Research Grants Offered to Educational Institutions or Researchers that Evaluate and/or Interpret EFL Reading Comprehension

In partnership with the British Council Assessment Research Group, we invite applications for research which will contribute to our understanding of the construct of EFL reading comprehension and reading comprehension assessment.

The aim of the grants is to build insights into the interaction between features of text and reading tasks that impact comprehension and can inform teaching, learning, assessment and evaluation. These grants will support researchers around the world so they can conduct and disseminate the highest quality research. Two areas of interest have been identified for these grants, reading comprehension and growth in reading comprehension over time.

For more information on the grant proposals and how to apply, visit lexile.com/research-and-publications/grant-opportunities/.

Unveiling the New UK Lexile Map!

Ukgraphic

We are pleased to announce that the Lexile® Map has been customized for our UK audience. The new UK version of the Lexile Map is now available to download at http://cdn.lexile.com/cms_page_media/135/UK_Lexile_Map.pdf. Mindful of the growing requests for a printable classroom resource from UK educators, MetaMetrics®, developer of the widely adopted Lexile® Framework for Reading, decided to update the popular American Lexile Map.

MetaMetrics constructed the UK Lexile map with specific intentions. These focus points include 1) the ability to easily print by adjusting the map’s layout to A3 format; 2) customizing sample titles so that the titles were popular titles that were available in the UK; and 3) illustrating the developmental nature of the Lexile Framework for Reading to UK audience. A team was assembled to develop a map that met these goals.

MetaMetrics’ International Team consulted with established education experts in the UK to best tailor the Lexile map to UK classroom needs. Todd Sandvik, Senior Vice President of Global Services, and Jackson Stenner, Manager of Global Services, helmed the initiative. Their efforts included a rigorous selection process for the new titles. Titles were identified from several popular reading lists, including, Amazon UK bestsellers and the World Book Day’s surveyBooks That Every Child Should Read by 16. Selected titles ranged from 200L for early reading books to 1600L for more advanced texts. In addition to providing over 100 popular books at various points on the Lexile scale, the UK map also displays three exemplar texts. These three exemplar texts are excerpted passages from titles measured at the 400L, 900L and 1300L reading levels.

Many schools throughout the United States utilize the print-friendly Lexile Map to post in classrooms and libraries. Teachers, librarians and students can use the UK Lexile Map as a quick reference guide for what a Lexile measure means. Once you know a student’s Lexile measure, you can use the Lexile map to get a sense of his or her reading level in terms of books he or she has encountered.

UKmap

Looking to Finland

Here’s a recent USA Today editorial offering a useful reminder on the importance of continuing to look outside our borders for inspiration.  As the editorial reports, the U.S. ranks a dismal 32rd in math achievement, which does not bode well for a future in which many of the new jobs over the next two decades will be found in science, engineering, and technology – fields that require extensive math education.  Education reformers would do well to take notice of Finland’s extensive efforts at education reform:

Finnish schools frequently employ a second teacher in the classroom to focus on the struggling students. This allows those students to get specialized attention while remaining in the same class as their peers.

Most remarkably, Finland appears to have solved the problem of teacher burnout that plagues our system. In the USA, roughly half of all new teachers quit in their first five years. Too many of those remaining lose their passion for the profession but are almost impossible to fire.

Finland avoids this by getting the best teachers and giving them tools they need to thrive. It subsidizes the education of would-be teachers, helping to attract bright students who can begin their careers debt-free. It then puts them through a battery of tests, training seminars and internships to make sure that they are ready before they step into the classroom.

Finland’s restructuring of their education system has been both comprehensive and dramatic.  But they must be getting something right.  And their effort to ensure the recruitment (and retention) of quality classroom teachers appears to be paying dividends.  A host of organizations are currently wrestling with the most effective classroom and systemic reforms.  Here’s hoping that teacher quality remains an essential element of any serious reform effort.

