Text Complexity Takes Hold

Given the Common Core’s emphasis on text complexity, an increasing number of educators are paying more attention to the complexity of the texts they assign.  Here at MetaMetrics, our focus has always been on understanding the relationship between the reader and the text and utilizing a common metric (Lexile) to characterize that relationship.  That’s why we’re so excited to make two related announcements: first, over 100,000 users have registered to use our free, publicly available Lexile Analyzer tool.  This tool allows users to analyze the complexity of small bits of texts to obtain a Lexile measure.  We’re thrilled to see that so many educators are focused on the complexity various pieces of text and are utilizing this wonderful tool.  If you have not yet tried this tool, click here to register and start using.

On a related note, we’re also happy to announce that 50 new publishers adopted the Lexile measure in 2011.  With the recent shift from proficiency to college and career readiness, school districts around the country are focusing on what it means to be college and career ready, specifically what it means to graduate prepared to read college level text.  With all the recent emphasis on college and career readiness, it is vital that students be introduced to increasingly sophisticated levels of complex texts.  Which is why it’s refreshing to see so many new publishers begin to recognize the significance of text complexity.  These new publishers add to a growing roster of hundreds of publishers that now routinely measure their books using Lexile measures.  Some of these new publishers include American Girl, Black Rabbit Books, Medallion Press, Nomad Press, and many, many more.  To all of our new publisher partners, welcome aboard.

It’s the Teachers

A recent edition of Science Magazine published a thought-provoling piece on our education system called “It’s the Teachers.” (subscription required)  Written by John E. Burris, president of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, this editorial contributes to the ongoing conversation on international education trends. Considering the results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, Burris looks to Finland for the distinguishing characteristics that account for its success: 

So why exactly is Finland so special?  One answer may be Finland’s emphasis on high-quality teachers and high standards. Burris writes, “As Finland has shown, the answer to the problem that beleaguers many nations is a straightforward commitment to both value and trust the most important part of any successful educational system—the teacher.”  For example, only 1 in 10 applicants are accepted into teacher training programs in Finland; furthermore, teachers must have advanced degrees to be considered for the teaching profession.  In the U.S, by contrast, Burris argues that teacher training leaves much to be desired, educators often teach to standardized assessments, and teachers often find a pervasive lack of respect given to their chosen profession.

And Burris goes on to argue for a host of critical reforms to help improve our educational performance.

Read the whole thing.

Policy Brief: Achieving Success in Mathematics

MetaMetrics recently released a policy brief on the mathematical education issues now facing our nation’s students.  Written by MetaMetrics President and Co-founder Malbert Smith, and Director of Professional Development,  Jason Turner,  A Mathematical Problem: How to Help Students Achieve Success in Mathematics Through College and Beyond examines what it means to be college and career ready in mathematics and the dire consequences of being unprepared for the mathematical demands of life after high school:

Many U.S. students graduate unprepared for the challenges they will likely face in college and careers. This unpreparedness not only portends significant academic challenges, but increasingly dire consequences at both the individual- and macro-economic levels. At the individual level, students may find themselves unable to compete academically and miss out on employment opportunities in some of today’s fastest growing career sectors. At the macro level, poor mathematics performance suggests an alarming outlook for our country’s competitiveness in the international arena.

We encourage you to read this policy brief as it details more than just the problems we face — Smith and Turner also discuss the solution. The Common Core State Standards provide a map for getting students college-and-career-ready. Forty-seven states already adopted these standards. The next phase is implementation. How will educators apply the Common Core State Standards in the classroom? Smith and Turner discuss the wealth of free resources available at http://www.quantiles.com/, one such resource is Math@Home. We welcome you to explore The Quantile Framework for Mathematics and learn about all the online tools it has to offer.

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!

America’s Report Card: Quality Counts 2012

On January 12th, 2012 Education Week released the annual Quality Counts grade report for all 50 states and D.C. Our nation averaged a C. The Quality Counts report card grades on six distinct areas of policy and performance.  Unfortunately, with so much recent discussion focused on comparing US students to their international peers, this latest news does not bode well. 

Alarmingly, almost half of the states received a grade of C or lower. Maryland received an overall grade of a B+. This is the fourth consecutive year that Maryland is the top-ranked state. Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia each earned a B average.

One explanation for these disappointing results may be found in the Quality Counts 2012 Press Release, The teaching profession grade is comprised of 44 individual state indicators. Arkansas and South Carolina received B+ averages—the highest grades awarded. The District of Columbia and four states received D- averages. Overall, the U.S. received a C average.

We encourage you to check out the Quality Counts 2012 Press Release for details on the national report card. This Press Release is an informative report on the grades issued for all 50 states and D.C. Find your state’s grade and national rank on the “Grading Summary” Table on page 5.

