Chief’s Summer Reading Challenge

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our state participants who have joined us for the 2012 Chief’s Summer Reading Challenge. The Council of Chief State School Officers, in partnership with MetaMetrics®, created this national, state-led summer reading initiative to bolster student reading achievement during summer break. The “Chief’s Summer Reading Challenge” raises national awareness of the summer loss epidemic, shares compelling research on the importance of personalized reading activities to counteract summer loss and provides access to variety of free online resources to support targeted reading.

We are joined by many of last year’s state participants, including: Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky and North Carolina. We’ve also brought on board several new states, including: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma.

This year’s participants have done a tremendous job planning and implementing summer reading campaigns and also hosting related events. Recently, we had the opportunity to work with both Florida and Kentucky’s First Ladies. Florida’s First Lady, Ann Scott recently kicked off the Florida Department of Education’s 2012 Summer Literacy Adventure. First Lady of Kentucky, Jane Beshear, joined the Kentucky Department of Education in supporting summer reading and encouraged children to use the “Find a Book” tool.

Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas and Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois were instrumental in promoting their respected state summer reading initiatives. Last month, MetaMetrics President and Co-founder, Dr. Malbert Smith joined Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to kick off the “Read Kansas Read” statewide summer reading program. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn joined Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch in urging educators and parents to ensure students commit to reading during summer vacation.

With your efforts we continue to combat the effects of “Summer Reading Loss,” while enabling students to grow in their reading ability and love for reading. These efforts will help to ultimately prepare students for the reading demands of college and their future careers.

Please join us – pledge to read this summer at www.lexile.com/fab!

BiblioNasium: Social Media for Young Readers

Just in time for Summer, BiblioNasium has launched a virtual reading village for kids ages 6-12.  Using BiblioNasium, young readers can connect with peers, teachers and parents.  BiblioNasium functions as a sort of social networking platform for children, a platform where readers can exchange information about books they’ve read, offer reviews, and explore other titles that interest them.  Students can explore books based on their interests, an author, a title or series, and their Lexile reading level.  Best of all, BiblioNasium offers students a chance to interact with other readers in a safe online space.

If you haven’t yet taken a look, be sure to visit BiblioNasium and get your kids reading today.

A Just Right Reading List

We’re always happy when we hear about our tools and metrics being put to use by those outside of education. We designed tools, like Find a Book, with more than educators in mind. Our hope is that parents are able to use Find a Book year round to help students select books they actually want to read. That’s why we’re thrilled to see posts like this from Ellen Weeren over at A Reason to Write:

If you have ever been to the library or book store with a child, you know full well how hard it can be to find a “just right” book for that child to read.

Well, Lexile will make choosing a book a (much) easier undertaking.

On the Lexile website, at the top of the homepage (right next to the “home” tab on the upper left corner of the site) is the “find a book” tab. Click it and you will be prompted for your child’s Lexile measurement. (You can also get an estimate of that by pulling up a book that s/he has recently read and seeing what it’s ranking is. Then use that ranking for your child as an estimate.) Then they will also ask what grade the child is in.

Then you to select what types of books the child enjoys reading – mystery, fantasy, humor, etc.

Finally, you will get a long ‘o list of suggestions. Click on one that interests you/your child and you will get a summary of the book and a list of awards it might have won…

This is also a wonderful place for grandparents to figure out what books to buy their grandchildren.

And don’t forget Find a Book’s link to the public libraries as well. By clicking on the WorldCat link, users can determine if a public library carries the title they want – making books accessible to all readers. If you haven’t yet used it, be sure to give Find a Book a try.

Moving Students Toward College and Career Readiness

MetaMetrics (developer of The Lexile Framework for Reading) proudly announced its partnership with KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program). Serving more than 32,000 students, KIPP’s renowned network is constituted by 109 open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools. 85% of the students attending these schools—which are located in 20 states and the District of Columbia—are from low-income families. This exciting, new partnership offers training on the value and use of Lexile measures for educators in the KIPP network.  

Teaming up, MetaMetrics and KIPP move closer to achieving their shared education goals—the college and career readiness of all students as defined by the Common Core State Standards. “Our goal is to give our students the knowledge and skills they need to get to and through college,” said KIPP CEO Richard Barth. “Lexile measures are a valuable tool for our teachers to monitor our students’ reading growth at every stage, to make sure they are all college- and career-ready.”

By certifying KIPP facilitators to conduct workshops on how to utilize Lexile measures, KIPP teachers will now better differentiate instruction and monitor students’ reading growth. For more information on this exciting partnership, click here.

