Series Dominate Book Sales

In recent publishing news, Publisher’s Weekly released some recent stats regarding last year’s children’s book market. It seems that 2010 was your year if you were an author with an enticing series.  Publisher’s Weekly states, “Eighteen books for children and teens sold more than a million copies last year: all of them were from authors of big franchises…” This includes the fifth installment of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Ugly Truth (1000L, series 910L-1010L). Another popular author, Stephenie Meyer made the list with her novella, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner (680L, Meyer titles 640-720L). Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy pulled in sales from all angles last year. Her third installment, Mockingjay (800L), series 800L-820L) was released in hardback simultaneously with the audiobook. The e-book version was released six days prior to the print release and topped sales in that category as well.

Publisher’s Weekly also collected e-book sales figures for the first time in 2010. The major series also ruled this arena and pulled in the biggest sales figures – an indicator that the population of e-book readers has started to expand from adults to a younger generation of readers.

Check out our Find-A-Book website to locate these popular titles and other series for your own students.

The Big Read

Hats off to Hasbrouck Heights High School and the Hasbrouck Heights public library for sponsoring The Big Read:

The Big Read as it’s called is being launched by the high school and supported by the Hasbrouck Heights Public Library. It’s designed to bring high school students, parents, teachers and community members together to read and discuss a good book. There are contests for the students to participate in as well in order to win a brand new Barnes and Nobles Nook e-reader.

As this article makes clear, The Big Read is just one of many initiatives the district has undertaken to get students reading more, including using student Lexile measures from Scholastic Reading Inventoryto track student reading growth over time.  Congratulations, Hasbrouck Heights, and good luck!

One More Tool to Match Readers to Texts

The Lexile Framework for Reading offers a good starting point for educators and parents attempting to make decisions as to whether or not the complexity of a text is well-matched to the reading level of a particular reader.  As articulated by the Common Core State Standards, the Lexile Framework provides a good measure of the quantitative dimensions of a text.  Meaning, the Lexile measure reflects the types of words and sentences used in a particular text; and, when matched to the Lexile reading level of a student, provides useful information on the student’s likely level of comprehension.

Of course there are other things to consider.  A parent or educator should always consider more than just the Lexile measure when attempting to match a young reader to a particular text.  There are qualitative dimensions (themes and content) and reader/task considerations (context, background knowledge) that should be taken into account.  As with any tool, the Lexile Framework is most powerful when used appropriately and as intended – to help match readers to reading material based on text complexity and the reading level of the reader. 

Here is reading expert and CEO of TextProject, Freddy Hiebert offering some useful caveats to educators on using the Lexile Framework appropriately:

Children’s reading performances are heavily influenced by the vocabulary in a text.  Typical word frequency ranges for different grades are given in Table 2.  When word frequency averages are substantially lower than typical grade ranges, teachers should know that students might need some extra vocabulary support.  

And, always remember:  There are big differences in the styles and vocabulary of stories (narratives) and informational texts (content-area texts)…

…Teachers should use the lexile rating as an initial piece of information, much like a check of someone’s temperature.   A temperature can be high or low for lots of different reasons.  The average sentence length and average word frequency gives teachers more specific information that is useful for decision-making.

Hiebert’s cautions are well-taken.  Educators and parents should always consider context when using Lexile measures to assign texts.  Additionally, they should take genre and concept density into account as they seek to match readers to texts.  As Hiebert reminds us, Lexile measures are an excellent starting point when considering the level of text that is appropriate for readers; and the Lexile Framework is a worthwhile addition to the various tools that educators bring to bear in the classroom.

MAP Assessments Continue Lexile Reporting

NWEA’s Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®) assessments are used by nearly 5,000 U.S. school districts and educational agencies worldwide. And each of them will be glad to know that the tests will continue to report Lexile® ranges.

Today, Lexile-developer MetaMetrics® and NWEA announced that they have extended their partnership that dates back to 1999. Since then, MAP reports have included a reading range score that correlates a student’s MAP test score with a Lexile range. The Lexile range is used to provide the student with a pre-developed booklist intended to support growth by providing the right level of challenge for his or her reading ability. And, for those who are familiar with our free “Find a Book” search tool, the student’s Lexile range can also be used to build a custom reading list based on his or her ability and interests, and then locate the selections at a local public library.

When asked about the value of Lexile ranges from the MAP assessments, NWEA President and CEO Matt Chapman noted, “… we are committed to providing not only data, but meaningful instructional tools to appropriately help kids learn and teachers be more effective—Lexile measures help us towards that goal.” 

MetaMetrics President and co-founder Malbert Smith III added, “We are pleased … to maintain the continuity of Lexile data that so many educators trust to guide their classroom instruction. More than ever, educators must continually assess how much reading growth is required for students to achieve state and national proficiency standards, and as they prepare for the reading demands of their college and career goals.”

