Fulfilling the Promise of the Common Core

Our own Malbert Smith just released a new policy brief: Fulfilling the Promise of the Common Core.  Smith outlines some of the major challenges facing educators, including the imperative to ensure that students are graduating college and career ready.  An important component of ensuring steady progress toward college and career readiness is facilitating student reading growth throughout a student’s entire academic career.  Otherwise, students unable to handle grade-level material by high school face an enormous challenge in trying to ‘catch-up’ by time of graduation. 

Smith outlines two important strategies for ensuring students remain on track for life after high school – extended instructional time and personalized learning:

The “New Normal” requires us to find innovative solutions to eliminate the readiness gap. There are two promising, cost-effective strategies that can help us achieve the Common Core within today’s financial and time parameters: personalized learning platforms and summer reading. Both approaches support “blended learning,” which Michael Horn defines as: “any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace” (Horn, 2011).

Be sure to read the whole thing.

Compass Media & MetaMetrics: Teaming Up in Korea

Compass Media, publishing company and leader in English education, and MetaMetrics are teaming up to help young learners build English skills with books published in Korea. Announced last week, this promising partnership adds Lexile measures to the publisher’s English language books. Compass Media will apply The Lexile Framework to 420 fiction and non-fiction books by mid-year 2012.

 Utilizing The Lexile Framework, Compass Media will connect young learners with the most beneficial resources to optimize their English development. MetaMetrics is proud to be working with Compass Media on improving education for young English learners.

Implementing the Common Core: the Quantile Framework

The adoption of the Common Core State Standards is promoting the development of curriculum pathways that most states will collectively implement.  Many states have developed crosswalks or configuration maps to aid in this transition. Currently, most states are still waiting to see how the new common accountability assessments will be designed for the implementation of the new standards. 

According to the Great Lakes Comprehensive Center, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, and Indiana formed the Midwest Common Core consortia to work together to plan the best implementation.  “The Midwest Common Core Consortia creates an avenue for the five states to work together to share resources, knowledge, and promising practices to improve implementation of the Common Core State Standards across the region. The work of the consortia is focused on the areas of leadership, communication, alignment, teaching, and learning.”  Additionally, many states’ department of instruction have joined forces with CCSSO by employing the Common Core Standards Collaborative that focus on six principles of teaching and learning.  The implementation of the standards is still being discussed at the state level and only small populations of teachers have gained the tools that will enable them to transfer methods of instruction to the new standards.

Yet, during this transition, teachers in the classroom are beginning the school year still searching for more specific directions regarding instruction that will incorporate the new Common Core State Standards as well as the old state standards.  The Quantile Framework® of Mathematics can help teachers do this through the use of its website.  Quantile.com offers teachers the ability to find free, internet based resources aligned to both the former year’s state standards and the new Common Core standards. 

Through the website, teachers can access the Math Skills Database, by activating the Advanced Search tool. With this search engine teachers can create a list of their state’s curriculum standards and Common Core State Standards for the grade level they are teaching.  This tool gives teachers the ability to compare the two standards and find free resources that will complement both sets of standards. 

Users also have access to the “knowledge cluster” of each skill or concept demanded by the standard which provides a means of task analysis.  Having access to these knowledge clusters allows a teacher to reach struggling students who may be unfamiliar with some of the required prerequisite skills.

The implementation of the new Common Core State Standards will require patience and planning to best allow educators to thoroughly address the new standards.  In the meantime, the Quantile Framework for Mathematics can provide support for educators as they move through this transition. 

Digital Promise

The Department of Education recently launched Digital Promise, an effort to identify the best in education technology and get it into classrooms across the country:

The National Science Foundation will also be one of the first contributors to the effort, announcing today $15 million in awards to support research on how best to create contemporary, digital learning environments.

“The projects within the NSF portfolio for cyberlearning stand to demonstrate and promote learning technology, to transform our schools and to enhance our lives,” said Farnam Jahanian of the NSF’s directorate for computer and information science and engineering.

It’s good to see so much effort go toward recognizing the innovative ways technology can be put to use in the educational sphere.  In addition to a host of other benefits, like reduced cost and more efficient content delivery, applying technology in the classroom helps educators accomplish two other critical goals: individualizing instruction and extending instructional time.  We’ve written quite a bit on Oasis, a personalized learning platform that allows students the opportunity to practice writing at a targeted level, read text targeted to their reading level, and even engage in vocabulary activities.  Oasis is built around the idea that targeted practice, when distributed over time, can help improve a student’s reading and writing ability.  Best of all, because Oasis is online, it can be accessed year round and anytime of day; and because Oasis is self-guided, students have the opportunity to engage in targeted practice with limited teacher involvement. 