Kentucky Emphasizes Reading

Susan Riddell of Kentucky Teacher, a publication of the Kentucky Department of Education, recently commented on the importance of summer reading:

“Students who participate in summer reading programs are less likely to lose knowledge and skills during the summer,” says Suzanne Crowder, library media specialist at Campbellsville Elementary School.  “Summer reading has the potential to help children make gains in their reading and vocabulary.  It also offers students who live in poverty the opportunity to have reading materials readily available.”

According to Riddell, the Find a Book, Kentuckyinitiative is one resource library specialist and teachers alike are taking advantage of this summer.  After receiving training earlier this year, librarians are recommending this service to patrons- with librarian Kate Schiavi of the Louisville Free Public Library noting that, “I have been having more and more patrons come in looking for books on a particular Lexile level…I have found the Lexile website easy to use and search.  It’s a great tool for them to be able to jump on at their computer at home and come to the library prepared.”

Ample research demonstrates the importance of encouraging reading during summer months to avoid the loss that students suffer when they take a three month hiatus from learning. We are glad to see others taking up this cause, and utilizing the convenience of our utilities which are powered by the research and technology of the Lexile Framework for Reading.  And remember: “Find a Book” is not just for creating summer reading lists.  “Find a Book” can be used year round and is an excellent free tool for allowing students to match themselves to targeted text based on both interest and their reading range.

It’s Not Too Late

Summer’s almost over.  Many teachers have already returned to their schools and over the next few weeks students will follow.  The Department of Education has posted a timely reminder on the importance of keeping students reading year round:

…even though summer is almost over, it’s not too late to help your child become a better reader before the new school year begins. Summer is an important time for students to keep reading and improve their language skills. If your child hasn’t been reading regularly this summer, they may be in danger of the “summer slide”—a decline in their reading ability.

Numerous studies indicate that students who don’t read or read infrequently during their summer vacation see their reading abilities stagnate or decline. This effect becomes more pronounced as students get older and advance through the school system. The situation for economically disadvantaged students is especially grim: if students from low-income families don’t read over the summer, they are much more likely to fall behind their more privileged peers, widening the “achievement gap.”

Kudos to the Department for reminding parents (and educators) about the pernicious effects of summer loss and how important it is for students to stay engaged over the summer months.  If you haven’t used it yet, it’s not too late to jump on Lexile Find a Book to create custom book list based on both reading level and interest.

And here’s a video message from Arne Duncan offering a few more tips for parents on helping students avoid summer slide.

Literacy Across Content Areas: The How is as Important as the What

Here’s Rebecca Alber offering a strong argument for literacy as a critical skill across the content areas:

Here’s one way to look at it: Content is what we teach, but there is also the how, and this is where literacy instruction comes in. There are an endless number of engaging, effective strategies to get students to think about, write about, read about, and talk about the content you teach. The ultimate goal of literacy instruction is to build a student’s comprehension, writing skills, and overall skills in communication.

Ask yourself, how do I mostly convey the information and knowledge to my students? Do I turn primarily to straight lecture, or teacher talk? Or, do I allow multiple opportunities for students to discover information on their own?

Alber’s right.  Much recent attention has been given to STEM education and the importance of retaining our edge in areas like mathematics, engineering, and technology.  And the Common Core State Standards has recommended that students engage in increasingly sophisticated texts each year in order to prepare for the rigors of the post-secondary world.  Engaging students in a wide variety of text is, as Alber argues, an important way to improve a student’s comprehension skills. 

She goes on to remind us of the importance of matching texts to readers:

The days of believing that we could hand informational text or a novel to a student and assume he or she makes full meaning of it on their own is a teaching mode of the past. Whether we like it or not, regardless of the content we teach, we are all reading instructors.

Scaffolding the reading by using effective strategies for pre-, during, and after reading, such as: previewing text, reading for a purpose, making predictions and connections, think alouds, and using graphic organizers will support all our students, and not just struggling readers and English learners.

Another onus not only on English teachers, but all teachers as reading instructors? We need to inspire both a love for reading, and build reading stamina in our students (this means eyes and mind on the page for more than a minute!)

Because students must wrestle with higher levels of reading material and a greater proportion of informational text, the Lexile Framework provides an additional way to target students at their own reading level.  By matching students to text at their level, educators can help facilitate reading growth.  Additionally, using student Lexile measures can be an important part of determining which classroom strategies to employ and how much scaffolding may be required, whether in literacy or other content areas.

Be sure to read the whole thing for Alber’s specific recommendations on incorporating literacy across content silos.

