New York Makes Finding Lexile-linked Resources Even Easier

Students and teachers in New York will have yet another way to access Lexile-linked information in their school library.  Schools that use OPALS (Open Source Automated Library System) will now be able to search and access material based on Lexile measures:

The collaboration between MetaMetrics and BiblioFiche/Media Flex will provide New York school libraries that use OPALS (Open Source Automated Library System) with access to Lexile measures. According to the MetaMetrics Web site, “A Lexile measure is a valuable piece of information about either an individual’s reading ability or the difficulty of a text, like a book or magazine article. The Lexile measure is shown as a number with an “L” after it — 880L is 880 Lexile.” The Lexile Framework looks at students’ reading ability based on assessment results, and teachers can then select materials based on students’ reading abilities…

For this project, the OPALS support team created a utility that allows Lexile measures to be added to more than 140,000 titles, allowing teachers and librarians to know the reading difficulty of each title. The utility, which supports Common Core State Standards, schedules regular updates.

This link provides another way that teachers can locate and utilize instructional materials within a range of reading levels, helping make differentiation that much easier.  Students will also be able to locate a wide variety of resource materials and books at the appropriate reading level.  As schools across the U.S. shift toward an increased focus on text complexity and helping ensure that all students graduate college and career ready, it’s good to see that New York educators will have the resources they need.

TextProject: Bringing High Levels of Literacy

An exciting new series of webinars is now being offered thanks to the efforts of TextProject, a site developed by Dr. Elfrieda Hiebert, leading reading researcher and educator.  Devoted to bringing beginning and struggling readers to high levels of literacy through a variety of strategies and tools, particularly the texts used for reading instruction, TextProject now makes available to all of us the insights of influential educational experts.

From the TextProject site: This series of webinars on the Common Core State Standards offers educators the chance to hear from, and talk with experts who served in advisory roles to the CCSS development team.  In their webinars, experts will discuss the knowledge base of the original CCSS report, ancillary documents, reports of foundations and policy groups, current implemation projects, and newly published research.  The webinars will give educators the opportunity to focus on the core goals of the CCSS and to chart a course that supports literacy levels needed for the 21st century.

The first webinar, Research and the Common Core: Can the Romance Survive? by award-winning researcher P. David Pearson took place on January 25. Both audio and presentation slides are available at the webinar site.

Make sure to schedule these upcoming web sessions to schedule on your calendar now:

February 27, 2013

CCSS and Education Policy

Dr. Timothy Shanahan, University of Illinois at Chicago

March 26, 2013

Quantitative Measurement of Text Complexity

Dr. Elfrieda H. Hiebert, TextProject, & University of California, Santa Cruz

April 24, 2013

Key Shifts in Assessment and Instruction Related to CCSS-ELA

Dr. Karen K. Wixon, University of Michigan

May 30, 2013

Informational Text and the CCSS: Pitfalls and Potential

Dr. Nell K. Duke, University of Michigan

Teacher Effectiveness – More Than A Single Measure

With the recent emphasis on preparing students for college-and-career, many have argued that a single test or measure is insufficient for adequately evaluating growth or indicating that students have a thorough understanding of their learning goals.  As educators, we know that multiple measures allow for a much more complete picture of student performance; particularly, if we’re also using that information to determine which teachers are most effective.

Many school districts are now employing new investigative processes and instruments in order to identify the strategies and techniques that effective teachers use in order to ensure their students are learning. Classroom observation rubrics should consider subject-specific knowledge as well as pedagogical methodology. And these tools should be employed over numerous occasions and/or lessons.  Additionally, classroom observations should be made by multiple observers.  Another resource for assessment of teacher effectiveness might include student perceptions of academic support and teacher expertise. While student gains across various types of assessments, including standardized tests, are also worth considering in teacher evaluations, to use only one method of assessment does not address the complex and multi-faceted nature of effective teaching.

It is important to find a balance between the multiple measures that identify the most successful teachers and the strategies they use rather than limiting such evaluations to student performance on standardized tests.

More Choice, More Books, More Growth

We’ve written before on the remarkable success of myON reader and Capstone Digital’s intent to provide myOn through mobile devices like the Kindle Fire.  Well that initiative has taken off and it appears to be paying dividends for students around the country.  Students in Cheatham County, Tennessee, in particular, are excited about being able to access targeted reading material on their Kindles:

At ACES, Jonet Williams has been thrilled with the response of her students, who look forward to activating their Kindles each day.

Williams likes being able to manage her class work through the Internet.

“I can find out what they’ve read, how much time they’ve spent reading, and see their assessment scores,” she said.

The teachers are also able to see their students’ successes and challenges, using the myON reader as a tool for flagging needs and reflecting ability levels.

“We can choose libraries for them that correlate with what we’re studying,” said Williams, citing a recent reading assignment on Benjamin Franklin and American symbols to reinforce what her students are learning in social studies.

MyON seamlessly blends assessment and instruction for young readers in a digital environment, allowing students to receive updated Lexile measures through their reading experiences.  Based on those updated Lexile measures, students continue to be presented a wider range of targeted texts.  Not only do students receive targeted text, but they exercise choice as well.  MyON allows students to self-select topics of interest to them and students can choose from a long list of subjects.

