Leadership – Education – Technology – Other Interesting Stuff

Archive for July, 2012

Lexile is A tool

For the past 11 years, I have supported teachers in their use of Lexile as one resource when they consider both student’s reading levels and text complexity. The Lexile Framework for Reading comes from Metametrix and is used by numerous companies – Scholastic, NWEA, Follett, to name a few – to help students and teachers identify texts that would be appropriate for independent, guided and challenge reading. Metametrix is quick to point out that this Lexile score alone is not the sole determiner for text choice. What Lexile provides is an idea of the content students should be able to read and comprehend about 75% of the time based on vocabulary and sentence complexity.

For instance, consider helping a high school science teacher figure out that if the sole source of information for his students in one unit is the textbook, it may or may not be a useful resource for students in his classroom. Taking a minute to use the Lexile Analyzer to get some baseline information (beyond what the publisher said the “grade level” of the book was) about the text lead to the discovery that more than half of the students in the classroom would benefit from having additional sources of content at a variety of reading levels. There is nothing earth-shattering in the revelation, but definitely beneficial when the teacher (with the help of the media specialist) was able to gather a couple of other resources, making the content more accessible. Not to say that teachers aren’t doing this already, Lexile may just be an additional resource for these efforts.

Lexile seems to be a hot topic this month as a new school year gets set to begin. The point Paul Hankins makes in his blog about “the lex-aisle” is a vivid illustration of how any well-meaning tool can be used in ways in which it was not intended. (And I love this phrase as a reminder.) He references Kylene Beers’ blog where she reminds us of the five-finger method for children to use as they help themselves determine if they can read a book. Donalyn Miller shares her concern about the situations in which Lexile becomes the sole factor in book selection. I support all three points of view. For me, it is about triangulating the data…and teaching our students to do that as well.

What if a Lexile is a (starting) point? What if students are taught the five-finger method? Then what if we add in the factors Metametrix says Lexile doesn’t take into consideration: genre, theme, content, interest or quality? How would it look and what would it take to start with a student’s interest, use a Lexile and teach the student the five-finger method? Teachers and media specialists have ideas about the appropriateness of texts’ theme and content. They also have ideas about the quality of texts. How might we help students recognize and learn how to use a variety of tools (including Lexile) to assist them in their reading choices – activating them to own this piece of their learning?

Online science items…What parents want from assessment…Connected educators

Looking for interactive science items to engage your students? Check out these NAEP-released items which are both interactive computer and hands-on tasks. (Grades 4, 8 and 12, of course)

Check out this infographic about assessment gleaned from the a research study done by Grunwald Associates for NWEA. It’s about what parents and educators want from assessment – both formative and summative.

A new project from the U.S. Department of Education focusing on online communities in education – Connected Educators. The project seeks to foster innovation by helping online communities reach more education professionals, deepen the level of participation among educators already involved, and increase collaboration among education communities. All of this is to be accomplished by working with existing online communities, collecting and sharing good practices and researching key online community issues.

Books by colleagues

Three former colleagues have books that I can’t wait to read –

Patrick Lowenthal, Joni Dunlap (both were, at one time, at the University of Colorado Denver), have written Learning, Unlearning, and Relearning: Using Web 2.0 Technologies to Support the Development of Lifelong Learning Skills. From the abstract –”Given ever-changing societal and professional demands, lifelong learning is recognized as a critical educational goal. With postsecondary students’ increased demand for online learning opportunities and programs, postsecondary educators face the challenge of preparing students to be lifelong contributing members of professional communities of practice online and at a distance.”

Copper Stoll, with whom I worked in District 50, I found Re-Awakening the Learner: Creating Learner-Centric, Standards-Driven School. Amazon’s description includes:Transformation of public education requires the reawakening of the sleeping giant in the room: the learners. Students, teachers, and principals must develop a learner-centric, standards-driven school. Reawakening the Learner is a guide to creating just such an environment. Continua describe the journey of teachers, teacher leaders, and principals in partnering with learners. Adult-driven routines must be replaced with learner-centric practices.”

Then there is another colleague whose book I have read and recommend — John McDermott and Stevie Quate (Critical Friends expert) wrote Clock Watcher: Six Steps to Motivating and Engaging Disengaged Students across Content Areas in 2009. It draws on the research about motivation and engagement to increase student achievement. There are many practical ideas for engaging reluctant learners across content areas.

FUSION 2012 with NWEA

FUSION, NWEA’s summer conference was this week. Wow! Had the opportunity to listen to and learn with amazing educators from around the world. “Celebrity” speakers were energizing. Dylan Wiliam and Siobhan Leahy talked about formative assessment and teacher learning communities. They shared the challenges to changing teacher behavior (habits), which is applicable to all habits. Guess what? It isn’t all that quick or easy. They also spoke to the need to support teachers in getting better – it has a direct effect on our kids and how they learn. Tom Guskey spoke about grading. What is our purpose in giving kids grades for everything they do? Vicky Bernhardt talked about data and school improvement. Who knew? The use of data supports school improvement. And MAK Mitchell talked about the value of consensus to a school community.

Educators shared wonderful stories…about growth in a Navajo school where school growth moved from a -5 growth index to a plus 6 (RIT scores) in one year! Or the reservation school outside Bismarck ND where a trial of mentoring a few students for a period of time resulted in 14-point RIT gain for those students…and when it was tried a second time (to prove it wasn’t a fluke) the average growth was 12 points.

Then there was Beth Cobb who was willing to talk to everyone about the magic that can happen when formative assessment becomes the way we teach in a school. Beth was a district professional development person when Keeping Learning on Track came to her district. She requested a class to teach so she could try out all the strategies and techniques the she was teaching to the teachers. She went on to be a district administrator who has taken this program to a new district. She shared experiences about students becoming advocates for their own learning; teachers supporting each other in the change process; and a climate change that moved beyond single classrooms, to encompass whole schools and the whole district.

Educators from around the world gathered to learn, share and reflect together – supporting NWEA’s mission of partnering to help all kids learn.

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