Kudos to the Department for their effort to recognize the best in educational technology and to utilize it to ensure opportunities for all students.

Georgia Considers A New Approach to Post-Secondary Readiness

Education Week is reporting that the Georgia Board of Education is considering a major overhaul of its high school curriculum.  Under the new plan, students would opt for certain career clusters and would take classes that align with their chosen career path.  This represents a significant departure from Georgia’s single track system where each student takes the same set of core curriculum courses.  Here’s more:

It’s part of a campaign promise by current state schools chief John Barge, who said the state was forcing some students to drop out of school because they are frustrated with classes they don’t find relevant to what they want to do after high school. And students should be thinking about their careers before they head off to a pricey four-year university or get stuck in a job they end up hating, he said.

“We can do a much better job preparing students for post-secondary,” Barge said. “Any parent will tell you that college is the most expensive career development.”

The Board is set to decide sometime this fall.

Changing the Equation

We’ve written before on Change the Equation, a non-profit, CEO-driven organization dedicated to addressing our innovation problem and committed to driving  “the U.S. to the top of the pack in science and math education over the next decade”.  Good thing too.  Only 43 percent of U.S. graduates in 2010 were prepared for college work in math.  And Scholastic’s Math Hub reports on a new study from the Gates Foundation and Harris Interactive noting that many students report feeling unprepared for college courses in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) areas.  That’s too bad, because as Math Hub documents, the US will have over 1.2 million jobs in STEM related fields by 2018.

We applaud the recent work of the Obama administration, and organizations like Change the Equation, for their efforts to prepare students for careers in math, science, and technology.  But parents will have to do their part as well.  It’s critical that parents foster an appreciation of math and science in their children.  The effort to keep students engaged in year round learning starts at home.  As Malbert Smith recently wrote:

What we really need is for parents to create an environment at home that supports academic achievement.  To accomplish this shift in parental expectations and involvement, we will need to conduct a comprehensive and concerted campaign of education and support of parents.  Through PTAs, PSAs, teacher conferences, pediatrician visits, community meetings, library sessions, and many other outlets, we need a crisp message for parents on what they can do to promote their child’s achievement.  The critical importance of school attendance, of devoting space and time at the home for homework,  of turning off the TV and reading, and the use of public libraries, to name just a few, all need to be part of the message.

Those are just basic steps, of course.  It’s our hope that schools and districts will do more to increase instructional time and work to keep students engaged in math activity even over the summer months.  Parents will have to do their part as well by attending to their children’s work and ensuring that their children have the opportunity to complete their assignments. 

STEM related occupations are one of the fastest growing career clusters.  For the U.S. to remain competitive, it’s vital that schools and districts bolster their focus in mathematics and science and that students embrace STEM disciplines as the gateway to college and career readiness.

Feeling the Pressure: Getting Parents Involved in Education

A recent Pew Research study reports that two-thirds of the American public think parents are not putting enough “pressure” on their children to study hard.  Over 20 countries were surveyed and the U.S. is more likely than any other country to report that we were not putting enough pressure on our students.  Interestingly, China was almost the complete opposite in reporting the belief that they put too much pressure on students (68%).  As a country we are starting to recognize the important role that parents play in shaping and promoting their children’s educational achievement.  In fact, this same survey indicated that, in 2006, 56% of the US public thought parents were not putting enough pressure on their children.  In five years the trend has increased by 8 percentage points.

Years ago, Susan Hall and Louisa Moats wrote Straight Talk About Reading, in which they argued for conceiving of literacy achievement as a shared responsibility.  If we are going to compete with other countries and have every child graduate from high school prepared for the rigors of college and career, parents will have to play a larger and vital role in supporting their children’s educational attainment.  My belief is that all parents want to be good parents and want a better future for their children.  While it is fairly easy for some parents to get involved in their child’s education, many parents, especially our low income parents, have trouble figuring out how to be involved.  Due to time constraints and perhaps their own lack of educational success, they become passive observers instead of active participants in their child’s education.

As we think about this latest Pew Research, educators and policy makers need to think through how we can best enlist and encourage active parental involvement.  “Pressure” is not what we really need.  For most of us pressure has a negative and stressful connotation (see, for example, these common meanings for the word ‘pressure’). What we really need is for parents to create an environment at home that supports academic achievement.  To accomplish this shift in parental expectations and involvement, we will need to conduct a comprehensive and concerted campaign of education and support of parents.  Through PTAs, PSAs, teacher conferences, pediatrician visits, community meetings, library sessions, and many other outlets, we need a crisp message for parents on what they can do to promote their child’s achievement.  The critical importance of school attendance, of devoting space and time at the home for homework,  of turning off the TV and reading, and the use of public libraries, to name just a few, all need to be part of the message.

