Every Student, Every Circumstance

At a recent conference I learned of the amazing success of New Leaders for New Schools .  If you’re not yet familiar with this organization, do yourself a favor and check them out.  Founded in 2000, New Leaders has committed to locating and training educational leaders to take the reigns at urban schools across the country.  Not content to just place leaders in struggling schools, this organization’s ambitions go a few steps further.  In their own words :

Goal 1: School Performance at Scale: By 2014, 60% of schools led by New Leaders principals will be on track to having 90-100% of students achieve proficiency in core academic subjects by the principal’s fifth year…

Goal 2: World-Class, Scalable, Sustainable Organization and Innovative ‘Action Tank’: By 2014, New Leaders will be a world-class, scalable, sustainable, data-driven organization that has created an essential knowledge base that is actively used by education policy and decision makers to drive education excellence at scale…

Goal 3: Mission-Driven, Hiqh-Quality Principals to Support Citywide Success for All Students: By 2014, a critical mass of schools in most of our current partner cities – and a critical mass of principal vacancies – will be filled by high-quality New Leaders principals…

Those goals may be in reach.  NLNS enlisted the help of the RAND Corporation to conduct a multi-year evaluation of their impact.  The findings so far:

In 2009, New Leaders principals in K-8 schools were twice as likely as other principals to lead breakthrough gains in student proficiency scores in their schools. (emphasis added)

Cumulative impact of New Leaders over time: Preliminary results indicate that students in elementary and middle schools led by New Leaders principals for at least three years are academically outpacing their peers by statistically significant margins. (more…)

What the Internet is Doing to the Way We Read

Reading is reading.  Surfing the internet is as good for learning as reading a magazine or book, right?  Not according to some researchers.  In a new book to be published next month, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains , Nicholas Carr provides research that continues to demonstrate that people who read linear text comprehend more, remember more, and learn more than those who read text that is filled with links.  Numerous studies have shown that we start to read faster and less thoroughly as soon as we go online.  Disturbingly, this pattern tends to repeat itself in our brains even when we’re no longer on the computer.  Superficial skimming becomes our dominant mode of thought and our preferred method of learning.  For those interested in exploring Carr’s work, be sure to check out the Atlantic article that previews some of his work, ‘Is Google Making Us Stupid ?’

Is there anything that can be done to mitigate the internet’s tendency to make us distractible and less able to concentrate?  There is a remarkable free tool that can be used while reading online called Readability .  It’s creator, Arc90 Laboratory, says Readability is a “simple tool that makes reading on the Web more enjoyable by removing the clutter around what you’re reading.”  Readability functions by transforming online articles to linear text, removing all the distractions – including ads – that usually clutter a typical webpage.  It’s easy to use.  And when you’re done reading you simply click ‘BACK’ to return to the original website.  If you find that online reading disrupts your preferred reading pattern, Readability is worth a look.

The Right Book for Every Reader: Illinois Takes on Summer Reading

Illinois Governor, Pat Quinn, recently stated, “Summertime reading can ensure that all children can keep learning and growing during vacation.”  We couldn’t agree more.  Research indicates that students perform considerably higher on assessments administered at the end of the school year than they do on the same assessments administered after a lengthy summer break.  This is due, in large part, to the often devastating effects of summer loss .  This loss is particularly evident in students’ reading skills, and most pronounced among students from low socioeconomic familes, where access to books may be limited.  Our own free resource, Find a Book , as well as local public libraries are two great resources for families who want to remind their children that learning can be fun and incorporated into every day – not just the school year.

Students in Illinois receive a Lexile measure from the ISAT and can use that measure to match themselves, within Find a Book, to books within their areas of interest.  And because Find a Book is linked to the WorldCat system, students can search for their selected titles at their nearest public library.

Illinois is also encouraging librarians to use Find a Book and consider ways to incorporate Lexile measures and the free online tools into their summer reading campaigns.  Many state libraries already have summer reading campaigns and incorporating Find a Book into their program is a great way to allow students to match themselves to books at the appropriate reading level and within their area of interest.

By working as a community to keep the educational spigot open during the summer months, we hope to mitigate summer reading loss for all students.  It is our hope that children graduate with the literacy skills necessary for success in school and career.  Click here to learn more about the notable Illinois summer reading program.

Reading Heats Up This Summer in the Sunshine State

We’re excited about what’s going on in Florida!  This summer, Florida Department of Education Commissioner, Dr. Eric J. Smith, and the Florida Department of State are encouraging all students to read more by launching the Commissioner’s Summer Reading Adventure .  As Smith states:

“Encouraging more students to read this summer is the primary goal of the Commissioner’s Summer Reading Adventure, as reading can help students explore exciting realms from the comfort of their homes or public libraries.”

One of the primary aims of the campaign is to promote the retention and growth of students’ reading skills during the summer break.  As we’ve argued in the past, students who continue to read at a targeted level during the intervening summer months can mitigate the loss that typically occurs in the summer months.  In fact, some students have even demonstrated reading gains – as if the educational spigot was never turned off during the summer.

Florida’s effort encourages students to use both our own Find a Book and their local libraries during the summer and year round for both educational and recreational purposes.  Additionally, the Florida Library Youth Program (FLYP) has designed summer activities to engage readers through music, visual arts, movement, and more.

It’s also worth mentioning that Just Read, Florida! is a statewide reading initiative that brings reading to the forefront in public schools, community groups, and volunteer organizations.  Since its establishment in 2001, the percent of Florida public school students who are reading on grade level has increased by 14 percent.  It’s worth a look. tag cloud . domain list .

Are Your Students Ready for the Postsecondary World?

