Are You Writing Your Novel?

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo(http://nanowrimo.org/). NaNoWriMo, a nonprofit organization founded by Chris Baty in 1999, aims to encourage the creative writing dreams of people all over the world. The goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. That’s 1,667 words a day! Participants use the official NaNoWriMo website to track their progress. The website also provides participants with writing tips and notes of inspiration throughout the writing period. Everyone who reaches the goal of 50,000 words written by November 30th gets a certificate, and a prize such as free books or deep discounts on writing software.

NaNoWriMo does more than just provide a place for budding novelists to track their progress. The organization also sponsors writing programs in schools all over the world. According to their Website, there were 92,000 participants in their Young Writers Program last year. The organization provides classroom materials to help teachers include novel writing in the classroom.  More information can be found here.

Happy noveling!

-Kate Pringle

The Academic Importance of Productive Persistence

In an encouraging new study from the Noyce Foundation, Nancy Stano of the University of Texas – Austin, found that interventions targeting student’s beliefs and feelings have long term affects on academic achievement.  Stano found that certain student beliefs contributed to ‘productive persistence’ – a mindset characterized by an ability to look beyond short-term gains to higher order goals as well as the persistent ability to weather setbacks.

In particular, Stano found the following traits to comprise ‘productive persistence’:

  • Theory of Intelligence: students with a growth mindset, e.g. believed intelligence to be more malleable and that it develops in response to effort, were more likely to take on challenging tasks and more likely to demonstrate continuous improvement.
  • Self-Efficacy: as Stano points out, recent students have confirmed that student’s self-perceptions of their abilities are even better predictors of their ability than their actual abilities.  Students who conceive of themselves with a high degree of self-efficacy tend to take on new challenges and persist when those challenges prove difficult.
  • Attribution: attributions are the reasons students provide for their successes and failures.  Most people are able to provide a reason(s) for why they failed at a particular task.  But productively persistent students often cite an internal locus of control – citing internal reasons for their own successes and failures.  They rarely cite external factors over which they have little control.
  • Belongingness: as Stano writes, “When students believe that they are part of the academic community and are socially connected to their peers and teachers, they are more motivated, more engaged, and earn better grades”.  Strong ties to a particular community – and the lack of social isolation that many struggling students feel – are an important part of academic success.
  • Value and Interest: students, much like adults, are often unwilling to produce large degrees of effort if they perceive the outcome to be without value.  A vested interest in the outcome, however, is likely to produce a sustained and marked degree of effort.  Productively persistent students typically value academic achievement and see it tied to a larger good.
  • Goals: because productively persistent students value academics and see academic achievement as tied to future outcomes, they often set goals.  Furthermore, rather than discouraging them, goals serve as a positive incentive toward achievement.
  • Self-Regulation: self-regulation involves adopting habits of action that allow students to stay on task and avoid distractions. As Stano writes: “Productively persistent students practice healthy self-regulation habits being willing and able to recognize when they are having a problem, devising plans for solving their problems, and assessing the impact of their actions.”

Stanos’ findings offer reason for hope.  And she provides specific details about the types of implementations that have proven successful in developing productively persistent students, students much more likely to find academic success, despite their background or socioeconomic status.

Mobile App “Reading Leveler” Offers Lexile Measures

Dillinger LLC has partnered with MetaMetrics® to launch “Reading Leveler”, a mobile app for the iPhone and iPad.  “Reading Leveler” assists educators, parents, and students in identifying appropriate grade level material.  The mobile application can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store and consists of the following options:

  • Match your child, your student or yourself to books based on reading ability (Lexile® measure) and personal interests
  • Search for books by title, author’s last name, Lexile measure, or equivalent grade level
  • Browse through the entire Lexile titles database
  • View a title’s summary of information
  • Have quick access to Amazon and Barnes and Noble to purchase books
  • Calculate approximate Flesch-Kincaid Grade Levels for any piece of text (Type or speak a paragraph of text utilizing the iPhone’s SIRI function)
  • Search through a database of various book, articles, and texts leveled by other users

The Reading Leveler serves to help on two fronts: allow access to all of the titles that have a Lexile Measure and develop your own database of individual leveled pieces of text. The power of “Reading Leveler” connects readers with texts based on their personal interests and their reading ability (Lexile measure) to improve reading skills. The mobile application enables students, teachers, librarians and parents to find books within a reader’s recommended Lexile range: 100L below to 50L above his or her Lexile measure.

