Lexile x Dress Head Tank Top – Scalloped Hemmed / Bright Yellow

This lexile x dress head womens tank top – scalloped hemmed / bright yellow comes in a plethora of colors – fifteen different shades of the rainbow! The sheer material makes it perfect for layering, and the scalloped edges mean that the shirt can be worn with just about anything and fit the occasion. It can be worn with a blazer for a more professional look, or it can be layered with another scalloped edged tank, a normal tank underneath, or with a half-shirt over the top. It can be worn on a night out, a day at the park, a day at work, or a day at the mall. There are so many occasions that this shirt can fit with! You can buy all the colors and mix and match them on a daily basis. For the small (S) size of this lexile x dress head womens tank top – scalloped hemmed / bright yellow, the measurements are: the dress length is 60 cm; the chest circumference is 84 cm; the hem circumference is 88 cm.

Maintaining Student Interest in STEM-based Career Paths

According to a recent article in EdWeek, among 2013 high school Seniors, there has been a 21% increase in interest in STEM-related careers, as compared to 2004.   The most significant differences were by gender. Among 2013 seniors who were interested in STEM careers, 38% were males compared with only 15% who were female.  Unfortunately, surveys of students in future graduating classes indicated an even wider gap between genders.

The most disturbing element of the recent report is the outcome of the surveys of high school Freshmen. Of those students who reported interest in STEM-based careers as freshmen, approximately 57% lose their interest in fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  The federal government estimates that there will be around 8.7 million positions within STEM-related fields, as compared to the 7.4 million positions that currently exist.  In order to meet the demands of the future, it is vital that our educational system maintains and enhances student interest in the sciences, technology, and mathematics throughout their high school career. If students are expressing an interest in these areas early in their high school career, it is certainly an indication that such interest should be sustained and encouraged by their teachers and administrators.

As a mathematics educator, I am pleased to see the budding enthusiasm of high school students for STEM related areas. The challenge now is how best to encourage, support, maintain, and enhance their studies in the sciences to preserve that zeal and excitement and to ready those same students to develop their potential for success in college and STEM based careers.

The Bell Curve and the Virtue of Fidelity

Recently, I have been reflecting upon the work of Atul Gawande.  Gawande is a physician by training, but is also the well-known author of The Checklist Manifesto and Complications, both which deal primarily with topics and trends in medicine.   In 2004, Gawande published an important article, “The Bell Curve”, in the New Yorker.  While educators and researchers in the social sciences often use the term “bell curve” the term is used less frequently by physicians or those in the medical field.    Gawande’s observations and findings cut across disciplines, however, and are just as applicable to the world of education as they are to medicine.

In “The Bell Curve”, Gawande describes the medical community’s efforts to successfully treat cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease which thickens the body’s secretions and slowly fills the lung’s airways with hardened mucous, leaving those afflicted with severely reduced lung capacity – effectively smothering the ill from the inside out.  In 1966, the average life expectancy for a child with cystic fibrosis was 10 years.  Fortunately, we have made great strides over the last few decades; continuing research and enhanced treatment methods have increased life expectancy to 33 years.

Still, each year about 1,000 American children are diagnosed with the disease and there are now 117 treatment centers in our country.   To qualify as a treatment center, each center must undergo rigorous certification, follow the same standardized guidelines for treatment, and become ultra-specialized.  Each center must implement the same specialized treatment protocol.

Based on the fact that cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease and that all treatment centers are certified and follow same treatment protocols, one would surmise that most of the treatment centers have the same success rate in treating the disease.  Said differently, one would not expect average life expectancy to differ significantly across treatment centers.  That assumption is incorrect.  And I was stunned to learn that, in terms of average life expectancy, the success of the treatment centers is represented as a bell shaped curve.

