Summer Literacy Adventure Revisited

Here’s yet another example of local media outlets shining a light on the good work the Florida Department of Education is doing with their Summer Literacy Adventure:

Martin County High, South Fork High, and Jensen Beach High are all three of the high schools in the Martin County School District that are actively participating in this year’s “Summer Literacy Adventure”.  This reading initiative by the Florida Department of Education (partnered with Martin County Library Systems) is designed to help students stay on target, stay motivated, and stay excited about reading and literacy.

…According to the press release, to participate in the Summer Literacy Adventure students can visit the Just Read, Florida website at www.justreadflorida.com to take the pledge.  Students who take the pledge may also utilize a free online tool to search for books based on their reading ability and interests.  The DOE, through MetaMetrics, offers a unique resource called “Find a Book, Florida” at http://florida.lexile.comthat uses Lexile measures, a widely adopted reading metric that can guide a reader to an appropriate level book.

It’s good to see that Martin County School District is pushing to keep students reading over the summer.  And kudos to the local media for reminding parents of the access to free resources right at their fingertips.

Year Round Learning: the Freedom of Digital Access

We’ve mentioned the proliferation of e-books in the marketplace and the profound impact they are already having in the sphere of education.  Recently, the School Library Journal also made note of this trend, and explored its implications in schools and libraries across the nation. As SLJ reported, “…a majority of elementary school librarians said they either will (18 percent) or may (46 percent) purchase ebooks in the next two years.”  This shift could bring significant changes to the way students and parents access the resources their school provides. 

Checking out books from the school library will start to take on a new meaning as more teachers and parents insist on 24/7 access in school and at home.  Instead of waiting for library day at school, students can log in at any time…and browse digital bookshelves.  In some media centers, children may be able to borrow Nooks and iPads to take home.

And digital libraries would be free of the constraints of the traditional school year calendar.  We’ve long been proponentsof increasing students’ access to books, particularly during the summer months.  Unlike a conventional library system, access to ebooks provides students with the resources of their school’s library year-round, and at the touch of a button.

SLJ also points to “states and school districts [that] are starting to make deals with ebook companies to provide yearly subscriptions to thousands of students at a time.”  As most states face dramatic budget cuts, such deals may make increases in book selections possible for school libraries that could not otherwise afford to expand their collections. 

As we pointed out, Capstone Digital launched its myOn readerearlier this year with great success.  This personalized reading platform provides access to thousands of ebooks and incorporates the power of the Lexile Framework for Reading – not only providing students always-on digital access, but allowing them to read targeted text within their area of interest.

Publishers, like Capstone Digital, and many others, are making great strides in ensuring that students have access to books year round.  Digital access means that students across the socio-economic spectrum are free from the constraints of calendar and location and have the ability to keep reading and learning all year long.

Barnes & Noble Kicks Off the Annual Summer Reading Program

Last month Barnes and Noble announced the start of their 15th Annual Summer Reading Program.  “The free Summer Reading Program kick[ed] off in Barnes & Noble stores across the country May 24th and continues through September 6th…Children in grades 1-6 can earn a free book just by reading eight books and turning in a completed journal sheet.”  Barnes & Noble hopes this reading program will keep kids motivated to read during the summer months.

We’ve often discussed the importance of reading throughout the summer to avoid the dreaded summer slide. While all summer reading programs are to be commended, Barnes and Noble’s program will enable students to select a reading list that will incorporate targeted reading at their level. By using Barnes and Nobel’s Lexile Reading Level Wizard which estimates a student’s Lexile measure and generates a book list based on their selected interests and reading level.  Students can then select eight books from this reading list, download a journal from Barnes and Noble, and begin their summer reading adventure with books that offer just the right amount of challenge. 

Be sure to take a look.

Raising Standards: Fighting The Coming American Worker Shortage

A familiar topic these days is the state of our economy, particularly the volatile job market.   But as many employers have made clear, there is a disturbing shortage of skilled workers when it comes to positions that demand strong skills in math and science.  According to this recent article from CNNMoney, executives from major corporations are voicing their concerns on the standards set for today’s students in science, technology and mathematics.

 The group of executives, called Change the Equation, notes that only one fifth of today’s 8th graders are proficient or advanced in math, citing figures from national educational assessments.

 That’s cause for concern.  It appears that our country’s lead in math and science (which are prerequisites for careers in technology, engineering, and the sciences) has weakened considerably.  And without some change in our current trajectory, we will soon face a severe deficiency in homegrown talent

 The CEO-driven initiative launched last fall as part of the Obama administration’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign in response to forecasts that the U.S. will be short as many as 3 million high-skills workers by 2018, according to a Georgetown University report issued last year. Two thirds of those jobs will require at least some post-secondary education, says Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

 The good news is that the Common Core State Standards offer more rigorous standards across content areas, including math and science.  If adopted, the US can expect a higher set of standards to ensure that students graduate ready for the demands of college and career.  Not surprisingly, many employers support raising academic standards as a way to prevent excessive outsourcing and having to choose from within an unskilled workforce.