On a related note, the world of education software has also recognized Capstone for the contribution they’ve made to reading.  MyON recently won a Bessie for the ‘Best Reading Website’ award for upper elementary students.  Congratulations to Capstone on achieving so much in such a short period of time.  We’re proud to partner with an organization so dedicated to getting more students reading everywhere!

In Her Own Words: The Lexile Framework for Reading

We love hearing from teachers on the ways they’ve utilized the Lexile Framework for Reading to support reading growth.  Of special significance to us is hearing teachers describe their successes and their understanding of the Framework in their own words.  That’s why we were thrilled to read this recent piece (subscription required) from educator, Margaret Reed in Kodiak, Alaska:

Last month, I talked about three key ingredients that, when mixed together by a student, create a recipe for reading success.  First is reading practice, third is feedback concerning the effectiveness of the reading practice.  I’d like to focus on the second ingredient:  awareness of the level of text you are choosing to read.

When you pick up a book, how do you know if you will understand most, all, or none of what you are reading? If you are told you are reading at the third grade level, how do you use that information to help you choose text you know you will understand? When you look at a book, what can you use to predict how well you will understand that book?  The Lexile Framework provides a tool to help answer these questions!

Margaret goes on to do a nice job describing some of the more technical aspects of the Framework and even includes information on using the Lexile measure in an instructional setting.

If you’ve seen instances of great ways to introduce educators and parents to the Lexile Framework for Reading, feel free to pass along.  We’re always eager to hear how our metrics are being put to use and helping students around the globe.

Useful Assessments

This recent Education Week Teacher article, “Survey: Teachers Place Little Value on Standardized Tests” prompts the consideration of the purposes of standardized testing in the United States. A recent report published jointly by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations states that only 28% of educators believe the state-required standardized tests inform or gauge student achievement.

Additionally, survey respondents worried that many students fail to take standardized test seriously and therefore, do not perform as well as they do on quizzes and test administered during classroom instruction.

It’s important to point out, however, that standardized testing can actually be used to inform instruction if those assessments have been linked to The Lexile® Framework for Reading and The Quantile® Framework for Mathematics. When standardized tests are linked to these frameworks student score reports can identify their levels of ability, monitor growth over time, and inform instruction that in a way that allows educators to target student ability levels for both reading and mathematics.

The Lexile framework offers a developmental scale that teachers can use to match text to a student’s reading ability. The Lexile Find a Book site offers an abundance of book titles with Lexile measures so that parents and teachers can match the material appropriate to the student’s interest and reading ability level. The Quantile framework is another developmental scale that teachers can use to match student’s mathematics ability to the difficulty of mathematics topics at the introductory level. These various topics in mathematics can be found at the Quantile website where most major skills and concepts have been aligned to state standards.

If standardized tests are linked to The Lexile Framework for Reading or to The Quantile Framework for Mathematics, the assessment allows educators to differentiate in meaningful ways.  If you haven’t already check out these valuable resources, be sure to take a look.

Text Complexity Takes Hold

Given the Common Core’s emphasis on text complexity, an increasing number of educators are paying more attention to the complexity of the texts they assign.  Here at MetaMetrics, our focus has always been on understanding the relationship between the reader and the text and utilizing a common metric (Lexile) to characterize that relationship.  That’s why we’re so excited to make two related announcements: first, over 100,000 users have registered to use our free, publicly available Lexile Analyzer tool.  This tool allows users to analyze the complexity of small bits of texts to obtain a Lexile measure.  We’re thrilled to see that so many educators are focused on the complexity various pieces of text and are utilizing this wonderful tool.  If you have not yet tried this tool, click here to register and start using.

On a related note, we’re also happy to announce that 50 new publishers adopted the Lexile measure in 2011.  With the recent shift from proficiency to college and career readiness, school districts around the country are focusing on what it means to be college and career ready, specifically what it means to graduate prepared to read college level text.  With all the recent emphasis on college and career readiness, it is vital that students be introduced to increasingly sophisticated levels of complex texts.  Which is why it’s refreshing to see so many new publishers begin to recognize the significance of text complexity.  These new publishers add to a growing roster of hundreds of publishers that now routinely measure their books using Lexile measures.  Some of these new publishers include American Girl, Black Rabbit Books, Medallion Press, Nomad Press, and many, many more.  To all of our new publisher partners, welcome aboard.

Helping More Readers Read More

We’re always excited about anything that gets students reading more.  That’s why we were so pleased to see this recent write-up, in Publishers Weekly, reporting that Capstone Digital now has over 700,000 students reading through myOn.  MyOn provides students with access to thousands of digital titles targeted to their own individual reading level (based on their Lexile measure) and interest.  Best of all, because myOn has embedded an assessment into the reading experience, students are continually provided new titles as their reading level grows.  And because myOn is available online, students are assured always-on access; meaning they are not limited to reading only while on campus.  And interest continues to grow:

Since its launch, myOn has helped increase the circulation of digital titles. In communities like Charleston, S.C., which has adopted the platform, the library circulation for digital books was more than 30 times that for print books. Said Brekhus, “Making the books accessible anytime, anywhere allowed children to read more books digitally than they had access to in print.”

