Banned Book Week: Think for Yourself

“Think for Yourself and Let Others Do the Same” is the theme of this year’s Banned Books Week.  Sponsored by the American Library Association, this celebration of intellectual freedom takes place September 25 – October 2, 2010.

The American Library Association tracks reported challenges to books in schools and libraries across the country.  Over 400 were documented for 2009-2010; however, the ALA estimates that fewer than 70% of challenges are ever reported. Many cases, however, do make the news and the blogosphere and remind us that the threat to our freedom to read continues.  Here’s a statement from the ALA website:

Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week.  BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.

While it’s true that parents need to supervise what their children are reading and let their concerns be known to the school board, it creates a dangerous precedent when books are banned from the library or classroom, effectively preventing any child from choosing that selection.  One parent’s right to help his child select books should not interfere with any other parent’s right to do the same.

The possibility of facing a book challenge is real, and teachers and librarians should be prepared for it. Organizations like the American Library Association and the National Council of Teachers of English  offer resources and support to libraries and teachers facing censorship issues.  You may have seen lists like this before, but be sure to click here to see a list of books that are commonly challenged

Gauging Student Readines Through the Quantile Framework

Jennifer Chintala over at Scholastic Math Hub has a great post on motivating students.  Chintala makes an excellent point on the influence of positive teacher expectations.   If all students can learn, then teachers should ensure that their own beliefs do not interfere with a student’s motivation to learn.

Teacher conceptions of students’ abilities in mathematics are easily supplemented and strengthened through the use of The Quantile Framework® for mathematics.  By accessing a student’s  Quantile measure from one of the summative assessments already linked to the Quantile Framework, teachers gain insight into exactly what a student is ready to learn.  This ability is the result of a large taxonomy of math skills and concepts  that are also measured on the same Quantile scale. Because the Quantile Framework offers a measure for the student and a measure for the skill demand, we are able to eliminate the guesswork associated with determining a student’s readiness for instruction.

If a teacher determines that there are students who need scaffolding or differentiation (whether above or below the identified skill), the Quantile website offers knowledge clusters that provide information on the relevant gaps in learning.  Additionally, many of those knowledge clusters have been linked to a wide variety of free resources.

The Quantile Framework for Mathematics empowers teachers to target instruction so that students find success in mathematics, have the opportunity to develop their mathematics abilities at a rate appropriate for their needs, as well as find engagement in the enrichment activities that are appropriately identified.

If you haven’t already given the Quantile Framework database or the Quantile Teacher Assistant a look, be sure to check it out.

Improving Literacy for Struggling Readers

According to the recently released The Enhanced Reading Opportunities Study Final Report, supplemental literacy classes can improve reading comprehension, grades, test scores, and even behaviors.  But not always by much.  And not always for long.

The study examined the effect of year-long literacy classes as electives for struggling readers.  Students, who were on average, at a 5th grade reading level, increased their comprehension more than comparable students who took Freshman English but no additional literacy course.  The increase was slight, but statistically significant.  Their math and English state assessment scores rose more than the comparison group and they completed more courses with higher grades. Unfortunately, these differences were lost by the end of the year following students’ enrollment in the supplement course.

What’s the import of this study? (more…)

Celebrate National Punctuation Day

Today, September 24th 2010, is National Punctuation Day (NPD); it is a day to celebrate “the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis.” NPD was founded by Jeff Rubin, a former news reporter and current newsletter writer. Jeff was always interested in punctuation, its use and function, and was often frustrated by its rampant misuse. So Jeff took action and founded National Punctuation Day in the hopes that people would celebrate punctuation rules and functions.

Lynne Truss, celebrated author of the passionate and humorous book about punctuation titled Eats, Shoots & Leaves, states: “Even in the knowledge that our punctuation has arrived at its present state by a series of accidents; even in the knowledge that there are at least seventeen rules for the comma, some of which are beyond explanation by top grammarians – it is a matter for despair to see punctuation chucked out as worthless by people who don’t know the difference between who’s and whose…

During an era of text messaging, instant messages, and email, we often forget punctuation rules. So for today at least, as Ms. Truss would suggest, be a bit of a punctuation stickler and pay attention to your commas and apostrophes.

Online Learning Registry: Digital Resources for All

This summer, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, announced that the federal government would be creating an Online Learning Registry to house digital education resources from around the country.  That’s good news.  But it’s nothing new.  Apple created a K-12 iTunes U destination in 2008 to accomplish the same thing.  State educational agencies in Arizona, Florida, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have all contributed along with several museums and other educational organizations.  Content includes free lectures, lab demos, and even campus tour videos.

More recently, Texas has announced the creation of a Texas Education iTunes U platform that offers free downloads of professional development materials.

Apple has long been considered a thought leader in applying technology in the service of education.  It’s good to see the Feds take note; and we applaud Secretary Duncan for his vision.  Be sure to check it out.  You may even want to contribute something of your own.

Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll Shows Positive Attitudes Toward Education

The annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll has just been released. As always, this poll does an excellent job of surveying the public’s attitude and opinions about public education. This year among the topics addressed were student learning, teacher quality and the role of the federal government in public education.

On the topic of student learning the survey results were consistent with what we have reported in several previous posts regarding the impact of deliberate practice on student progress. We were delighted to see that the public overwhelmingly believes that “effort” is more important than “natural ability” in a student’s success. As educators and parents, we need to punctuate this point with our students and children. Carol Dweck’s research on motivation demonstrates that this type of attitude about effort is critical to promoting learning. Dweck found that when students perceived intelligence as fixed and static they did not perform as well in subjects that challenged them as those students that, instead, thought of intelligence as malleable. Dweck describes this latter group of students as having a “growth mindset”, a mindset that conceives of abilities as capable of being developed through dedicated effort and consistent work.