MAP adaptive assessments provide valuable information about students’ learning level and growth, as well as their progress toward state and national standards. They are computer-adaptive and adjust with each item, giving a precise and accurate measure of student learning and growth, based on NWEA’s RIT scores. For more information, visit www.nwea.org.

Mevident’s Teen Wellness Program Adds Lexile Measures

Lexile measures are now part of a teen wellness program!  Mevident, a South San Francisco, California company, now provides Lexile measures as part of Teen Wellness– a solution that allows school counselors to provide resiliency skill education to students who are distracted from academic activities by family problems, peer or relationship problems, behavioral issues and psychological barriers.  The program is built around Mevident’s proprietary online educational materials, comprising 13 chapters of lessons, homework exercises and fictional character stories. The collective chapters, and each of the character stories, have been assigned Lexile measures to help school counselors gauge students’ readiness to read and understand the course materials.

Teen Wellness demonstrates commitment to helping students prepare for the challenges in both their personal and academic lives and we’re happy to be a part! According to Mevident’s CEO, Asako Tsumagari, the addition of Lexile measures now provides counselors with a proven resource to help determine if students will be able to effectively engage in the materials.

We’re thrilled that educators will be able to match Teen Wellness chapters and lessons to student reading levels!

Another Way to Answer Your Questions

We have the privilege of working with educators around the country to introduce them to both the Lexile Framework for Reading and the Quantile Framework for Mathematics.  In our professional development sessions we often hear great questions and suggestions on using these metrics in the classroom.  We also find that a lot of misconceptions and erroneous ideas have cropped up regarding the Frameworks and we do our best to correct those whenever possible. 

To that end, we will be posting short videos (available on YouTube now and on our site soon) that attempt to answer some of the most frequently asked questions and misconceptions we hear.  Two of those videos are available now:

1. What do Lexile measures indicate about the quality of a text?

2.Do Lexile measures indicate age-appropriateness? 

Be sure to watch.  And keep those questions coming.

Consider the Student: Targeting with The Lexile Framework for Reading

A tip of the hat to last week’s Marshall Memo for pointing to Susan Voorhees latest piece in this month’s The Reading Teacher, ‘Why the Dog Eats Nikki’s Homework: Making Informed Assignment Decisions’ (subscription required).  Voorhees argues that too often students failing to complete homework assignments are seen as incompetent, or lazy, or as academically deficient.  When, in fact, many students may be assigned conceptually dense work, or reading material at far too high a level.

Voorhees goes on to offer a detailed and compelling case for scaffolding, for differentiating based on the reader’s ability.  Voorhees even recommends a checklist approach for determining how much assistance young readers may need with an assignment:

  • Can all students decode the homework material?
  • Do all students have prior knowledge, schema, and vocabulary needed to understand the assigned material?
  • Do all students know how to use text structure?
  • Do all students understand the purpose of the homework assignment?
  • Do all students know how to activate prior knowledge prior to reading?
  • Do all students have sufficient attention and ability to concentrate?
  • Do all students have high self-efficacy toward homework and literacy?
  • Do all students get parental help with homework?

For each of the checklist items, Voorhees offers concrete suggestions on ways to ensure that each student meets the criteria listed above.  One such suggestion, for example, focuses on stamina – a reader’s ability to engage with the text for longer periods of time.  Because a reader’s stamina will influence their success on longer reading assignments, Voorhees recommends taking stamina into account and breaking up longer reading assignments into more digestible chunks.

Voorhees also recognizes that reader level varies across classrooms and that more complex texts will present a greater challenge for struggling readers.  Which is why she recommends that, when practical, teachers focus on providing easier texts for struggling readers.

The idea that an important piece of differentiation is targeting a reader with appropriately matched texts is a well-established idea and in line with many practices that complement the use of the Lexile Framework.  The Lexile scale is an important metric for measuring both reader and text on the same scale.  One of the advantages of a common scale is that by placing reader and text on the same scale, an educator has a clear idea of just how much challenge a text may present.  The Lexile Framework for Reading allows educators to match struggling readers at a targeted level.  Because so many supplemental resources have been aligned to the Lexile metric – including tens of millions of articles on just about any topic – educators have a wide variety of resources through which to target struggling readers.  This sort of targeting jibes well with Voorhes’ suggestion to ‘provide easier text’ in cases where students will struggle with high level material.

Voorhees’ suggestions are worth considering. We’ve seen many of these practices implemented in classrooms around the country and many are a natural complement to using the Lexile Framework to match readers to the right level of text.

Video Tutorials Now Available in Math@Home

Here’s some good news for students who are struggling with mathematics: our free Math@Home web utility now includes Virtual Nerd video tutorials. The instructional videos provide students with the extra help they need to understand the textbook lessons being taught in school. It’s like having unlimited access to a personal tutor in the comfort of their own homes!

