Celebrate Children’s Books Award Winners

Amazon recently announced the major literary award winners in Children’s literature. Here at MetaMetrics, we had the pleasure of seeing each of these titles as they were all submitted for Lexile measurement. These titles were selected and used as part of Scholastic’s Reading Counts! Program, which has been utilizing Lexile measures for several years. Reading Counts!is a Lexile-based independent program that tracks a student’s success on titles they read, in and out of the classroom. We are proud to be the de facto standard when it comes to such a well-known and widely-used reading program.

Scholastic selects these titles well before they are award-winners and incorporates them into the various levels of their program. Caldecott Winners such as A Sick Day for Amos McGee (AD760L), Interrupting Chicken (AD300L) and Dave the Potter (AD1100L-also a 2011 Coretta Scott King Award winner) were all included in the SRC! initiative. Moon Over Manifest(800L) was the Newberry Award winner which is presented annually by the American Library Association to the author of the year’s most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. Congratulations to all the winners! Celebrate their achievement by checking out these wonderful titles on our Find-A-Book website.

Capstone Digital’s New Literacy Program Launching Next Week

Capstone Digital is taking personalized learning to a new level. Next week at FETC 2011, the company is launching what it describes as a “one-of-a-kind” literacy environment that will help students take more responsibility for their learning—with the support of teachers, librarians, administrators and parents.

How is Capstone Digital making this level of personalization possible? Like many other companies before them, with the widely adopted Lexile® Framework for Reading.

Capstone Digital just announced a partnership with MetaMetrics to use the Lexile Framework to level its digital content and monitor student progress toward goals. According to company President Todd Brekhus, “Our goal is to personalize the reading experience for every student. Collaborating with MetaMetrics to develop our new literacy program puts us one step closer to achieving this goal. Now we can provide educators with a powerful and proven tool to differentiate reading instruction for their students, and track their growth in reading ability.”

So far, Capstone Digital has leveled more than 14,000 books from its various imprints and divisions. These Lexile measures will enable educators to personalize students’ reading plans—by assigning books at the right difficulty level to encourage independent reading and increase confidence.

Check back here next week for more details on how Capstone Digital’s innovative new product will encourage a love of reading and increase growth—one student at a time.

Florida Continues Celebration

Remember our post from earlier this week on Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida?  Here’s a nice write up in the Orlando Sentinel reminding readers where they can find more information and commenting on Florida’s custom Find a Book site:

The website is actually pretty  fun, if you enjoy searching for books (and I do, even if I don’t know my “lexile” score). The DOE also offers a list of recommended titles as part of this weeks’ celebration. This list runs the gamut, from classics (To Kill a Mocking Bird) to popular hits (Diary of a Wimpy Kid).

That’s good to hear.  We hope the fun to be had surfing Find a Book translates into more students throughout Florida reading more often!

Forging A Path Toward College & Career Readiness

Much has already been written on the dangers of graduating unprepared to face the reading demands now found throughout universities and the workplace. There’s been ample research demonstrating that many of today’s high school seniors are graduating ill-prepared to tackle the rigors of the post-secondary world .  Even those students who qualify as ‘proficient’ within the boundaries of their own state find that proficiency does not necessarily entail readiness for the reading demands of life after graduation.  Declining levels of text complexity at the high school level translate into less rigor and many students are unfamiliar with richer, more complex texts,  which is why so many universities have witnessed an increase in the number of freshmen enrolled in remedial, first-year courses. 

Fortunately, the Common Core State Standards Initiative offers a clear trajectory toward college and career readiness, though a recent report from ACT shows just how much work many states have to do to place their students on a track toward college and career readiness.  A sample of 250,000 high school juniors, for example, found that the students were unprepared for the standards proposed by the Common Core.  Within English/Language Arts, only 38 percent were proficient in reading and a little more than half were proficient in writing and in language. Students were especially weak in science literacy and only 37 percent showed proficiency in statistics and probability. The weakest area in math was number and quantity.   The ACT report goes further than just analysis, however, and offers some suggestions on how states, districts, and schools can support the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.  

Another recently released study, REL Southwest’s How Prepared are Students for College-Level Reading? Applying a Lexile®-Based Approach, offers a real-world perspective for measuring the effectiveness of preparing students for post-secondary success. Using The Lexile Framework for Reading, the study matched student scores on an exit-level Texas English language arts and reading assessment with college English textbooks to gauge students’ ability to read and comprehend the books used in entry-level English courses throughout the University of Texas system: (more…)

Measuring Teacher Effectiveness: Take A Broad View

Recently teacher effectiveness and evaluation have been gaining legislative and media attention.  The current Race to the Top application (U.S. Department of Education, 2009) asks states to “design and implement rigorous, transparent, and fair evaluation systems for teachers and principals that (a) differentiate effectiveness using multiple rating categories that take into account data on student growth…as a significant factor, and (b) are designed and developed with teacher and principal involvement.”  Many districts and states are now faced with the challenge of how to thoroughly evaluate whether a teacher is effective in the classroom.   Many states are now modifying existing laws against using student data to evaluate teachers and policy makers are suggesting ways to quantify the evaluation of a teacher by basing the evaluation on student test scores. 

