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HMH Recognizes Three Students for Reading Skills Improvement


Through Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's annual 180 Awards, we are pleased to honor students who overcome challenges to meet and exceed their goals. 

The following System 44 students in grades 5–8 were nominated by their teachers and HMH for dramatic improvements in their reading skills over the past year. The three winners each receive $500 along with a set of classroom books.  

HMH wishes a sincere congratulations to these reading all-stars who truly deserve recognition for their efforts!

Ian Osborne, Grade 7, Joplin School District, Joplin, Missouri

Grade 7, System 44 

“Ian is a determined learner and sets a positive example for others to follow,” says his teacher, Tashena Vickers. “In the past year, he has truly become a leader in his class.” 

Ian started sixth grade significantly below his grade level in all academic areas. He received Individualized Education Program (IEP) services for his speech and language challenges – which made him more hesitant to speak – and learning disabilities in reading, writing, and math. “I felt like school was a challenge,” Ian says. 

Ian’s school district decided that System 44 was the best route to address his reading needs. Starting with a Lexile® score of 215 at the beginning of sixth grade, Ian missed seven days during his first semester due to anxiety. But in the second semester, Ian became more confident—he started to believe “that he was accepted and cared for,” his teacher said. Ian began volunteering to answer questions, and he missed just one day during the second semester.  

Through hard work and dedication, Ian was dismissed from speech services this year. Though some speech challenges remain, his coping skills have drastically improved. Since starting System 44, his reading Lexile® has improved by 496 points, and his IEP team has decided he will begin eighth grade in regular social studies and science classes. 

As for the future, Ian said he has an interest in possibly fixing cars – something he enjoys reading about at home! 

Collage 16 9 Student System44

Bianca Grant, Murrieta Valley Unified School District, Murrieta, California

Grade 5, System 44

Bianca has transformed into a more confident reader who’s determined to succeed, says her teacher, Denise Standish.

She started elementary school attending special education classes throughout the entire day and struggled with anxiety. She has also been emotionally impacted by family health issues.

In fourth grade, the IEP team at her school decided to place Bianca in a General Education classroom setting with some pull-out support services. She started System 44—at the time, she was well below her grade level in reading. In this regard, she struggled to believe in herself, having anxiety attacks when it came time to take benchmark and state tests.

“We set reading goals for this year and she was able to meet and surpass all her goals,” Ms. Standish said. “When she met her last goal and became proficient in reading, that was the moment Bianca realized she can do it.”

“This year I am more confident and have learned to persevere!” Bianca exclaimed proudly. In the future, she said wants to travel and own an art gallery.

Erik Millan Guadarrama, Dorchester County School District 02, Summerville, South Carolina

Grade 3, System 44

When it comes to improving his reading skills, Erik is dedicated and ambitious. After he turned to System 44, he grew tremendously as a reader, said Ruth Owens, his teacher. He started at level 2 (Beginning Decoder) and by mid-year had reached level 16 (Developing Decoder)—and he is wrapping up the year as an Advancing Decoder at level 24! Erik began System 44 at Lexile® 21 and has steadily improved; he’s now reading at Lexile® 454! This year he has grown 433 Lexile® points.

Erik—a Green Bay Packers fan, and the only boy in a family of three sisters plus three bunnies—is a hard worker, says Ms. Owens. Each week, he writes a WOW—Within One Week—goal and consistently meets them. His mother is supportive of his progress and even attended a conference with his class and System 44 teachers! With the help of an interpreter at the event, his mother was able to embrace what is required of Erik in third grade reading and now holds him accountable at home.

Erik said System 44 helped him truly appreciate reading. “Now I can read what I want to read, and I will enjoy it,” he says. As for the long-term future, Erik hopes to become a veterinarian or an electrician and buy a house where he can live with his parents.


Congratulations to all! To learn more about the HMH 180 Student Awards and this year’s recipients, visit our 180 Community.

Also, watch for more 180 Award student winner announcements here on Shaped, and on our Facebook page.

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Erik Palmer
Program Consultant, Into Reading and Into Literature