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!

Minimizing the Digital Divide: Comcast’s ‘Internet Essentials Program

As educators and policy makers have attempted to eliminate the achievement gap over the years, one of the well-documented pernicious gaps continues to be the “digital divide”.  In fact, a google search on “digital divide” yields over 4 million hits as of October 12, 2011. While there are several definitions of the term, Wikipedia captures the essence in the following description:

More recently, some have used the term to refer to gaps in broadband network access. The term can mean not only unequal access to computer hardware, but also inequalities between groups of people in the ability to use information technology fully.

Last month, we as a country made a major step in addressing this problem with the joint announcement by the Comcast Corporation, FCC, and District of Columbia Public Schools. This major step is the national roll-out of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which will provide affordable internet access to low income families. At an Internet Essentials launch event, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski assessed the digital divide and the need for affordable broadband. With broadband being essential to the academic success of America’s youth, Chairman Genachowski reflected that “the digital divide is seriously troubling; more troubling now than in the past, because the costs of digital exclusion are rising”. Genachowski continued this sentiment noting, “Students increasingly need to go online to complete their homework assignments.” Chairman Genachowski further remarked on the stark statistics and detrimental nature of the digital divide. He referenced research that shows one-third of all students and most of all low-income students do not have internet access at home.

This lack of resources available due to the digital divide results in a lose-lose situation in education. When faced with this problem, teachers will either assign Internet-based homework or not. Either the students without Internet access at home are hurt, or the students do not learn how to utilize the Internet and do not attain necessary Internet skills. However with Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, teachers can escape this lose-lose situation. (more…)

Fulfilling the Promise of the Common Core

Our own Malbert Smith just released a new policy brief: Fulfilling the Promise of the Common Core.  Smith outlines some of the major challenges facing educators, including the imperative to ensure that students are graduating college and career ready.  An important component of ensuring steady progress toward college and career readiness is facilitating student reading growth throughout a student’s entire academic career.  Otherwise, students unable to handle grade-level material by high school face an enormous challenge in trying to ‘catch-up’ by time of graduation. 

Smith outlines two important strategies for ensuring students remain on track for life after high school – extended instructional time and personalized learning:

The “New Normal” requires us to find innovative solutions to eliminate the readiness gap. There are two promising, cost-effective strategies that can help us achieve the Common Core within today’s financial and time parameters: personalized learning platforms and summer reading. Both approaches support “blended learning,” which Michael Horn defines as: “any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace” (Horn, 2011).

Be sure to read the whole thing.

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.

Summer Literacy Adventure Revisited

Here’s yet another example of local media outlets shining a light on the good work the Florida Department of Education is doing with their Summer Literacy Adventure:

Martin County High, South Fork High, and Jensen Beach High are all three of the high schools in the Martin County School District that are actively participating in this year’s “Summer Literacy Adventure”.  This reading initiative by the Florida Department of Education (partnered with Martin County Library Systems) is designed to help students stay on target, stay motivated, and stay excited about reading and literacy.

…According to the press release, to participate in the Summer Literacy Adventure students can visit the Just Read, Florida website at www.justreadflorida.com to take the pledge.  Students who take the pledge may also utilize a free online tool to search for books based on their reading ability and interests.  The DOE, through MetaMetrics, offers a unique resource called “Find a Book, Florida” at http://florida.lexile.comthat uses Lexile measures, a widely adopted reading metric that can guide a reader to an appropriate level book.

It’s good to see that Martin County School District is pushing to keep students reading over the summer.  And kudos to the local media for reminding parents of the access to free resources right at their fingertips.

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.

More Evidence on the Importance of Summer Reading

We’ve long been proponents of summer reading initiatives, and have written extensively on the substantial benefits these programs can provide.  Last week the School Library Journal released the results of a study from Dominican University on the value of such programs.  They targeted students between the end of third and the beginning of fourth grades and determined students’ beginning Lexile reading levels by using the Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI).  Their findings reiterated the importance of summer reading.  As SLJ reports:

Students who take part in their local library’s summer reading program significantly improve their reading skills.  In fact, we found that kids who participate in these programs are 52 Lexile points ahead of their peers who do not.  Summer reading programs are also an antidote for learning loss.  So instead of losing knowledge and skills during the summer months, kids who attend reading programs actually show gains.

In addition, researchers found that the students who participated in summer reading programs “entered the following school year with a positive attitude about reading, were more confident in the classroom, read beyond what was required, and perceived reading as important.” 

This is great news.  Educators have been advocating efforts to combat ‘summer slide’ for years – efforts that have finally begun to catch the public eye.  Clearly, this study provides evidence which further supports the call to encourage summer reading. (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.