Lexile Measures as Actionable

Here’s parent Mary Helen Ramming expressing bemusement at just how technical and specialized the field of education has become:

I had to laugh this week when my husband expressed his dismay at being completely confounded by my son’s first grade report card.  As a teacher with a master’s degree, an education policy wonk, and daughter of a retired elementary school teacher, I found it to be equally mystifying.

Bear with me here…

On one page, I can tell you the results of his STAR Reading test broken down into his SS, GE, PR Range, IRL, Est. ORF and his ZPD.  It is a good thing too because I was really concerned about his ZPD all year. This page also provides helpful information like, “Use the Accelerated Reader Diagnostic Report and Student Record Report fro more detailed information about the student’s reading practice.”  I can’t find that report, and if I could I am not really quite sure how I would use it.

On another page I see his Lexile Measure and discover that a Lexile Framework for Reading is “an educational tool that links text and readers using a common metric known as the Lexile.”  My husband, an English major, has no idea what a Lexile might be or how to use this helpful tool. (more…)

Knowledge is Power Program Revisited

Education Week is reporting on a recent study conducted by Mathematica Policy Research Inc that found KIPP schools are making significant gains in narrowing the achievement gap in math:

Students’ gains in mathematics after three years in a charter school run by the Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP, are large enough in about half of schools to significantly narrow race and income based achievement gaps among students, according to a study of 22 KIPP middle schools nationwide…

At about half the KIPP schools, the study found that the gains in math for students after three years in the schools were equivalent of 1.2 years of extra instruction and .9 years of additional instruction in reading, Mr. Gill said. (emphasis mine)

Critics have argued that KIPP schools are able to achieve notable results through the practice of ‘skimming’, that is, recruiting only high-achieving students from public schools.  The study, however, found no evidence of KIPP schools ‘systematically enrolling more high-performers from their school districts’. (more…)

A More Affordable E-book

Just in time for summer: For those of you looking to do your summer reading on one of the increasingly popular e-readers, the Barnes & Noble Nook recently dropped the price to $199.  Within a few hours, Amazon announced that the price on its Kindle will now be $189.  If you’ve been considering taking the plunge, this price war makes a good time to consider buying.

North Carolina Schools Emphasize Summer Reading

We’ve written before on the notable Read NC literacy campaign.  That’s why it’s good to see so many North Carolina districts making a concerted effort to keep students reading over the summer months.  Here are more N.C. educators making the case for keeping students reading:

“If we don’t continue reading in the summer we lose so much”, said Vickie Cameron, executive director for curriculum and instruction for Mount Airy City Schools.  “Parents should continue to take their children to the library, read to their children a few minutes each day, having their children read to them a few minutes each day and model reading.  They should let them see their parents reading.”

If you haven’t already taken a look, the “Read NC ” webpage includes free resources to support children’s reading success in the classroom and at home, including a link to the free Lexile Find a Book .

Reading as Social

In last week’s New York Times, Steven Johnson argued for conceiving of reading as an increasingly social activity.  It’s long been thought that the act of reading, by its very nature, represents an ongoing dialogue between reader and text, but Johnson makes a compelling case for expanding that conception.  The mediums many readers use to perform the act of reading, e.g. e-readers, iPads, computers, mobile devices, etc… are networked devices and, as such, make what we read and how we read it a much more collaborative enterprise.

Take, for example, the latest version of Amazon’s Kindle .  One of the newest features of this e-reader – ‘popular highlights’ – allows readers to not only highlight passages as they read, but to see the passages that others have highlighted, the sections that others have designated as most important or meaningful.  Think of borrowing a professor’s dog-eared, well-worn copy of any important text, but on a global scale.  By offering this capacity, the Kindle transforms reading into an expanded, communal experience.

While this feature is troubling for some (e.g. ‘What happens to our own capacity for criticism and analysis if even our choice of meaningful text is guided by others’, or something to that effect), Johnson argues that what these new mediums cost us in “deep, immersive focus” is more than made up for through other benefits: (more…)

Schools Embrace Social Networking

Because they can easily be abused or often serve as distractions, many schools throughout the U.S. have blocked social media sites.  A few schools, however, are moving in the opposite direction and embracing the power of these tools as mediums for learning and exploration.  In addition to the main players, like Facebook and Twitter, a number of smaller social networking sites have cropped up.  Sites like Ning , VoiceThread , and SecondLife offer valuable opportunities for teachers and students to collaborate on projects or share best practices.

In the June 14th online edition of Education Week , Michelle Davis details some of the exciting possibilities in Social Networking Goes to School .

But it’s a world that some educators are realizing students feel at home in and is unlikely to disappear.  A study by the Washington-based Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project released early this year found that 73 percent of Americans ages 12 to 17 now use social networking websites, up from 55 percent in 2006.

