Welcome Back: An Open Letter to Educators

If you’re like me, the start of a new school year brings mixed emotions. Summer vacation seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. Some of the books I hoped to have read and the projects I intended to complete will have to wait for another day or maybe even another summer. On the other hand, the new school year elicits feelings of wonder and excitement. Schools across the country open their doors to fresh beginnings and intellectual journeys that ignite curiosity and creativity in this latest generation of learners.

My recent blog post, “Back to School,” discusses August as being, according to the census bureau, the second biggest retail month of the year, due, in part, to large numbers of citizens preparing for the return to school.  As important as this time is for our current economy, the real importance of the return to school is that it resumes our national goal of helping every child achieve their full potential, dreams and aspirations. As an educator, this is the most exciting time of the year for me. In fact, I always think of the start of the school year as the real New Year’s Day. 

While we hope this is an exciting time for you as well, we also realize that the start of the school year brings unique challenges. The critical role you play in our country cannot be overstated. Educators have long been considered one our most undervalued resources. My hope is that one day you will be treated in a way that is commensurate with your responsibilities. After all, there is no greater responsibility than enabling our children to realize their potential. And there is no bigger challenge than preparing our diverse student population with the knowledge and skills necessary to compete and succeed in post-secondary life. As we start back to school, I pledge to you that MetaMetrics remains dedicated to helping you “fight the good fight.” In doing so, I want to remind you of the various free resources we offer:

  1. We Thought We Should Mention”—Our blog is a great way to stay current on topics that affect you – everything from education to technology to the world of assessment and measurement. I encourage you to read it often and to share your comments.
  2. Common Core State Standards—We offer a variety of resources to help you better understand how Lexile® and Quantile® measures support the Common Core State Standards’ goal of preparing all students for college and careers.
  3. Find a Book”—Our free book search utility allows you to build custom reading lists based on an individual’s reading ability and interests, and then locate your selections at the public library nearest you.
  4. Quantile Teacher Assistant – Our online QTA tool locates resources for educators that can help differentiate instruction for struggling math students and identify those skills that are most relevant to the topic of daily instruction. This tool is aligned with state mathematics curriculum standards to make it directly applicable for use in the classroom.
  5. Math@Home —The new and improved Math@Home will offer students an improved way to locate targeted mathematics activities and resource.  We expect this utility will launch in the next few weeks.

On behalf of everyone at MetaMetrics, I hope you have a great year and we look forward to working with you.

Sincerely,
Malbert Smith III, Ph.D.President
MetaMetrics

All Grown Up: The Exciting World of Young Adult Fiction

My teenage step-sister is an avid reader.  In an effort to connect with her and revisit what goes on in the mind of a middle school student, I decided to explore some of the more popular Young Adult series currently available.  I recently picked up Percy Jackson and the Olympians adventure series.  Initially, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but now I can’t put the books down! It is a great series, wonderfully written, and well worth the time spent reading.  Plus, my familiarity with the series will make for some great conversations with my step-sister.

 It seems that I am not the only adult interested in the Young Adult genre.  Susan Carpenter, of the Los Angeles Times, writes, “But increasingly, adults are reading YA books with no ulterior motives. Attracted by well-written, fast-paced and engaging stories that span the gamut of genres and subjects, such readers have mainstreamed a niche long derided as just for kids”.  Many Young Adult series are popular with an adult audience including “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling, “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer, “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins and many more.  I would urge you to check out something from the Young Adult section of your local library or bookstore – you may be surprised!  Plus, it may just make for some great conversation around the dinner table.

Book Trailers: Coming Attractions For Young Readers

Getting kids excited about books is marketing that goes far beyond best-seller lists and encouraging students’ love of reading.  A recent Institute for Education Studies (IES) practice guide, Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices, identifies motivation as one of the key features of improving reading comprehension.

To promote students’ motivation to engage in literacy activities, teachers should use instructional strategies that spark students’ interest. Initial curiosity (or “situational interest”) can then serve as a hook to create long-term, personal interest (or “generative interest”).

Going beyond free posters and book signings, publishers’ use of multi-media book trailers have given teachers another tool to use.  In addition to having students watch professionally created trailers, teachers have students create their own trailers to respond to their reading and to encourage others to read the book as well.  Over at, FictionNotes, Darcy Pattison offers “43 Book Trailer Sites to Inspire, Instruct, and Share,” including sites with tips for students creating their own trailer.

Book Trailers have become so ubiquitous that School Library Journal will be giving readers an opportunity to vote for trailers that “promote books and encourage reading.”  The first annual Trailie Awards will be given for professional and student created trailers, in both elementary and secondary grades. For more information or to suggest a video to the nominating committee before September 17, click here.

A Date with Destiny: Reading Targeted Text

Here’s yet another specific way that schools around the U.S. are putting the Lexile Framework for Reading to use.  This school in Wisconsin, for example, has updated their library system with Destiny,  a system that allows students to search for books by their Lexile reading level:

Destiny allows kids to search for books at their lexile reading level. Students find their lexile level through the Measures of Academic Progress tests, which were administered for the first time at SCC last year. Teachers assign students to read books at their level.

All three buildings’ libraries are connected to the system. That way, a middle-schooler reading at an advanced level can search the high school’s catalog to find something in his or her lexile level. The books are sent through the intra-school mail.

The Lexile Framework provides an actionable measure to match students to targeted text, and it’s good to hear about schools utilizing the Lexile measures they obtain through assessments to keep students reading year-round.  St Croix Central School District provides just one more example of ways the measure may be used to improve the reading ability of students across a district.