It is also incumbent upon educators to build or introduce parent friendly tools and resources for parents to use with their children.  Here at MetaMetrics we’ve attempted to do just that with tools like ‘Find a Book’ and Math at Home.  ‘Find a Book’ allows parents and students to match themselves to book of interest at their own individual reading level.  Built around research demonstrating both the importance of targeting readers at the right level and of allowing students to self-select their own reading material, ‘Find a Book’ allows users to indicate their Lexile reading level as well as the topics on which they prefer to read.  Students can then select titles of interest within their own reading range and create book lists to print or save.  Best of all, ‘Find a Book’ links up with public libraries, allowing students and parents to immediately see which books on their list are available through the public library, as well as the closest branches that carry those titles.  ‘Find a Book’ is free to use.  Check it out here.

Math at Home functions in a similar way.  Based on the Quantile Framework for Mathematics, Math at Home allows students to select free, targeted math resources to help augment their textbook lessons.  Like ‘Find a Book’, Math at Home is built around the idea of targeting students at the right mathematical level.  Parents or students simply select the textbook lesson(s) they wish to supplment and they are immediately presented with a range of resoruces targeted to the individual student’s level.  Users can then create multiple resource lists for use over the summer or all year long.  Math at Home is also free to use and available here.

It’s our hope that an increasing number of parents will elect to be involved in their children’s education and that educators will welcome participation from enthusiastic and caring parents.  We also hope to see more tools and resources available that help supplement and codify the lessons learned in the classroom, tools that families can use as a way to prepare students for life after graduation.

Todays Discoveries Aid Tomorrow’s Understandings!

According to eSchools News, a study released by the University of Missouri suggests that students beginning first grade with a good understanding of number lines and basic math facts were more successful in math skills over the next five years. This should be no surprise – just as building a house on a strong foundation makes for a stronger home, building new math skills on a strong foundation of math knowledge makes for a more robust understanding.  These recent findings also suggest that teaching ‘a mile wide and an inch deep’ may not fully develop a conceptual understanding of key math concepts. Young students need a lot of modeling, time, and a variety of experiences to practice math skills for true understanding.

One way to help develop these skills at an early age is to incorporate the Quantile Framework for Mathematics in specific math lessons. Utilizing the Framework allows teachers to determine which prerequisite skills are necessary for success with a particular math skill or concept, allowing educators to target struggling math students with the appropriate prerequisite skill.  For example, if a third grade student is working on estimation for sums and differences with whole numbers he/she must first be able to:

  • Make reasonable estimates of the number of objects.
  • Subtract 2- and 3-digit numbers with regrouping.
  • Round whole numbers to a given place value.

These prerequisite skills are necessary for students to understand before they are able to extend to estimation skills when they add and subtract whole numbers.

And the Quantile Framework allows teachers to go even lower: if a student is having trouble making reasonable estimates of the number of objects the knowledge cluster for this skill may indicate that he or she is having trouble with:

  • Use counting strategies for totals to 100 that include counting forward, counting backwards, grouping, ten frames, and hundred charts.

The Quantile Framework allows for the possibility of identifying areas where students are deficient.  Furthermore, for educators looking to differentiate math instruction, the Quantile Framework can serve as a valuable classroom resource by helping teachers target lessons to the needs of the students. Additionally, the Quantile Framework is linked to a variety of free tools and resources that – in addition to providing tools for task analysis – provide access to a host of free targeted resources, including worksheets, online tutorials, videos, websites, literature guides, and classroom activities. 

As we enter the new school year (and as many students are suffering the effects of summer slide), be sure to check out the Quantile Framework as a way to help struggling math students.

LibraryThing: Now with Lexile Measures

We announced last week that we have partnered with LibraryThing, the popular online cataloging and social networking site for book lovers, to offer Lexile measures on both LibraryThing.com and LibraryThing for Libraries.

LibraryThing, often described as “MySpace for books”, connects people with recommended books, allows them to share reading recommendations, and offers suggestions for which books to read next. LibraryThing for Libraries is used in libraries with existing Open Public Access Catalog (OPAC) systems, allowing library users to access much of the content generated by LibraryThing users. Lexile measures will now be available for books listed in the catalog and in the OPAC system.

LibraryThing users appreciate the unique value that Lexile measures offer in providing them with more information on the complexity of a title and in helping inform their decision about the right books to read.  MetaMetrics is thrilled to be a part of a social network applied to the world of reading.

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.