“Social networking is not going to go away,” says Steve Hargadon, the creator of the 42,000-member Classroom 2.0 network on Ning, a popular site among educators.  He’s also a social-learning consultant for the ed-tech company Elluminate, based in Pleasanton, Calif.  “These are so powerful in terms of learning,” Hargadon says of such tools.

Davis goes on to detail the many innovative ways these tools can be put to use in classrooms, including collaborative class projects that involve multiple schools across several continents.  A teacher at a school in Jacksonville, Florida, for example, utilized sites like Ning and Skype to connect students with peers around the world.  Each student was assigned a role and employed an online tool, like GoogleMaps or Twitter, to perform their assigned role.

Social networking sites also harness the power of collaboration to help solve problems and supplement instruction: (more…)

School of One

Imagine a school in which each student receives individualized instruction, material tailored to the student’s own academic needs and learning style.  Individualized instruction was once available only to those able to afford exclusive programs or intensive tutoring.  Technology may be changing that.  This month’s issue of The Atlantic highlights the effort of New York’s School of One .

School of One is an attempt to apply an intensively personalized approach to math instruction:

The biggest difference between my work life and my school life is that my job allows for a high level of personalization.  Unlike my teachers in school, my editors don’t unilaterally insist that I do a story a certain way; instead, we come to an agreement.  Intriguingly, School of One attempts to apply that same kid of personalization to the teaching of math.  To put that in the edu-speak vernacular of Joel Klein, the chancellor of New York City’s schools and one of the program’s biggest boosters, School of One tries to “move from the classroom as the locus of instruction delivery, to the student as the focus of instructional attainment.”

As most teachers and many parents can attest, not all students are well-suited for the mass-production, classroom model.  For a variety of reasons – from learning disabilities, behvaioral problems, motivation deficiencies, gaps in learning, and so on – many students struggle with a traditional classroom.  Over the years, those gaps in learning increase; and the likelihood that a student will suddenly catch on – absent intensive remediation – significantly decreases: (more…)

Help Wanted: Future Education Requirements

Here’s yet more evidence for the importance of the recent focus on college and career readiness.  A recently published study out of Georgetown, Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018 , reveals that the U.S. may not be producing enough college graduates to keep up with the demands of the economy:

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce shows that by 2018, we will need 22 million new college degrees – but will fall short of that number by at least 3 million post-secondary degrees, Associate’s or better.  In addition, we will need at least 4.7 million new workers with postsecondary certificates.  At a time when every job is precious, this shortfall will mean lost economic opportunity for millions of American workers.

That’s alarming data.  We’ve written before on the importance of focusing on the literacy demands of the post-secondary world.  Let’s hope that the recent emphasis on college and career readiness helps narrow that gap and prepares all of our students for life after high school

Casper College & Lexile Measures

It’s always good to hear about public libraries that have made the Lexile Framework for Reading another tool in their arsenal for matching books to readers.  Here’s Betsy O’Neil , from the Natrona County Public Library, explaining the Lexile Framework:

…Well, now adults in the Casper College ABE/GED program can use it, too.

…Students receive a reader measure from a reading test, the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) assessments for adults attending the ABE/GED center..

Once you know your student’s Lexile level, how do you find books that match?  The ABE Center can help and so can your library…The Lexile.com website has a searchable database of thousands of books with Lexile levels.

O’Neil does a great job offering an overview of the Lexile Framework and nicely draws the connection between a student’s measure and the ability to match themselves to text at an appropriate level.  Read the whole thing.

The World Gets A Little Flatter

So how is the world spending its time online?  Make of this what you will, but according to Nielsen , 22% of internet usage time is spent on social media.  While that may not seem like a lot, keep in mind that percentage of time accounts for global usage.  Mashable reports on a few more notables:

Currently, three quarters of internet users worldwide visit a social network or blog when they go online – that’s a 24% increase over last year.

Joe Average (the international version) spends 66% more time on these sites than he did a year ago – for example, your average user spend 6 hours on these sites in April 2010, while last year he spent 3 hours, 31 minutes.

Facebook, YouTube, and Wikipedia make an appearance among the world’s most popular brands.

And just a couple more factoids worth mentioning:

Brazil boasts the largest percentage of internet users visiting a social network – 86%

Australians spend the most time on social networking sites: an average of 7 hours and 19 minutes in April – the US and Italy came in second and third with six and a half hours each

Facebook has the greatest share of the market it Italy in April 2010, garnering two-thirds of the active unique audience in April 2010.  Australia, the US, and the UK came in on Italy’s heels with more than 60% of active users visiting the site.

And before you start worrying that all that time online is ruining our brains, be sure to check out Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus , where he argues that social media has made us far more collaborative and productive than more passive activities, like watching television.  Check it out.

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.