To Read or Not to Read…

That is NOT the question according to Walter Dean Myers, the newly appointed National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. During his two-year ambassadorship, Myers will promote the theme: Reading Is Not Optional. We could not agree more.  Furthermore, we could not be happier that Myers has been designated the nation’s third Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Authoring the bestseller “Monster,” a 30 year career in literature, and a hundred titles make up Myers’ impressive and extensive resume.

With Myers leading the fight against illteracy, we are looking forward to a promising two years.  In NPR’s David Greene’s interview with Myers, Myers passion for reading and educating America’s youth shines through: “I visit juvenile prisons a lot,” states Myers, “and I’m appalled at the reading levels…in New York State only 40 percent of kids in the eighth grade are reading proficient.” Taking his analysis a step further, Myers emphasizes just how problematic America’s education gap is, “that’s 40 percent of the white kids. Black kids, it’s down to about 15 percent.” 

In this interview Myers gets specific with his plans for the “Reading Is Not Optional” movement: He will strive to make sure every kid born within the next two years is read to; his objective is to reach every child in America, to set up mentoring groups targeting communities’ youth population, and to get everyone reading.  Myers believes early exposure to reading and youth mentor groups will make a difference in this country.

Thrilled about the “Reading Is Not Optional” campaign, we are elated Myers has been appointed the U.S. Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. We recommend reading NPR’s transcript at To Do Well in Life, You Have to ‘Read Well’ for Greene’s complete interview with Myers. Our congratulations to the newly appointed ambassador; Myers was sworn-in at the Library of Congress on January 10th, 2012.

U.S. Education: A Fallen Champion

In the academic race, we once reigned supreme. Now chasing the coattails of other countries, America currently ranks 15th, 23rd and 31st in reading, science and math respectively. In a CNN primetime special, Restoring the American Dream: Fixing Education, Fareed Zakaria investigates our failing education system.

Zakaria discusses just how lacking the current state of US education is by illuminating the successful attributes of current leading academic systems—South Korea and Finland. In South Korea the school day lasts from eight a.m. to four p.m. Their academic calendar consists of two hundred and five school days. This scheduling provides South Korean students with almost two more years of schooling than American students receive in their academic career.

In contrast, Finland finds that success begins and ends with their teachers. When teaching is a greatly respected and desired profession, as is the case in Finland, teachers are held to a higher standard and a higher quality of teaching results. Focusing on this latter aspect, Zakaria discusses the quality of teachers in America with Bill Gates.

“If I was in charge of a school district, it [education structure reform] would be about hiring the best teachers,” states Bill Gates.  Proud receiver of a three-year grant on the efficacy of personalized learning platforms from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, MetaMetrics aligns with Gates’ call of action to improve teaching. In this CNN interview Gates continues, “One study says that if students had a top teacher for four years straight, the achievement gap between blacks and whites would disappear.”

 Gates’ makes a compelling argument that the cultivation of great teaching is undeniably necessary for the United States to regain leadership in the academic world. We applaud The Gates Foundation and their colossal efforts in fixing education.

Improving teaching is just one highlight of Restoring the American Dream: Fixing Education. An informative broadcast; we encourage everyone to check out this CNN Special as Zakaria sheds light on America’s current education state and reformation process.

Helping More Readers Read More

We’re always excited about anything that gets students reading more.  That’s why we were so pleased to see this recent write-up, in Publishers Weekly, reporting that Capstone Digital now has over 700,000 students reading through myOn.  MyOn provides students with access to thousands of digital titles targeted to their own individual reading level (based on their Lexile measure) and interest.  Best of all, because myOn has embedded an assessment into the reading experience, students are continually provided new titles as their reading level grows.  And because myOn is available online, students are assured always-on access; meaning they are not limited to reading only while on campus.  And interest continues to grow:

Since its launch, myOn has helped increase the circulation of digital titles. In communities like Charleston, S.C., which has adopted the platform, the library circulation for digital books was more than 30 times that for print books. Said Brekhus, “Making the books accessible anytime, anywhere allowed children to read more books digitally than they had access to in print.”

Congratulations to Capstone on achieving so much in such a short period of time.  We’re proud to partner with an organization so dedicated to getting more students reading everywhere.

Continuing the Race to the Top

According to this New York Times article, Arne Duncan announced that nearly $200 million dollars in education grants has been awarded to several states that narrowly missed out on the Race to Top funds distributed last year.  Congratulations are due to Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana and Kentucky.  As the Times reports, “The states were awarded the grants to improve student achievement with plans that include developing teacher and principal evaluation systems and expanding studies in science, technology, engineering and math.”

It’s great to see these seven states join the other fourteen that have already received Race to the Top funds. In a time when state officials are faced with the challenge of improving student achievement while reducing state education spending, it’s encouraging to see the availability of these federal funds being utilized, particularly with an emphasis toward STEM education.

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.