Be sure to check it out.

Looking to the West for Inspiration

Having been fortunate enough to visit a few of Asia’s most dominant economies in the last couple of years, I have been astounded by their drive for educational attainment. China is a shining example of how education has enabled millions of people every year to rise from near-poverty to join the burgeoning ranks of that country’s middle class. Making the grade means achieving a high score on the gaokao; a standardized test taken by about nine million Chinese students each June.
This Atlantic article does a nice job discussing the singular focus required to prepare for the test and how this myopic view has constrained the very economy it has fueled since 1986.  Despite students in Shanghai outperforming their peers around the world in math, science and reading, they struggle to demonstrate entrepreneurship and creativity. A recent report found that only 1.6% of Chinese college graduates started a business last year. This is a statistic that will have to change in order to reheat a cooling economy.
If you’re taking some solace in China’s plight and thinking that the US may enjoy this opportunity to bolster its own progress, think again. China and its neighbors are well aware of their educational systems shortcomings and working with the same feverish passion to correct their course. And, where will they look for examples of how to foster these new skills? Most likely, they’ll look west, specifically the US.  Despite the numerous reports of a failing US educational system, we are still a role model for entrepreneurship and creativity; a fact we should be proud of.

Shifting from Traditional Classrooms to Mobile Learning

As I browse through the latest in education news,  I can’t help but notice the number of articles and blogs touching on the growing interest of mobile device usage for classroom learning.

In a recent post by Edudemic, It was suggested that students who learn with their mobile devices can learn much faster than their peers and also may perform better on assessments. If this continues to be a trend, what a fantastic step forward this would be for classroom technology. But before we completely adopt the idea of mobile learning, I think it is important to think about some concerns associated with this notion.

Perhaps one of the largest concerns for equipping every student with a mobile device is the cost. In our time of economic uncertainty, this may not be feasible. A cost-effective alternative may be the idea of (BYOD) or “Bringing your own device” to school. While this may save on the cost for schools, BYOD may present another challenge, monitoring the student.

The amount of control a teacher has, or the ability to monitor how and for what purpose students are using their mobile devices for in the classroom is a great challenge.  If I’m allowed to bring my cellphone into the learning environment, who says I want to use it for learning? What’s to stop me from playing games or watching YouTube videos during a lecture? And what happens when students spend the entire lecture posting to Facebook or tweeting about how bored they are?

Schools and teachers need to have strict guidelines in place so that students can continue to learn while benefiting from advances in technology. Mobile devices can be amazing classroom tools for the future, but we need to have a concrete plan for effectively incorporating them into the classroom. If teachers cannot thoroughly monitor what each student is doing with his/her mobile device, maybe it is not always the best idea to use mobile devices for classroom lessons.

More College Graduates: A Rising Trend

It’s easy to get caught up in some of the negative media attention on the state of educational progress in the U.S.  But not all news is negative.  The Pew Research Center is reporting that a record number of students are finishing high school and completing college degrees.

In a survey of 25 to 29 year old citizens, the study found that 63 percent had completed some college and 33 percent hold at least a bachelor’s degree.  That’s good news and represents an uptick over the last few years.  In fact, the number of participants holding a bachelor’s degree represents a record number and is a huge increase over earlier years.  In 1971, for example, only 12 percent of participants held a college degree.

And, as the authors make clear, this rising trend is indicative of a shift in attitudes toward the importance of college.  In 1978, only 50%  of the public felt that a college education was critical for success later in life.  Today, 73% feel that college is a necessity in our society.

We’re pleased to see the trend moving in the right direction and can only hope that it continues to do so.

Happy ‘Read for the Record’ Day!