How can that be?  How can a genetic disease that has a standardized treatment protocol have a health care outcome that looks like a bell shaped curve?    As the article makes clear, success is a product of aggressive implementation, or what I would label “treatment fidelity”.  The best performing centers did not passively implement the treatment protocols.  Instead, they were maniacally focused on implementing each and every component of the treatment, aiming at 100% fidelity in each and every visit with each patient.  Site visits revealed that success takes more than the knowledge and skills to succeed.  As Gawande makes distressingly clear, “even doctors with great knowledge and technical skills can have mediocre results”.

Now think of the profound implications the treatment of cystic fibrosis has for education.  If a genetic disease that has an agreed upon treatment protocol and is delivered by 117 certified treatment centers is subject to a bell shape distribution due to “fidelity of treatment”, then is it any wonder that we have uneven outcomes in reading and math achievement  across the 100,000+ schools around the US?   Like the treatment of cystic fibrosis, when it comes to the teaching of reading and math skills it is not a matter of how we do it, but how well we do it.  Passionate and unwavering fidelity of treatment would be a big step in ensuring that students continue to climb the ladder toward college and career readiness.  Lessons, like those found in ‘The Bell Curve’, resonate as we look toward education policy and should shape how we think about the educational outcomes across schools, districts, and states.

An Inspiring Reminder

We’ve long-known that, despite socioeconomic differences, all students have the ability to learn and often proceed at the same rate of growth in reading and math during the academic year.  Unfortunately, there are a number of factors – language learning differences,  summer learning loss, lack of differentiation – that can stall or derail a student’s learning progress.  With intensive remediation or intervention, however, most students have the ability to catch back up with their peers, to regain a foothold on the trajectory toward college and career readiness.  For all of us that work in education, this story offers an inspiring reminder on the importance of targeting each and every student and on each student’s tremendous capacity to learn, despite a host of disadvantages and diverse backgrounds.

Readcycling

There’s a new trend in the world of libraries: the miniature library, DIY reading rooms, and other micro book depots. Built around the idea of readcycling, these miniature libraries offer new methods for obtaining books. The micro library’s system is simple: take a book, return a book. This recycling of books is the foundation to hundreds of “little, free libraries” that exist all over the world—from the streets of New York to the malls and residential areas of Sweden.

Micro libraries can take many forms; old phone booths, miniature houses, and a number of other novel (pardon the pun) constructions. The Book Booth, pictured by the Department of Urban Betterment,is especially popular. Phone booths, no longer relevant for their intended use, offer an ideal micro library for urban areas, such as New York City, where there is an abundance of empty booths. In Sweden there is a book equivalent to Red Box, the well-liked movie rental system in America, called the Bokomaten.  Bokomatens are book-filled, automated machines with the capacity to handle book loans and returns.

Popping up in communities all over the world, micro libraries and readcycling makes books easily accessible. Check out The Atlantic and get the full scoop on micro libraries.

The Shadow Scholar

We wrote a while back on ‘The Shadow Scholar’, a piece by academic mercenary, Ed Dante (a pseudonym) detailing his career as a ghost writer for hire:

I’ve gotten pretty good at interpreting this kind of correspondence. The client had attached a document from her professor with details about the paper. She needed the first section in a week. Seventy-five pages.

I told her no problem.

It truly was no problem. In the past year, I’ve written roughly 5,000 pages of scholarly literature, most on very tight deadlines. But you won’t find my name on a single paper…

I’ve written toward a master’s degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in sociology, and a handful of postgraduate credits in international diplomacy. I’ve worked on bachelor’s degrees in hospitality, business administration, and accounting. I’ve written for courses in history, cinema, labor relations, pharmacology, theology, sports management, maritime security, airline services, sustainability, municipal budgeting, marketing, philosophy, ethics, Eastern religion, postmodern architecture, anthropology, literature, and public administration. I’ve attended three dozen online universities. I’ve completed 12 graduate theses of 50 pages or more. All for someone else.

You’ve never heard of me, but there’s a good chance that you’ve read some of my work.

