E-books and the Future of Publishing

You’ve probably heard much lately on the perils of the publishing industry.  Many have been reporting on the death (or at least significant decline) of the industry for years.  Getting beyond the hyperbole, Ken Auletta offers a detailed analysis of the behind the scenes wrangling between Amazon, Apple, Google, the publishing industry, and book retailers.  You may have already been aware that e-books were creating downward pricing pressure on publishers, but you may not have known just how dire things have gotten:

The industry’s great hope was that the iPad would bring electronic books to the masses – and help make them profitable.  E-books are booming.  Although they account for only an estimated three to five percent of the market, their sales increased a hundred and seventy-seven percent in 2009, and it was projected that they would eventually account for between twenty-five and fifty percent of all books sold.  But publishers were concerned that lower prices would decimate their profits.  (more…)

Knowledge Is Power Program: Our Visit

We recently had the privilege of visiting a NC KIPP school .  You may have seen one of the KIPP schools featured in various news reports .  For those of you not familiar with this amazing organization, KIPP stands for Knowledge is Power Program, and is a network of free, open-enrollment, public charter schools located throughout the United States.  There are currently about 82 of these schools in 19 states where they serve over 20,000 students.

What’s particularly notable about the KIPP network is the amazaing success they’ve had all across the country. An essential part of their blueprint are five pillars : high expectations, choice and commitment, more time, power to lead, and focus on results.  There has been ample research on the power of intensive, distributed practice – in any endeavor – and the importance of keeping the educational spigot on for as long as possible.  KIPP takes those research principles seriously – and it shows throughout the organization.

Principal Tammi Sutton was kind enough to allows us to tour both KIPP Gaston College Prepatory and KIPP Pride High School.  School Leader, Christine Barford was particularly helpful in leading our tour and allowing us to both view classrooms and engage with the school’s classroom teachers.  What we found was compelling.  Not only were the KIPP teachers we spoke with enthusiastic and genuinely curious, their strong commitment to their students shined through clear and bright.  KIPP teachers are provided with cell phones and students are encouraged to call for tutoring and extra help up until 9:00 each evening.  Instructional time has been increased as well.  KIPP students attend school from 8-5 each school day and half a day every other Saturday.  The instructional implications of the extended school day are clear; and, in fact, last year, KIPP Pride High School reported 100% college acceptance rate, with many students being accepted into two or more universities!

It’s also worth nothing that KIPP students are immersed into the world of academia at a very early age.  Beginning in fifth grade, KIPP students learn academic and collegiate terms, e.g. graduate, undergraduate, dorm, etc…  And they begin touring college campuses just as early.  In other words, college preparedness is a foregone conclusion for KIPP studnets.  Given the welcome recent emphasis on college and career readiness, it’s refreshing to see a NC school achieve at such a high level and make the dream of a college career a reality for so many.

Writing and Technology

Recent research has demonstrated the importance of allowing students to self-select reading material as a way to foster positive reading development.  In fact, allowing students to select books within their own areas of interest is a great way to encourage young readers to keep reading.  So it should come as no surprise that self-selection in writing may have a similar effect.  In Young People’s Writing: Attitudes, Behavior, and the Role of Technology , researchers examined both students’ interest in writing and the preferred medium for writing.  Not surprisingly, it appears that technology based formats were the most frequent preferrence with 82% preferring text messages and 73% preferring instant messaging.  The study also found that students with either a profile on a social networking site (79.6%) or their own blog (82.1%) were generally more interested in writing as well as confident in their writing ability.
While social networking tools and technology solutions are often decried for diminishing literacy rates among young people and chipping away at grammatical conventions, this study merits reflection.  If students are finding enjoyment in writing – if even through non-traditional mediums – then perhaps these technologies (properly harnessed) offer encouraging ways to get students writing.  We should not be too quick to dismiss what may prove to be an effective tool in keeping students interested in writing.  After all, as digital natives, students are more likely to be excited about reading and writing when presented as part of the digital sphere in which they live.

Oklahoma Combats Summer Learning Loss

The Oklahoma Department of Education deserves special mention for their efforts to combat summer learning loss.  And here is our own Dr. Malbert Smith making an appearance on the Oklahoma State Department’s of Education monthly television program, Oklahoma’s Education Report Card with Superintendent Garrett and speaking with Superintendent Garrett on ways to help teachers and parents connect students with resources across content areas .  The program is worth a look – even for those outside the state of Oklahoma.  In it, Dr. Smith offers a clear explanation on the dangers of summer loss and argues for a robust summer reading program as a way to mitigate the unfortunate learning loss that occurs during the summer months.  As Smith points out, the Lexile Find a Book site is a great way to both match readers to texts at the appropriate reading level and to match kids to books within their areas of interest.  It’s exciting to see Oklahoma take such direct efforts to ensure that, as Dr. Smith remarks, the educational spigot remains open during the crucial summer months.

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.