In low-income neighborhoods, children start kindergarten 60% behind their peers from affluent communities, leaving them unprepared when school begins. An initiative trying to tackle this early education crisis is Jumpstart’s Read for the Record.

Jumpstart’s Read for the Record is one of the largest initiatives to build awareness around the importance of early childhood literacy. Each year, readers everywhere join together on one day to read a single book to show their support for early childhood literacy and set a new World Reading Record. Last year, over 2.2 million people participated in “Read for the Record”. Today, we hope to help break that record by reading Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad (Lexile measure: AD710L) by David Soman and Jacky Davis.

Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad is an engaging story that follows Lulu (Ladybug Girl) through a playdate with her friends where they pretend to be part of an elite bug superhero gang. The Pearson Foundation offers an electronic copy of Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad and tons of other great books online at www.wegivebooks.org.

This year, MetaMetrics developed an Activity Guide to accompany Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad to enhance the reading experience. The activities in the guide align with CCSS Anchor Standards for Reading in grades K-3. The Activity Guide helps readers:

  • Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
  • Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical,      connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone
  • Analyze the structure of text, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

So now you’ve got the book and the Activity Guide. What’s next? Here are other ways you can help:

  • Join the Bug Squad to show your support for Early Childhood Literacy.
  • Spread the word about Jumpstart’s Read for the Record by visiting the Pearson Foundation’s Share page.

Happy reading!

How to Use the Lexile Map, Part II

We recently released a revised Lexile® Map. To find out how the map’s content and design changed, check out our earlier blog post. Now let’s delve into how the map works and explore how you can use the map in the classroom and at home!

How the map works

Lexile reader and text measures can be used together to forecast how well a reader will likely comprehend a text at a specific Lexile measure. The map helps readers better understand what a Lexile text measure means by showing examples of books that have different Lexile measures. If a reader has a Lexile reader measure, the map can also be used to match readers to books at an appropriate complexity level.

A Lexile reader measure is obtained by having the reader take a reading assessment. Numerous tests report Lexile reader measures including many state end of-year assessments, national norm-referenced assessments, and reading program assessments. A Lexile text measure is obtained by analyzing the text’s semantic and syntactic characteristics and assigning it a Lexile measure. A Lexile reader measure places students on the same Lexile scale as the texts. This scale ranges from below 200L for beginning readers and text to above 1600L for advanced readers and text. The Lexile Map provides examples of popular books and sample texts at various points on the Lexile scale. The examples on the map help to explain text complexity and help readers identify books of various levels of text complexity.

When readers are matched with text in their Lexile range (100L below to 50L above their Lexile reader measures), they are likely to comprehend about 75 percent of the text when reading independently. This “targeted reading” rate is the point at which a reader will comprehend enough to understand the text but will also face some reading challenge. The result is growth in reading ability and a rewarding reading experience.

How to use it

In the Classroom:

  • Display the map in your classroom to help students understand how books differ in text complexity. Find books that are on the map and discuss the characteristics of the text. Find books that are not on the map and ask students were the books might be placed on the map (and then reveal their Lexile measures and where they are located on the map).
  • Have students read the benchmark sample text and order them from least complex to most complex.
  • Use the 8 ½ x 11 version of the map as an instructional tool by having a student read the benchmark to estimate the student’s Lexile measure.
  • Discuss with each student where on the map (what Lexile range) the student should strive to be by the end of the year.

At Home:

  • Locate books that are on the map and discuss how the books differ in terms of text complexity.
  • Have you child read benchmarks to estimate their reading ability.
  • Chart your child’s growth on the map. Record the date and placement on the map to see the progress your child makes throughout the school year. Celebrate his or her success by buying a new book!

How do you use the map in your classroom and home? We’d love to hear from you! Please share ideas for using the map via our Facebook page.

Introducing the New Lexile Map!

We are proud to announce that the new Lexile® Map is available for download on Lexile.com. Over the past months, we’ve met with     educators, parents, and state leaders from across the nation to help guide development of the new Lexile Map. The new Lexile Map underwent many changes for improved classroom and home use.