The Tennessee Report, for example, indicates that Tennessee teachers’ evaluation will be based on 50% of student scores, 35% on the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVASS) and 15% on other student data, including test scores.  And the New York Times reports that New York schools have also implemented a new teacher evaluation basing effectiveness on 40% of student test scores, which includes scores from tests developed within the school district and state standardized tests. 

Organizations, like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-supported, Measures of Effective Teaching, supplement the focus on student test scores alone by offering a broader analysis and taking five types of data into account:

  • Student achievement gains on state standardized assessments and supplemental assessments designed to measure higher-order conceptual thinking
  • Classroom observations and teacher reflections
  • Teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge
  • Student perceptions of the classroom instructional environment
  • Teachers’ perceptions of working conditions and instructional support at their schools

That’s good to hear.  This project comes at a critical time; and as states look for reliable ways to gauge teacher effectiveness, it’s good to see organizations committed to the hard work of determining the key indicators of what makes for an effective teacher.

Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida

The Florida Department of Education will recognize Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida! with a number of events planned for the week of Monday, Jan. 24, through Friday, Jan. 28. These events are intended to raise awareness of the literacy programs offered by the Department and its partners, and to promote the enjoyment of reading for children and adults of all ages.

The week-long celebration kicks-off on Monday night at 6:00 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble Booksellers in West Kendall/Miami. Florida author Edward Bloor will be onsite to talk about his work and sign copies of his latest release, “Taken” (640L). Bloor has written four other books for teenagers—including the award-winning “Tangerine (680L)—all of which have Lexile measures and are available on the “Find a Book, Florida” site. 

Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida!is a collaborative effort between MetaMetrics, Barnes & Noble, the Florida Education Foundation and the Florida Department of Education. According to Florida Education Commissioner Dr. Eric J. Smith, “We are very excited to be able to kick off Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida!with such a huge, multi-dimensional partnership. The attendance of Mr. Bloor and the generosity of our partners make this a perfect opportunity to create a renewed focus on student literacy in 2011.”

During Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida!, all Florida students are eligible to enter a statewide raffle for one of 20 Barnes & Noble gift cards. To enter, students must bring a completed entry form, which is available on the “Find a Book, Florida” site, and a printout of their “Find a Book” reading list to any Florida Barnes & Noble store. Winners will be selected and notified by the Florida Education Foundation after Jan. 31.

“We are thrilled to be part of this important initiative that encourages all students to extend reading beyond school and into their daily lives,” said MetaMetrics President Malbert Smith III, Ph.D. “With our free ‘Find a Book’ search tool, students can strengthen their reading skills—and develop a greater love of reading—by selecting titles they want and should be able to read.”

The Florida Department of Education relaunched the “Find a Book, Florida” resource in September 2010 to support year-round reading. The free search tool allows students to locate new and intriguing books tailored to their own reading interests. Thousands of fiction and nonfiction titles are available through “Find a Book, Florida,”which helps to match a book’s text complexity with a student’s reading ability using Lexile measures.

For more information, visit www.barnesandnoble.com (under Stores & Events), http://florida.lexile.com, www.floridaeducationfoundation.org or www.justreadflorida.com/literacyweek.asp.

MetaMetrics Partners with Interactive Achievement

We’re happy to announce our new partnership with Interactive Achievement, a software company that ‘provides educators with accurate assessments of student performance on state standards’.  Interactive Achievement is the developer of OnTrac, a web-based system that ‘delivers standard-aligned content, assessments, and instant reports for precise analysis of student achievement.  OnTrac allows teachers to build their own tests choosing from a bank of established test items.  Once students complete the test, teachers have instant access to online reports.

We have leveled the passages in the OnTrac system using the The Lexile Framework for Reading, allowing teachers to select passages across a range of Lexile levels.  Here’s more:

…educators can now custom develop using the Lexile measures of their students and the test items. Lexile measures will help educators select test passages that students should be able to read and understand, leading to more valid information on the growth required for students to achieve a state’s proficiency levels.

This is powerful information to have.  Having access to the Lexile level of reading passages helps inform the choices teachers make as they design benchmark assessments.  Here’s the President of Interactive Achievement, Jacob Gibson:

“Since over half of U.S. students already receive Lexile measures from high-stakes tests, assigning Lexile measures to the OnTRAC passages allows educators to use a common metric to build assessments that can provide the benchmark data they need to help students achieve at the highest levels.”

