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…)

Next Generation Search Engines

In Fortune magazine’s July 29th story entitled Google: The search party is over, author Michael V. Copeland with Seth Weintraub chronicles Google’s rise to dominance of the Internet and probes the options for an encore performance.  Said differently, what can Google do to feed the growth engine it created?

The article is full of possibilities but one struck home for me as I read it since it parallels something we are working on to help English language learners improve their reading ability.  The concept is elegantly simple; create a passive search engine that automatically collects all the news, images, videos, blog posts, Twitter feeds and Facebook updates in a single place for your convenience.  Flipboard for the iPad is a great example of this new paradigm.

Now, imagine you are a Chinese high school student learning English and preparing to attend a university in the United States.  Intuitively, you know that reading more results in reading better but where do you start?  Enter the passive search engine concept.  It delivers reading content targeted to your reading ability and your interests directly to your laptop or mobile device every day.  Content would include magazines, newspapers, blogs, websites and e-books.  Periodically, it would mine your reading experiences to determine how much you’ve improved.  Then, it would raise the difficulty of the content it sends so that you’re always perfectly targeted to achieve optimal growth.

Flipboard seems to be at the intersection of search engines and social networking.  However, applying this next generation search engine to education could result in personalized learning platforms similar to the one described above.  To learn more about this new service for English language learners, please see www.EngagingEnglish.com.

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.