Congratulations to Capstone on achieving so much in such a short period of time.  We’re proud to partner with an organization so dedicated to getting more students reading everywhere.

Khan Academy in the Classroom

We’ve written before on the efforts of Khan Academy – a free, online classroom that is available to anyone with an Internet connection.  Khan Academy offers thousands of video lessons on everything from specific mathematical concepts to explanations of the mortgage loan crisis.  Because Khan’s videos are easily accessible, students (and parents) are able to take advantage of its ‘always-on’ access to review videos in their own time. 

Khan’s work has gotten the notice of educators across the US and a number of Foundations and educational organizations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are looking to capitalize on Khan’s approach to individualizing education:

Each student’s math journey shows up instantly on the laptop Mr. Roe carries as he wanders the room. He stops at each desk, cajoles, offers tips, reassures. For an hour, this crowded, dimly lighted classroom in the hardscrabble shadow of Silicon Valley hums with the sound of fingers clicking on keyboards, pencils scratching on paper and an occasional whoop when a student scores a streak of right answers.

The software program unleashed in this classroom is the brainchild of Salman Khan, an Ivy League-trained math whiz and the son of an immigrant single mother. Mr. Khan, 35, has become something of an online sensation with his Khan Academy math and science lessons on YouTube, which has attracted up to 3.5 million viewers a month.

Now he wants to weave those digital lessons into the fabric of the school curriculum — a more ambitious and as yet untested proposition.

This semester, at least 36 schools nationwide are trying out Mr. Khan’s experiment: splitting up the work of teaching between man and machine, and combining teacher-led lessons with computer-based lectures and exercises

The most promising aspect of Khan’s work is that it harnesses technology to promote individualized instruction.  We’ve written before on the importance of blending technology platforms with instructor interaction to promote differentiation, or even individualization for each student.  By providing a platform that monitors each student’s progress and then responds with more instruction for students who are not ready to move on or with new concepts for those that are, Khan is upending the more traditional assembly-line model of the classroom, allowing teachers to monitor student progress and respond to struggling learners, while allowing proficient students to move forward.

Not it appears that Khan is getting the chance to put his model to the test at larger sites and with more classrooms:

In the past, math class at the Summit schools was always hands-on: the class worked on a problem, usually in small groups, sometimes for days at a time. But getting an entire class of ninth graders to master the fundamentals of math was never easy. Without those, the higher-level conceptual exercises were impossible.

That is where the machine came in handy. The Khan software offered students a new, engaging way to learn the basics.

Ms. Tavenner says she believes that computers cannot replace teachers. But the computer, she recognizes, can do some things a teacher cannot. It can offer personal feedback to a whole room of students as they work. And it can give the teacher additional class time to do more creative and customized teaching.

“Combining Khan with that kind of teaching will produce the best kind of math,” she argued. “Teachers are more effective because they have a window into the student’s mind.”

Khan’s efforts are worth noting.  Khan’s work is inspiring and is likely just the beginning of the work that can be done with virtual classrooms.  We’ve incorporated Khan’s work into our own tools on the Quantile Framework for Mathematics website.  In Math at Home, for example, students can select textbook chapters and lessons and search for supplemental material by which to review their primary lessons.  In many cases, they will find a variety of Khan videos available to help review core skills and concepts.  If you haven’t already, be sure to take a look.

Digital Learning Day

An important requirement of the Common Core State Standards is that students are able to ‘utilize technology and digital media strategically’.  So kudos to the Alliance for Excellent Education for sponsoring Digital Learning Day:

… a year-long campaign to celebrate bold, creative innovative teachers in classrooms across this nation. These front-line innovators are already embedding digital learning into new instructional practices to ensure that every student leaves the classroom ready for college, career and life success.  We ask you to join with us, as with them, as we launch an unprecedented, collaborative effort to expand innovation into every city, town, school and classroom in America!

 The first national Digital Learning Day is Wednesday, February 1, 2012.  Please join the Alliance and our more than 20 nationally recognized core education partners as we work together to rally support and action to enable digital learning everywhere.

Some classrooms are already focusing their efforts on integrating digital media and technology into instructional practice.  This school in Kentucky, for example, has found a way to ensure that their educators are keeping up with the latest trends in technology and are able to utilize digital resources in their classroom:

What is the purpose of giving each teacher a laptop? As is the case for many other jobs, employees need to be able to work anywhere, including from home. The teachers at Eminence need to be given the opportunity to create awesome lessons using the best technology. In order for them to prepare students to utilize technology, they must become proficient with it first. The ultimate goal is to equip each student with 21st Century skills and to prepare them for their future, be that college or the workforce. It takes a village (a school district) to raise a child, and the Eminence administration gave each teacher another tool to assist in that process.

We applaud the Alliance for drawing attention to the importance of 21st century skills and finding a way to stress the importance of helping educators introduce digital skills into the classroom.

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.