On the topic of “Teacher Quality” we found it refreshing that 71% of Americans say they have trust and confidence in teachers.  Two out of three Americans would support their child’s decision to teach in public schools. The potential transformative impact that a teacher can have on a student is best revealed through the selection of words many citizens used to describe the teachers that had most positively influenced their lives, words like “caring”, “encouraging”, “interesting”, “personable” and “of high quality”. (more…)

The Fantastic Mr. Dahl

This month Puffin Books and Barnes & Noble is celebrating Roald Dahl; one of the most prolific children’s book authors of the 20th century.  Dahl is recognized for his fantastical stories like, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (810L), The Fantastic Mr. Fox (600L), and James and the Giant Peach (870L).

Roald Dahl was the father to five children, who inspired his unforgettable stories.   Before Dahl began writing children’s stories, he wrote a number of highly regarded adult short stories that were published throughout the 40s and 50s in a number of high profile publications such as Harper’s, The New Yorker, and Ladies Home Journal. Many of  these stories were recognized for their dark sense of humor, use of irony, and surprise endings – much like his children’s tales. Many of his stories were later published in compilations, made into films, or TV series.

Help celebrate Roald Dahl, one of the world’s greatest storytellers, by visiting the official site. Learn how to make every day a Roald Dahl day or to participate in the Roald Dahlathon reading challenge!   Be sure to search Roald Dahl titles on Find-A-Book, too!

Creating a Better World Through Literacy

There are so many wonderful organizations devoted to improving the state of literacy around the world.  In recognition of literacy week, we would like to recognize just a few of these important groups.  One group, in particular, Better World Books, is working hard to end illiteracy.  In their own words:

Better World Books collects and sells books online to fund literacy initiatives worldwide.  With more than six million new and used titles in stock, we’re a self-sustaining, triple bottom-line company that creates social, economic, and environmental value for all our stakeholders.

We were founded in 2002 by three friends from the University of Notre Dame who started selling textbooks online to earn some money, and ended up forming a pioneering social enterprise — a business with a mission to promote literacy.

Better World Books offers to buy back textbooks or to donate them to a number of literacy initiatives across the globe, including Room to Read, Books for Africa, Worldfund, the National Center for Family Literacy, Invisible Children, and Open Books.  Here at MetaMetrics, we have donated a number of textbooks to these groups and are happy to help contribute to the important work of these social entrepreneurs. 

If you have extra textbooks available, we encourage you to consider donating.  With over 700 million of the world’s citizens lacking basic literacy skills, it’s good to see so many organizations dedicated to making an impact.

MetaMetrics Celebrates Literacy Week

This week we are celebrating literacy week, and although we are in the business of promoting reading and reading growth, it is essential that we recognize the state of adult literacy in the United States.  According to the National Coalition for Literacy: “In the U.S., 30 million people over age 16 — 14 percent of the country’s adult population — don’t read well enough to understand a newspaper story written at the eighth grade level or fill out a job application.” This is a shocking statistic considering the wealth of our nation. Our communities offer a wealth of assistance to aid those who face illiteracy. Below are some further statistics on the state of literacy from begintoread.com:

  • Literacy is learned. Illiteracy is passed along by parents who cannot read or write.
  • One child in four grows up not knowing how to read.
  • 43% of adults at Level 1 literacy skills live in poverty compared to only 4% of those at Level 5
  • 16 to 19 year old girls at the poverty level and below, with below average skills, are 6 times more likely to have out-of-wedlock children than their reading counterparts.
  • Low literary costs $73 million per year in terms of direct health care costs. A recent study by Pfizer put the cost much higher.

Our goal here at MetaMetrics is to improve the state of literacy by focusing on encouraging children to read and to find joy in the act of reading. Recently, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a branch of ALA, released their Best Book lists for 2010. Not only do they focus on the Best Books of the year for teen readers, such as The Demon’s Lexicon (HL830L) by Sarah Rees Brennan or Written in Bone (NC1140L) by Sally M. Walker, but they also offer a list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens and Popular Paperbacks. Another great source for struggling readers is their Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. There are several great novels here that may strike the interest of any teen that is hesitant to pick up a book. Some Lexile titles include: Better Late than Never (HL680) by Marilyn Kaye and Jumping Off Swings (HL570L) by Jo Knowles.   Fortunately, many of these titles have Lexile measures which allow parents and teachers to match students to targeted text and to reduce the frustration that many struggling readers may experience when faced with books at too complex a level.

This week we encourage you to celebrate literacy week by reading and helping young readers find titles in which they’re interested.  You may find one of our free online tools useful for doing just that.  Find a Book is a free tool that allows readers to match themselves to books based on both Lexile reading level and personal interests.  If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the Lexile Find a Book utility.

Celebrating Literacy Throughout the Week and Across the Nation

Congress has declared the week of September 13th-19th to be Adult Education and Family Literacy Week!  As we celebrate this week, we are reminded of the “more than 93 million American adults [that] have basic or below basic literacy skills that limit their ability to advance at work and in education, help their children with school work, interact with their health care professionals and participate in their communities.”

There are several adult education and literacy programs in place that seek to help adult students raise their literacy, math and writing skills, and prepare for the GED.  As the Moultrie Observer reports,

Family literacy programs serve parents and their young children, teaching basic skills, English as a Second Language, and parenting skills to the adults while the children are provided high quality preschool programming.  These programs are focused on breaking the cycles of low literacy, low education and poverty.

Several of these programs correlate to the TABE (Test of Adult Basic Education).  The TABE is the most widely accepted assessment of adult education in the United States and evaluates reading, math and language skills. TABE measures allow adult learners to be placed in appropriate training programs and track their progress and growth. (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.