Engaging English: A Targeted Way to Learn English

As school lets out for the summer, many high school graduates find themselves looking forward not only to their summer vacation, but also to entering a college or university in the fall.  However, as Dan Levin of the NY Times points out, for some upcoming freshman, their acceptance is the result of hours of preparation in addition to a significant financial investment.  This is especially true for international students.

With China sending more students to American colleges than any other country, the competition for spots at the top schools has soared… [And] as a record number of students from outside the United States compete for a limited number of spots at the most selective American colleges, companies…are seeking to profit from their ambitions.

Parents in China enroll their children in programs that offer a money-back guarantee of university acceptance (the money back amounting to upwards of$15,000).  These companies work with students starting as early as their freshman year of high school and “design extracurricular activities for the students; guide them in essay writing; tutor them for the SAT…and train them for the Test of English as a Foreign Language [TOEFL exam]….Often [students] have poor English language skills and have done little with their free time beyond homework.  Yet their parents often demand the Ivy League.”

 As students work with these companies to improve their college applications they often also turn to a variety of web-based products in an effort to improve their English language skills. Our own  EngagingEnglish.com is an example of a supplemental resource for students seeking to improve their English reading skill.  This online service provides targeted reading by matching readers to appropriately difficult texts, based on the Lexile Framework for Reading  and their selected interests.  Engaging English also provides immediate feedback and tracks users’ progress – motivating continued achievement.   Look for the new version available in early July with enhanced features and improvements.

Increasing Instructional Time

Much has been recently written on the PISA(Program for International Student Assessment) test results, which were released last month.  PISA is distributed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (based in Paris) to 15 year old students in most industrialized nations.   As The New York Times reports, students in Shanghai ranked first by a substantial margin, while “the United States came in 23rd or 24th in most subjects.”

This is disappointing news.  As President Obama recently stated, whoever “out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow.”  If the PISA test is any indication of our current standing in the global education sphere, we have cause for concern.  Thomas Friedman of the NY Times claims that we have “been getting out-educated” for years and asserts that the only way to bring students in line with international standards is through reform.  He’s not alone in calling for drastic change.  Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan says:

Incremental change isn’t going to get us where we need to go.  We’ve got to be much more ambitious.  We’ve got to be disruptive.  You can’t keep doing the same stuff and expect different results.

The good news is that some of that change is already occurring.  A recent Newsweek article highlighted a network of schools that, since its inception, has been embracing change and seeing results.  We’ve mentioned  KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools in the past and commented on their approach to education, particularly their focus on extending the school day and abandoning traditional school calendars by requiring summer school programs for all students. 

We’ve long advocated mitigating the well-documented effects of summer learning loss by adding instructional time to the school year.  Our own Dr. Malbert Smith has written on the consequences of our current traditional calendar, which limits educational time to far too few hours a year. 

Our own contribution to the crippling effects of summer learning loss is to provide educators and students with access to educational resources year round.  Find a Book, for example, allows students to match themselves to targeted texts within their areas of interest.  On the math side, Math at Home allows parents and students to select targeted math resources based on the textbook in which they’re currently working.  If you have not yet used them with your student, be sure to give them a try.

Reading Across Boundaries: The Lexile Framework for Reading for All Students

In an increasingly globalized world national borders mean less than before.  Boundaries have grown more porous and the offerings of each nation’s popular culture have found eager consumers in other countries.  Consumers have shown their taste to be  cosmopolitan and have proven hungry for all flavors international.  Americans, on the other hand have remained largely indifferent to trends outside their own borders, preferring instead to stick to their own homegrown literature, music, and movies.  As this New York Times article makes clear, Americans have traditionally resisted the pop culture of other nations.  But that may be changing:

Among foreign cultural institutes and publishers, the traditional American aversion to literature in translation is known as “the 3 percent problem.”  But now, hoping to increase their minuscule share of the American book market – about 3 percent – foreign governments and foundations, especially those on the margins of Europe, are taking matters into their own hands and plunging into the publishing fray in the United States.