We’re thrilled with this new partnership and glad that teachers will have easy access to a tool that allows them to customize assessments based on their student’s reading level.

Training Education’s Leaders

Education Week reports (subscription required) on a new initiative announced last fall “aimed at changing the way America’s principals are recruited and prepared-and how they run schools.”  The Alliance to Reform Education Leadership (AREL) program, which will be managed by the nonpartisan George W. Bush Institute, is intended to provide educators with strong the strong leadership they have asked for:

Set to begin in six cities, the initiative aims to seed and nurture consortia of colleges, districts and private organizations across the country that will work together to train principals in nontraditional ways and in field-based settings.  It also looks to broaden the talent pool for the profession by tapping into organizations such as Teach for America and New Leaders for New Schools to recruit a different set of school leaders.

Each city’s program will vary as each will be controlled by a different group of organizations, ranging from local school districts and universities to corporate partners, such as AT&T.  James Guthrie, director of education policy studies for the institute explains that while these differences may yield fluctuations in results, the program was designed in this manner enabling the group to evaluate the efficacy of multiple approaches. 

For those who see the development of effective principals as a key factor in helping schools align with the Common Core State Standards, the AREL program, along with programs like New Leaders for New Schools, has the potential to facilitate a shift in thinking and assist educators in moving students from proficiency to college and career readiness.

Increasing Instructional Time

Much has been recently written on the PISA(Program for International Student Assessment) test results, which were released last month.  PISA is distributed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (based in Paris) to 15 year old students in most industrialized nations.   As The New York Times reports, students in Shanghai ranked first by a substantial margin, while “the United States came in 23rd or 24th in most subjects.”

This is disappointing news.  As President Obama recently stated, whoever “out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow.”  If the PISA test is any indication of our current standing in the global education sphere, we have cause for concern.  Thomas Friedman of the NY Times claims that we have “been getting out-educated” for years and asserts that the only way to bring students in line with international standards is through reform.  He’s not alone in calling for drastic change.  Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan says:

Incremental change isn’t going to get us where we need to go.  We’ve got to be much more ambitious.  We’ve got to be disruptive.  You can’t keep doing the same stuff and expect different results.

The good news is that some of that change is already occurring.  A recent Newsweek article highlighted a network of schools that, since its inception, has been embracing change and seeing results.  We’ve mentioned  KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools in the past and commented on their approach to education, particularly their focus on extending the school day and abandoning traditional school calendars by requiring summer school programs for all students. 

We’ve long advocated mitigating the well-documented effects of summer learning loss by adding instructional time to the school year.  Our own Dr. Malbert Smith has written on the consequences of our current traditional calendar, which limits educational time to far too few hours a year. 

Our own contribution to the crippling effects of summer learning loss is to provide educators and students with access to educational resources year round.  Find a Book, for example, allows students to match themselves to targeted texts within their areas of interest.  On the math side, Math at Home allows parents and students to select targeted math resources based on the textbook in which they’re currently working.  If you have not yet used them with your student, be sure to give them a try.

Google Takes the ‘Science Fair’ Global

Google is expanding our traditional conceptions of the school science fair.  Student science fairs have typically been limited to local schools or districts, and budget cuts in recent years have meant that many schools no longer host local science fairs.  Google is changing all that.  Google is hosting the world’s first online, global science fair.  Students from around the world can participate via a browser and an Internet connection:

The Google Science Fair takes the traditional science fair and moves it to the Web. Participating students both build and submit their projects online – using Google Docs, Sites, and YouTube, for example – for all aspects of their research projects – from the data collection to the final presentation. Students from all over the world are encouraged to participate – from Paris, Texas to Paris, France, from Venice, Italy to Venice Beach.

And, of course, organizations well known for their commitment to innovation and scientific research are getting involved, giving students a chance for exposure to some of biggest scientific organizations from around the globe:

To run this science fair, Google is teaming up with some of the most well-known names in science, technology, and education: CERN, LEGO, National Geographic, and Scientific American. And the judges for the event are just as prestigious, including the founder of the FIRSTrobotics competition Dean Kamen, the leader of National Geographic’s Genographic ProjectSpencer Wells, Nobel prize winner Kary Mullis, and the “father of the Internet” Vint Cerf.

This type of open access and collaborative environment will do more than just provide an opportunity for students to present their work to a global audience; it also exposes students to the work and ideas of their peers by a sizable order of magnitude.  Google’s efforts will allow students to establish dialogue and interaction around science and technology issues in a way that regional science fairs are unable to match.

And, of course, the prizes are bigger, ranging from a trip to the Galapagos Islands to a trip to Switzerland to visit  CERN and the Large Hadron Collider, or even a chance to work with LEGO on the next robotics project.

To register click here.

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.