Plus, each Virtual Nerd tutorial has a Quantile® measure to describe the difficulty of the math lesson. This ensures students are matched with videos at the right readiness level for their unique abilities.

Access to the Virtual Nerd video tutorials in Math@Home is free.  However, subscriptions are available for students and parents who want to access more interactive tutorials on the Virtual Nerd website (access is free for registered educators). Each of these tutorials features an expert tutor and diagrams to explain all of the steps necessary to solve math problems spanning Pre-Algebra through Algebra II. They also allow students to determine the level of support they need. By clicking on a diagram or a specific step, term or symbol, students can launch other tutorials on those topics that require more instruction, and then continue with the main video. Check out this YouTube video for more details.

Math@Home uses Quantile measures to connect students with a variety of family-friendly math resources, like books, worksheets and websites, that best match their ability level and the textbook lesson they’re studying in school. In addition to the Virtual Nerd tutorials, the utility also provides access to instructional videos from the Khan Academy.

Why not get started now? Visit Math@Home and simply enter some basic information—the student’s state, grade, and Quantile measure or comfort with grade-level mathematics—to search the growing library of video tutorials and other resources that can help students practice mathematics at the right grade and ability levels.

Policy Brief: Bridging the Readiness Gap

Recently, we released our first of many policy briefs written by our very own Dr. Malbert Smith III, MetaMetrics’ President and Co-Founder.

MetaMetrics is focused on improving education for learners of all ages. For over twenty years, our work has been increasingly recognized for its distinct value in differentiating instruction and personalizing learning.  For example, our research on post secondary reading demands, on what it means to be college and career ready, informed the Common Core State Standards.

In addition to the white papers and position papers we publish throughout the year, our policy briefs will encompass research on a variety of educational issues, such as closing the achievement gap, next-generation assessments, and college- and career-readiness. The policy briefs will explore potential ways to address these critical issues by focusing on education as the foundation of student success and the stepping stone to social and economic growth in our country.

The first brief is titled “Bridging the Readiness Gap: Demystifying Required Reading Levels for Post-secondary Pursuits.” An executive summary is below and the entire brief is available in both HTML and PDF formats:

What does it mean to be “college- and career-ready?” According to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the Holy Grail of education is to ensure that all high school graduates are adequately prepared for their academic and professional pursuits. This goal underscores the current national educational reform agenda-both Race to the Top requirements and Common Core criteria advocate standards that build toward and ensure college and career readiness. While many factors comprise readiness, one of the most important is the ability to read and comprehend complex texts. And although our research shows a significant gap between the text demands of high school and the post-secondary world, progress has already been made in reconsidering the entire scope of the P-20 educational landscape. Using our research, Appendix A of the Common Core State Standards demonstrates how the text continuum can be redrawn by Lexile grade bands so that educators and administrators have a reliable road map to make sure students are building the reading skills necessary to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities that await them. By forecasting deficiencies in reading ability, we can demystify the “readiness gap,” raise the bar for reading achievement, and better prepare students for success in their post-secondary endeavors.

Want to subscribe to our policy briefs? Visit www.Lexile.com and click on Register in the top right corner. Be sure to check the box next to News Releases!

Working Around Mother Nature: Turning Snow Days into Learning Days

We’ve written extensively on the importance of increased instructional time, and various ways to mitigate  summer learning loss.  As many educators have recently shared, all of the recent inclement weather has kept many too many students out of school.  Some schools are now finding creative ways around mother nature and have started utilizing technology to keep their students on track during the school year. 

USA Today reports that educators across the country have been turning to unconventional means to reach their students during recent and frequent snow days.

In Chicago’s suburbs, Lake Forest College professor Holly Sawyers uploaded videos of her anthropology lecture last week on YouTube and kept and e-mail line open while Chicago absorbed 20 inches of snow its public schools had their first snow day since 1999.  University of New Hampshire professor Kent Chamberlin gave an electromagnetic s lecture live – audio only – while still in pajamas.

In St. Louis, where blizzards have closed public schools for six days already this year, math, English, Chinese and history classes met via the Internet as usual…

With the proliferation of YouTube, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and of course the increasing availability of personalized learning platforms, educators are able to stay in contact with students in real time – all of the time.  Personalized learning platforms, like Oasis and MyWritingWeb, make real time instructional content and assessments immediately available to any student with an Internet connection.  And these tools further strengthen the home/school connection by allowing students access to the same content regardless of their physical location.  While many enjoy the benefits of social media as a way to stay in touch with their friends, these tools are increasingly being used to maintain contact between schools systems and students – making instruction a constant possibility and the snow day a thing of the past.

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.