Even Mainstream Authors Collaborate to Write

Inkheart (780L) and Dragon Rider (710L) author Cornelia Funke has been stretching her wings with her upcoming book, Reckless.  She wrote the fantasy novel based on a dark fairy tale world first suggested by movie producer Lionel Wigram. For several months they met to discuss characters and places and general ideas.  Funke writes in German, which Wigram does not speak, so each chapter she wrote had to be translated before they could collaborate on revisions.    As Funke says on the Get Reckless website, “So for the first time in my life I travelled into an imagined world with a real companion and – it was the greatest writing adventure I’ve had so far!” 

Collaborative writing has been well-established as an effective technique for improving writing achievement.  According to Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing in Middle and High Schools, collaborative writing:

shows a strong impact (Effect Size = 0.75) on improving the quality of students’ writing.  Studies of this approach compared its effectiveness with that of having students compose independently…. collaborative arrangements in which students help each other with one or more aspects of their writing have a strong positive impact on quality. (more…)

Florida Helping Students Find the Right Books Year-Round

This school year, the Florida Department of Education wants all students to read more. Building on the success of adding “Find a Book” to its recent summer reading program, Florida students again are being encouraged to use the free search utility to help them match up with exciting books based on their own interests and reading ability.

According to Florida Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Eric Smith, “…reading can help students explore exciting realms from the comfort of their homes or public libraries. Our partnership with the Department of State and MetaMetrics® to utilize the ‘Find a Book’ tool allows us to use students’ interests as the catalyst to take reading beyond the classroom walls and into their daily lives.” (more…)

Lexile Measures Underscore States’ “International Literacy Day” Activities

Today, two states—Florida and North Carolina—are observing International Literacy Day and National Literacy Month by encouraging educators, librarians and families to use Lexile measures to help all readers strengthen their literacy skills.

In Florida, Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp will celebrate International Literacy Day as part of the Florida Departments of Education’s and Environmental Protection’s recognition of September as National Literacy Month. With over 20 percent of the state’s adults experiencing literacy issues that impact their families and their lives, Florida Literacy Month aims to help family members of all ages improve literacy skills to help build self-sufficiency.  (more…)

International Literacy Day

Literacy is not a luxury, it is a right and a responsibility.  If our world is to meet the challenges of  the twenty-first century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our citizens.”   – President Clinton on International Literacy Day, September 8th, 1994

Tomorrow is International Literacy Day, and MetaMetrics is proud to be a supporter of this noble effort to draw attention to the crippling effects of illiteracy.  Too many children and adults throughout the world are marginalized and shut out by not having basic literacy skills.  According to the United Nations:

…and some 776 million people lack minimum literacy skills, that means one in five adults are yet to literate; 75 million children did not attend school and many more attend irregularly or are drop outs. Almost 35 countries have a literacy rate of less than 50% and a population of more than 10 million people who are illiterate. 85% percent of the world’s illiterate population dwells in these countries…

Building on Dr.  Martin Luther King’s observation that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, we maintain that “illiteracy anywhere is a threat to literacy everywhere”. We live in a globally connected world in which our overall success, health, and well being is best served when everyone is literate and has complete access to education and information.  We’ve written before on organizations like Room to Read, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational materials for students around the globe.  There are dozens of similar organizations committed to ending illiteracy throughout the world.   Let’s join together with these organizations to make sure this mission becomes a reality.

From Novice to Expert

Tony Schwartz over at Harvard Business Review gets it exactly right: the key to excellence is practice.  Specifically, deliberate practice.  Building on the work of Anders Ericsson, Schwartz argues that whatever role our genetic inheritance plays, it is the type of effort we put into an endeavor that determines how good we become:

Like everyone who studies performance, I’m indebted to the extraordinary Anders Ericsson, arguably the world’s leading researcher into high performance. For more than two decades, Ericsson has been making the case that it’s not inherited talent which determines how good we become at something, but rather how hard we’re willing to work — something he calls “deliberate practice.” Numerous researchers now agree that 10,000 hours of such practice as the minimum necessary to achieve expertise in any complex domain.

Ericsson’s research on human performance and what it takes to move from novice to expert has informed our own research here at MetaMetrics and has recently been popularized by writers like Geoffrey Colvin and Malcom Gladwell.  As Malbert Smith has written in ‘Education Reform: Making this the ‘Best of Times’: (more…)

The Road to Readiness

Across the U.S., incoming university students are preparing for the rigors of academic life.  Unfortunately, many may find themselves unprepared for even first year college coursework.  As this recent Wall Street Journal article makes clear, of the 1.6 million students in the 2010 graduating class who sat for the ACT “only 29% met college-readiness standards on all four subjects.  [In addition,] 28% of students didn’t score high enough on even one subject-matter exam to ensure college readiness.”

This is disappointing news.  As the article points out:

President Obama has said that the nation’s long-term prosperity depends on fixing the nation’s high schools and preparing students to compete in a global economy.  A recent study found the U.S. ranks only 12th in the percentage of adults aged 25 to 34 who hold college degrees, and Mr. Obama has set a goal of becoming No.1.

Preparing students for the challenges of life after high school is no small feat.  In fact, our own Dr. Malbert Smith has written on the importance of facing these challenges and has offered the way toward some solutions.  As Dr. Smith explains:

The basic goals are twofold:  first, we need to ensure that all high school students graduate college- and career-ready; and second, we need to improve our performance relative to other countries as measured by international benchmarks. (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.