While a few international writers have experienced commercial success, it has mostly been an uphill battle for recognition for writers outside the U.S.  The Internet, however, may finally be introducing a whole nation of readers to a host of newly-discovered writers.  There are currently several sites that specialize in literature translation.  Amazon offers AmazonCrossing which attempts to “introduce readers to emerging and established authors from around the world with translations of foreign language books, making award-winning and bestselling books accessible to many readers for the first time.”

One of the benefits to this effort is that foreign titles will now be available in English.  In addition to offering American readers exposure to an entire catalog of previously unknown gifted writers, foreign students may now have access to some of their favorite titles in English.  We’ve written before on the ascent of the English language.  English is now the predominant language of business and science, and students abroad assiduously study the English language as a way to prepare for their entrance exams.  One of the primary ways to do that, of course, is through the targeted and sustained reading of English. 

MetaMetrics has recently partnered with ETS, creator of the TOEFL Junior test, to provide just such a service for international students (starting with those in Korea) who wish to not only practice their reading, but to practice it at a targeted reading level.  According to MetaMetrics President Dr. Malbert Smith, “With Lexile measures and our new book search on the TOEFL Junior site, we are simplifying the process of matching students with books that can help them strengthen their English reading skills and achieve their goals.”  It’s our hope that the Lexile Framework for Reading will not only help American students improve their reading level, but also allow ELL students to improve their English ability through the use of Lexile-linked books and articles.

If you haven’t yet seen the new website and service, be sure to check it out.

Engaging English: Lowering the Barriers

As online learning courses continue to grow in popularity, many institutions of higher learning have begun to provide online degree programs for distance learners.  Even on-campus student populations now embrace online options.  According to this Education News article, public support of online learning is growing rapidly.  As the article points out, although public opinion is fairly static from one year to the next on most issues, in just one year (2009 to 2010) the public’s perception of the value of online learning has grown ten percentage points.

 In response to public demand, universities have steadily expanded their online course offerings to include a wide range of academic areas, notably foreign languages.  Many schools are now offering more hybrid courses, courses that provide a combination of online and classroom learning.  This uptick in hybrid courses has resulted in an increase of web-based products now available to support online learning.  According to the New York Times:

These days, online programs and CDs…are grabbing the interest of people attracted by their convenience and relatively low cost.  But more schools are offering their own online-only language courses as part of extension programs. (more…)

Room to Read: Ending Illiteracy Around the World

In today’s economic climate, it is rare to hear big banks and hedge fund groups described as “some of the most generous people”. But that is exactly how John Wood, founder and executive chairman of Room to Read, describes members of such groups like Goldman Sachs and Cardiff Swiss – groups that have helped fund this admirable literacy initiative.

 Wood, a former senior executive with Microsoft, was recently interviewed on CNN.com about his literacy venture. About 10 years ago, he visited rural Nepal and was astonished by the lack of reading material and access to educational materials. He saw an empty library that was responsible for serving over 500 students. A Nepalese headmaster told him, “We are too poor to afford education. But until we have education, we will always be poor.” This was the driving force behind his leaving Microsoft and starting Room to Read, a non-profit organization providing educational access to millions of children across the world. (more…)

Engaging English: Preparing for the Future

For the past 46 years the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) has been used to evaluate “the ability of nonnative English speakers to use and understand the English language as it is heard, spoken, read and written in the university classroom.”  This test is now the standard used by more than 7,500 colleges, universities and agencies in 130 countries.  Many students intending to study in the United States are required to complete this test in order to confirm their ability to function within an English-speaking environment. 

And it’s not just universities.  Some companies are taking the English proficiency requirement a step further.  The Wall Street Journal recently reported (subscription required for full access) that Rakuten, the Japanese rival to Amazon.com, has developed a plan requiring all business to be conducted in English by 2012.  This requirement goes far beyond an expectation of minimal proficiency.  Rakuten’s CEO, Hiroshi Mikitani, is requiring that all employees speak and correspond only in English.     Although the decision is not without controversy, many other Japanese based companies including Sony, Nissan Motor Fast Retailing Co., Mitsubishi Corp., and Nipon Sheet Glass Co. have already implemented similar policies.  (more…)

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.