To tackle the predicted lack of qualified workers, Raytheon Co., a major defense contractor, has developed software to help state educators, lawmakers and others develop tailored plans to improve math and science education and workforce policies. Like other defense contractors and many government agencies, Raytheon needs homegrown talent because national security guidelines do not allow for easy outsourcing of work or importing workers.

We too recognize the importance of disciplines like mathematics in preparing students for the demands of the contemporary workforce.  Math at Home represents an attempt to keep students focused on math year round.  Math at Home allows educators, parents, and even students to match themselves to targeted math resources (games, worksheets, video tutorials, practice activities, etc…) based on current textbook lessons. In addition to linking to targeted math resources, Math at Home allows students to create multiple resource lists, which they can then share (through e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter) or save for a later date.  It’s our hope that Math at Home can play a small role in keeping students engaged in math activities all year and in helping prepare them for the rigors of life beyond high school.

Preventing ‘Summer Slippage’

Back in March we offered a nod to Hasbrouck Heights High School for collaborating with the local public library to sponsor The Big Read – an initiative designed to get students reading more outside the classroom.  And that includes the summer.  As this story makes clear, Hasbrouck Heights is drawing attention to the importance of reading over the summer months:

Dr. Mark Porto, superintendent of schools, explained that kids’ reading skills have been known to weaken, something some educators have called “summer slippage,” due to not reading regularly which can easily happen over the summer months. When students return to school in September it can take time for them to get back on track. 

Summer reading can prevent this, he told the audience, and the schools, along with the district’s three school media specialists, have been working with the borough library, coming together as a community to encourage reading in youngsters and even adults.

Porto invited the media specialists who head the libraries at the three district schools to the forum to speak on behalf of the program and reading in the district. Joan Weir, media specialist at Euclid School reflected on the success of the SRI program which gives each student a Lexile score, which is not a grade, but a determined comfortable reading level for which the student can select reading choices.

“I have never seen so many children with a book in their hands,” she commented adding that the children have really been encouraged by the program.

That’s good to hear. Hasbrouck Heights should be commended – again – for their efforts to keep students reading all year long.

Using Social Media to Support Instruction

Earlier this year we mentioned how educators are using social networking sites including Facebook, Twitter and others to extend instruction outside of the classroom, even in cases of inclement weather.  As EducationNews.org reported this week, teachers in California are continuing to incorporate social media into their English classes.  “Rather than just the teacher reading student work, an entire class can read, review and give feedback on other students’ writing.”  Teachers claim that using social media as an educational conduit has also encouraged participation from students that are often too shy to raise their hand in a more traditional classroom setting – giving a voice and outlet to all students. 

And the utilization of social media sites as a tool to supplement instruction is not limited to the English classroom.  At MetaMetrics we’re trying to incorporate popular social media outlets into our own tools.  Our Math at Home utility, which allows students to locate targeted math resources at the right level of difficulty, now includes social networking features.  Based on the Quantile Framework for Mathematics, “Math at Home recommends various resources that students can add to their list of favorites.  Students can then print, email or share their list on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

In addition to encouraging participation in the virtual classroom during the school year, social media sites also support year-round instruction efforts by making resources available to students from any place at any time.  This is especially critical during the summer months when research shows so many students are susceptible to summer learning loss. As social media sites near ubiquity we hope that students will take advantage of these tools to review and solidify their skills.

Laptops for Every Student

In an effort to help close the digital divide, Google announced a major initiative aimed at getting laptops in the hands of school children:

At Google IO this week, Google announced a “new kind of computer” and a new program aimed at schools: Chromebooks for Education. These new devices look like laptops, but they run on Google’s new operating system Chrome OS and are truly Web-based and Web-centric. There is no local storage and there is no software. In other words, everything runs through the (Chrome) browser and everything is stored online.

Google’s new Chromebooks for Education program will offer these devices to schools for $20 per user per month.

That’s great news and we applaud Google’s efforts.  As more schools move toward individualized instruction and personal learning platforms, Google’s initiative helps shore up one of the central issues with a focus on learning platforms – the digital divide.  Many schools lack the funds to provide adequate technology to every student and many students – particularly low-income students – go home to technology free zones.  Google’s $20 device helps bridge that divide by making the web accessible to all students – allowing students and educators to take advantage of a whole host of personalized learning platforms, not to mention all of the instructional resources, tool and utilities that are now finally accessible. 

Kudos to Google.  This device promises to open up a whole new world of resources to students around the country.

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.