Earlier this month, a story in USA Today reported that nearly two-thirds of students beginning community colleges find themselves in need of at least one remedial course.  That’s too bad.  At the macro level the story reports that the Alliance for Excellent Education estimates that our nation spends as much as $1.4 billion per year to provide remedial education.  At the individual level, the personal costs of remediation are far-reaching:

Students who need remedial classes are also more likely to drop out: Those taking any remedial reading, for example, had a 17% chance of completing a bachelor’s degree, according to 2004 Education Department data…

“Right away your dreams of going to college are deferred, because technically you’re not in college,” she said.  “If you start in a remedial class, the odds are that you will never finish a credit bearing course in the subject.”

The Obama administration, including Arne Duncan, have recently begun to shift the focus from proficiency to ‘college and career readiness’.  That’s a welcome change.  Far too many students graduate high school at a ‘proficient’ level, yet find themeselves unprepared for the rigrorous text demands found within the university or many career paths.  Ample research has demonstrated the gap that exists between the text demands of high school and those found within the post-secondary world.  In ‘Student Readiness for Postsecondary Options ‘, Dr. Gary Williamson writes: (more…)

Targeting Reluctant Readers

One of the key benefits of the Lexile Framework for Reading is that it can be used to target reluctant readers.  What exactly is a reluctant reader?  One resource defines a reluctant reader as:

There are several different types according to the experts.  They include: children who are intelligent and interested in reading, but don’t read well; children who seem to have no interest and, as a result of not reading regularly, are falling, or at risk of falling, behind; and children who are dealing with specific learning problems that impede their ability, and willingness, to read.  Then, there is the most frustrating type of all: the child who reads well but has little interest in doing so.

One of our partners, Orca Book Publishers , has developed a series, Orca Soundings , which is a series of teen fiction specifically targeted to reluctant readers.  Orca describes the Sounding series as:

…the Orca Soundings for reluctant teen readers are books that teens want to read…Key features include:

Short, high-interet novels, contemporary stories, compelling characters, linear plots, ideal for lit circles, and ideal for independent reading. (more…)

Distant Early Warning: Summer Loss Has Far-Reaching Consequences

A recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation , EARLY WARNING! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters , points to some alarming findings within our education system.  Specifically, the report reveals that millions of students reach the fourth grade without having achieved reading proficiency.  Though this lack of proficiency is especially pronounced among low-income students, the effects are clearly felt across multiple socio-economic levels.  As the report states:

Of the fourth-graders who took the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading test in 2009, 83% of children from low-income families – and 85% of low-income students who attend high-poverty schools – failed to reach the proficient level in reading.  Reading proficiently by the end of third grade is a crucial marker in a child’s educational development.  Failure to read proficiently is linked to higher rates of school droput, which suppresses individual earning potential as well as the nation’s competitiveness and general productivity.

And even more distressing:

If the current trends hold true, 6.6. million low-income children in the birth to age 8 group are at increased risk of failing to graduate from high school on time because they won’t be able to meet NAEP’s proficient reading level by the end of third grade. (more…)

We Give Books

As an educational measurement company we have the privilege of working with a wide variety of publishers.  Through that work we learn of so many noble literacy efforts.  At the recent International Reading Association conference, for example, we had the pleasure of meeting Darel Cragnolin, the director of We Give Books .  We Give Books was developed by the Penguin Group and the Pearson Foundation and can be described as a digital initiative that promotes the joy of reading in addition to supporting literacy efforts through partnerships with other well-known organizations like Room to Read , Books Across America , United Through Reading , etc….

Supporting We Give Books is an easy process. Participants simply visit the website and choose a literacy partner to support, read an online book with a student or child, and once finished the book is donated to the literacy partner of your choice.  This is great way to get books in the hands of children who need them.  Check it out.

Taking My Library with Me

Given the ubiquity of mobile devices, it’s refreshing to see that many libraries are finally adapting to the way their patrons consume media.    In ‘A Library in Your Pocket ‘, Meredith Farkas reports on the slow pace many libraries have taken in developing mobile resources:

While mobile device ownership is a major trend in American society, few libraries and educational institutions have developed resources and services for mobile users.  According to Educause, over 50% of schools had done nothing as of 2009 to adapt their web-based services for handheld devices.

But as Farkas reports, this is starting to change.  Libraries around the country are now responding to the emergence of e-readers and mobile devices.  And for good reason: (more…)

Money Talks (sometimes); Kids Listen (sometimes)

Research has long indicated that people respond to incentives .  The idea that fine-tuning the incentive can produce the desired behavior or outcome has been codified as a bedrock principle in the science of management.  By extension, there have always been proponents for the idea of paying students for academic achievement.  Consider, for example, the number of parents who pay their children for achieveing a certain grade point average, or some charter schools which allow students to accrue a certain amount of financial credit for tasks within their control, e.g. getting to school on time or participating in class, which can then be redeemed for schools supplies or field trips.

In a recent edition of Time, Amanda Ripley offers a compelling account of Harvard economist, Roland Fryer’s work with incentives (financial) and students.  In ‘Should Kids Be Bribed to Do Well in School?’ , Ripley details Fryer’s recent study in which students in four cities (New York, Washington D.C..Dallas, and Chicago) were paid for specific tasks – everything from reading books to attending class.  Though Fryer’s work has generated enormous controversy, the findings are thought-provoking.  Younger students appear to have exhibited the most positive results, specifically, the second grade students who were paid to read more books.  For every book read, these students received $2.  By the end of the study, reading comprehension scores rose dramatically.  While the idea of paying students for ordinary academic tasks is an anathema to some, one thing seems clear: Fryer’s research lends yet more evidence to the growing body of research that shows the more one reads, the stronger one’s reading ability becomes. (more…)

MetaMetrics is an educational measurement organization. Our renowned psychometric team develops scientific measures of student achievement that link assessment with targeted instruction to improve learning.