywhere in the country,” said Paul Bambrick-Santoya, Managing Director for Uncommon in Newark. “More than any other assessment, the STEP passages require deep inference and critical thinking starting at the earliest reading levels. This avoids the common error of many other literacy assessments that assume that we shouldn’t assess…until much later in a reader’s development.”