This article in Big Think finds interest in Dante’s admission that he’s been able to write on such a wide range of topics without ever setting foot in a library:

I haven’t been to a library once since I started doing this job. Amazon is quite generous about free samples. If I can find a single page from a particular text, I can cobble that into a report, deducing what I don’t know from customer reviews and publisher blurbs. Google Scholar is a great source for material, providing the abstract of nearly any journal article. And of course, there’s Wikipedia, which is often my first stop when dealing with unfamiliar subjects. Naturally one must verify such material elsewhere, but I’ve taken hundreds of crash courses this way.”

The ease by which Dante is able to access large chunks of information and write a passable essay or thesis raises the question of how much of what students write is actually their own.  As Dante argues, accessing a few major sites is all he needs to write a convincing essay – an essay that presumably is able to fool professors, advisers, and committees.  As the Big Think articles makes clear, such easy access to a wide and deep trough of materials means a shift in the way students research and access information.  Research – a process that traditionally involved becoming intimately familiar with the material in question – no longer need involve long nights in the library or months of reading on a specific topic.  Now, just a well executed search is enough to cobble together the bits and pieces necessary to present a well-written and coherent academic paper.  That changes the nature of research altogether.  And while it becomes faster, more convenient, and certainly more efficient, it also makes it less protracted, less involved, less painstaking.  That efficiency comes with a price.  The student-writer is apt to be, well, less of a writer and more of an aggregator, less attuned to the nuances of their chosen topic, less of an expert.

The Shadow Scholar has supposedly induced much hand-wringing among scholarly types and confirmed what many in academia have long-suspected: that many of their students – those students that as Dante points out, are barely able to form a coherent verbal sentence yet turn in a well-written, cogent piece of academic work – are routinely cheating, are passing off a lot of work that is not their own.  Technology has tried to keep up.  There are a menu of programs that promise to detect plagiarism.  But it’s doubtful those programs can keep up with the massive amount of new information that is constantly being added to the web.  As the Big Think articles makes clear, this may mean a return to alternative forms of assessment – like group projects or oral exams.  That’s too bad.  Examining a student’s writing as a window into what they know and have internalized has always been a useful way of assessing knowledge.  That assessment means less when writing is a more of a social process and has little to do with what an individual student has learned.

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.

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.

Extending Instruction Beyond the Classroom

There’s plenty of research to support the notion that extended instructional time leads to improved academic performance.  U.S. students are in school quite a few days less than their international peers – and it shows;  in the 2006 administration of the PISA, U.S. students ranked 19th in reading, losing two points from the previous administration.  Extending instructional time need not necessarily mean more time in a physical classroom, though that is certainly one way.  Keeping students engaged with targeted reading material over academic breaks, including summer vacation, is one way to facilitate learning year-round.  A primary objection to extending learning time has been that doing so is cost-prohibitive and that far too few schools can afford the per student cost of doing so.  But technology offers solutions here as well.  Technology has provided learning platforms that allow for instruction and practice to continue beyond the walls of the classroom.  In fact, technology has removed some of the previous administrative barriers that required teachers to monitor to each student’s performance.  Instead, learning systems can now monitor and adapt to student performance, requiring minimal teacher administration.

In this Educational Leadership article (subscription required), Chris Gabrieli argues that blended or hybrid instruction is a promising way to increase instructional time while keeping costs relatively low.  Plus, digital solutions have the added benefit of offering individualized instruction allowing students to progress at their own pace:

Students might take radically different amounts of time to reach mastery, shattering our current notions of grade level, and they could learn in and out of school – anywhere they can connect their personal computer, tablet, or smartphone

Our own A Learning Oasis offers a good example of one such solution.  A Learning Oasis blends assessment and instruction and facilitates deliberate practice by providing targeted text (mostly informational) at each student’s Lexile level, as well as targeted writing practice.  Built on well established principles of what it takes to move to expertise, A Learning Oasis offers online, always-on access, allowing for a full range of implementations to be built around the platform.

As school districts across the nation struggle with budget cuts and reduced staff, it’s our hope that digital solutions will offer a way to keep students engaged in the instructional process past the end of the school day and all year long.

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.