New Content, New Design

MetaMetrics revised the map with several goals in mind. These goals included 1) supporting the Lexile Framework for Reading   alignment with the Common Core, 2) incorporating greater diversity in authors and titles, 3) illustrating the developmental nature of the Lexile Framework for Reading to general audiences, and 4) enhancing the visual appeal of the map. A team was assembled to develop a map that met these goals.

Dr. Kim Bowen, from our Research & Development Department, spearheaded the effort to find new titles for the map. With the goals in mind and the feedback received from a forum with our State Education Agencies partners, Kim diligently searched the database for new titles for the map. Titles that serve as Common Core State Standards Text Exemplars were added to the map, along with titles written by multicultural authors.  Primary source documents were added, as were more award-winning texts. The team also ensured that more contemporary texts were intermingled with canonical works.

Design, language, and messaging were also all updated. We worked with a talented design team, Fisher Creative, Inc., to provide a new look and feel to the map. The design team provided the map with a comprehensive layout, an energetic and engaging color scheme, and fresh images.  We retained the vertical orientation to the scale’s developmental growth foundation.  Language regarding text types, Literary and Informational, were added to be consistent with terms used in the Common Core State Standards. Messaging was provided describing how the map works and how you can use it.

Additional Printing Options

A popular request we heard from the field was the need for an 8 ½ x 11 printing option for the map. We are happy to report that now the map is available in an 8 ½ x 11 printing format, in both full color and grayscale. We still offer the 11 x 17 printing option since many users prefer printing that size to post in the classroom. On the 11×17 version, you will notice that fewer titles and only three benchmarks appear. These changes ensure the map is inviting and more reader-friendly.

Interested in how you can use the Lexile map in the classroom and at home? Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post that offers ideas and suggestions for the many ways you can use the map.

Special thanks to dapc photography for photographing the map and Lowe’s Grove for offering a classroom setting for the Lexile map photos!

An Innovative Use of the Lexile and Quantile Frameworks

At the dawn of the 21st century, North Carolina maintained a respected testing program that consisted of end-of-grade (EOG) tests in reading and mathematics for grades 3-8 and end-of-course (EOC) tests in selected high school courses.  The EOG tests were vertically linked on a developmental scale to facilitate growth calculations for the state’s accountability program in grades 3-8.  The EOC tests were scaled independently, each with its own unique scale.

After years of implementing an annual accountability program based on year-to-year gains, the state had accumulated a substantial longitudinal data base.  Consequently, the state considered incorporating a longer-term focus on growth into its accountability reform efforts.  To support that initiative, research was conducted to explore the possibility of describing growth in reading and mathematics throughout the elementary, middle and high school years, utilizing available measures in ways they had not been used before.

In a study conducted by MetaMetrics and the NC DPI (2011), a combination of psychometrics and statistical modeling were employed to examine the EOG and EOC data.  Specifically, EOG and EOC test scores were strategically expressed on common scales (The Lexile Framework for Reading and The Quantile Framework for Mathematics) and the resulting measures were analyzed with a multilevel growth model.  The goal was to test the feasibility of estimating statewide average growth curves across grades 3-11 using existing measures while satisfying six pre-specified criteria for extending the developmental trend beyond the grade 3-8 time frame.

The results confirmed that the analysis of growth can be facilitated by the use of both EOG and EOC scores when they are linked to the Lexile and Quantile scales.  The Lexile and Quantile measures derived from EOC test scores behaved developmentally in the sense that:  a) they identified the higher levels of reading comprehension and mathematics understanding that resulted from additional instruction and study; and b)  this was predictably reflected in changes observed in the average growth curve.  This finding provides the basis for a practical strategy for states who may wish to explore a long-term approach to growth by combining measures from developmental and non-developmental tests in their accountability program(s).  This approach could be used to set long-term developmental growth standards for a state based on longitudinal panel data, rather than the usual practice of setting only year-to-year growth standards based on non-developmental (e.g., status projection) or short-term growth (e.g., gain score) formulations.

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.