Preventing ‘Summer Slippage’

Back in March we offered a nod to Hasbrouck Heights High School for collaborating with the local public library to sponsor The Big Read – an initiative designed to get students reading more outside the classroom.  And that includes the summer.  As this story makes clear, Hasbrouck Heights is drawing attention to the importance of reading over the summer months:

Dr. Mark Porto, superintendent of schools, explained that kids’ reading skills have been known to weaken, something some educators have called “summer slippage,” due to not reading regularly which can easily happen over the summer months. When students return to school in September it can take time for them to get back on track. 

Summer reading can prevent this, he told the audience, and the schools, along with the district’s three school media specialists, have been working with the borough library, coming together as a community to encourage reading in youngsters and even adults.

Porto invited the media specialists who head the libraries at the three district schools to the forum to speak on behalf of the program and reading in the district. Joan Weir, media specialist at Euclid School reflected on the success of the SRI program which gives each student a Lexile score, which is not a grade, but a determined comfortable reading level for which the student can select reading choices.

“I have never seen so many children with a book in their hands,” she commented adding that the children have really been encouraged by the program.

That’s good to hear. Hasbrouck Heights should be commended – again – for their efforts to keep students reading all year long.

Florida Kicks Off ‘2011 Summer Literacy Adventure’

With summer vacation just around the corner, and students composing their summer lists of places to go and things to do, Florida is hoping its new initiative will make reading an essential part of that list.  As Tallahassee.com reports, this week students saw the launch of the 2011 Summer Literacy Adventure program which is designed to encourage reading over the summer months, is backed by the Florida Department of Education, the Florida Department of State, and the first lady, Ann Scott. 

We’ve written extensively on the importance of combating the learning loss that occurs each summer, which is why we applauded Florida’s success with last year’s Summer Reading Adventure Program.  This year, with the first lady’s encouragement, students are being asked to make a pledge to read over the summer and commit to the number of books they will finish.  “The initiative also urges students to visit their local library, and to use the website Lexile.com to identify books that might be on interest to them.”

To use Find a Book, students simply enter their Lexile measure and select their interests from the categories provided.  Find a Book will then generate a reading list for students targeted to both their reading level and area of interest.  Click here to access the Lexile Find a Book site.

A Historic Opportunity, A Worthy Destination

We’ve written extensively on the Common Core State Standards and the role they will play in the future of our nation’s educational system.  To date, 42 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have all shown their support for the Common Core by committing to implement the new national standards by 2014.  These standards set ambitious goals which, as Fernanda Santos of the NY Times reports, “…raise the bar not only on what students in every grade are expected to learn, but also on how teachers are expected to teach.” 

According to Santos, several schools are currently participating in a pilot program which is already highlighting some key differences in how material is being presented, assigned and evaluated.  Teachers are changing their lesson plans, approaching content differently, and being thoughtful in how they challenge their students – all in an effort to move students to the path of college and career readiness.

Supporters of the standards point out that holding all students accountable for the same material regardless of which state they live in will ensure that each child is receiving a quality education and will enable policy members to more accurately evaluate performance. 

Still these standards will be accompanied by their own set of challenges and, as Timothy Shanahan, a professor of urban education at the University of Illinois at Chicago who helped write the common core standards for how to incorporate reading into science instruction explains, “If I’m teaching fifth grade and I have a youngster in my class who reads as a first grader, throwing him a grade level-text is not going to do him any good, no matter what the standards say.”

Shanahan is right, and we’ve addressed this exact issue in the past:

The Lexile Framework for Reading offers a good starting point for educators and parents attempting to make decisions as to whether or not the complexity of a text is well-matched to the reading level of a particular reader.  As articulated by the Common Core State Standards, the Lexile Framework provides a good measure of the quantitative dimensions of a text.  Meaning, the Lexile measure reflects the types of words and sentences used in a particular text; and, when matched to the Lexile reading level of a student, provides useful information on the student’s likely level of comprehension.

Taking a student’s reading level into account is an important first step in providing appropriately matched texts to struggling readers.  By matching readers with the right level of challenge, educators have an opportunity to address students at the right level and to grow each student’s reading ability.  Using the Lexile measure – to gauge student progress and to match materials to the range of readers in a classroom – is an important starting point for advancing the reading level of each student, and for moving each student toward college and career readiness.

 We’re glad to see so many working to implement the standards across the curriculum and As Chester Finn Jr., an assistant secretary of education during the Reagan administration says, “the standards create a historic opportunity in that we now have a destination worth aiming for, but only time will tell if they’ll create historic change.”

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.