A Living Arcade: A Video-Game Type of Environment Will Draw More Students to Become Proficient in Reading and Math

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VIDEO GAMES ARE EXCITING and challenging to children, something curriculum director Donna Payne is counting on to motivate the students at her Pittsburgh school.

Payne's program idea, the Living and Learning Arcade, at the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Charter School captured a finalist position in the Second Annual DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION X-Factor Student Achievement Grant program. The Pittsburgh school won a year's worth of AutoSkill's Academy of READING and Academy of MATH software and training to help improve its academic achievement.

"My big thing for this is motivation," says Payne. "And students today are motivated by video games."

The school, which has 227 students in grades K5, made adequate yearly progress the past three years, but the goal is to increase the percentage of students scoring proficient to at least 80 percent, Payne says. In 2007, 41 percent of fifth-graders were proficient or advanced in reading, and 90 percent of fifth-graders were proficient or advanced in math.

"Reading is more of a challenge [compared to math]," she says. "I think this will help us reach high standards and raise reading scores. Everything is about testing, and we try to get our kids into magnet and private schools. Those scores mean so much."

Payne explains that the charter school needs to spend more time just on literacy-based activities. The school already offers weekly sessions of reading after school, serving roughly 12 students with volunteer teachers, and it's just not enough. …