For most students, the summer months are a time of freedom and fun after a rigorous school year. However, after progressing in their studies during the academic calendar, much of that progress can be undone from lack of instruction and practice during the summer. Studies show that students experience "summer slide" or "summer loss" when they do not engage in educational activities over summer break. Research has further shown that this loss over multiple summers explains the achievement gap in reading abilities between low-income children and their more affluent peers.
In response to the summer reading slide epidemic, the Council of Chief State School Officers, in partnership with MetaMetrics®, coordinated a national state-led summer reading initiative to bolster student reading achievement during summer break. This past May, Kentucky joined the "Chief's Summer Reading Challenge" by developing their "Find a Book, Kentucky" program to raise awareness of the summer loss epidemic, share compelling research on the importance of personalized reading activities, and provide access to a variety of free resources to support targeted reading and the initiative as a whole.
Just Read, Florida! (PDF)
Published in the Council of Chief State School Officers' Chiefline Newsletter (Dec. 7, 2010)
To prevent students from losing ground over the summer, Florida created several programs to provide the learning opportunities necessary to ensure student performance and achievement continue upward. The Commissioner's Summer Reading Adventure program offers students an online free book search, "Find a Book," that relies on Lexile measures to help students build personal book lists that match their reading ability and interests. Students receive Lexile measures throughout the school year because of progress-monitoring assessments. The site has received more than 40,000 unique visits since the program was implemented in May. The state expanded the Find a Book program for the entire school year to ensure students continue to improve their literacy by searching for and finding books that meet their interests and their school assignments. In January 2011, the state will host "Celebrate Literacy, Florida" to promote literacy, raise awareness, and promote the enjoyment of reading. The state also has adopted the Common Core State Standards as building blocks for student achievement. State Education Commissioner Eric Smith says, "By working together and participating in these literacy programs, events, and initiatives, we can ensure our students are equipped with the literacy skills they need to become productive citizens of our great state."
The state of Florida has been a nationwide leader in the effort to emphasize and promote reading as a top priority in education. Just Read, Florida! was established in 2001 by former Gov. Jeb Bush as a "comprehensive, coordinated reading initiative aimed at helping every student become a successful, independent reader." Based on the belief that "reading is the most powerful common denominator in education and paramount to an individual's success," Just Read, Florida! aims to ensure that all of Florida's students are reading at or above grade level. By state law, passing the reading portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) given in tenth grade is a requirement for high school graduation. In light of these mandates, North Port High School's reading scores constitutes a crisis. Established less than a decade ago, and located at the southernmost tip of the Sarasota, Fla., school district, far from the metropolitan hub, North Port lags behind the district's other high schools and is struggling to keep pace with Florida's rigorous state reading standards. In 2008, approximately 68 percent of North Port's sophomores failed the reading portion of the FCAT.
Today's high school teachers and administrators perform daring feats of balance that would inspire envy in circus performers. They struggle daily to provide students with a solid education in standard content areas while preparing them for post-secondary life. At Broome High School in Spartanburg, S.C., this high-wire act is made easier by the school-wide adoption of the Lexile Framework.
The L'Anse Creuse Public School district, located 20 miles northeast of Detroit and covering thirty-seven square miles of northeast Macomb County, was formed in 1954 when population increases necessitated the establishment of a new high school. Today, almost a decade into the new millennium, the district-which has since grown to include two high schools, four middle schools, ten elementary schools, a vocational and technical center, and a performing arts center-continues its long tradition of meeting the needs of its community. For many years a homogenous, middleclass suburban school system, L'Anse Creuse's demographic has changed over the past five years, according to Diane Vigneron, learning consultant for the middle schools. Population growth within the district's attendance area has resulted in increased numbers of minority and disadvantaged students. This diversity in the student body poses new challenges to teachers, who must adjust to a wider variety of needs and abilities. Though L'Anse Creuse's demographic is changing, the district's commitment to high standards of academic excellence is stronger than ever. Learning Consultant Diane Mason attributes L'Anse Creuse's stellar reputation and consistently high test scores to the school board's insistence that "failure is not an option." The district's vision statement says it all: "L'Anse Creuse...a community where all people work together so that everyone succeeds."
As educators and administrators across the country focus their efforts on improving students' reading skills, many students show measurable success by the end of the school year. However, once the last bell of the year rings, a whole new challenge begins—ensuring that students retain the gains they have achieved in reading ability over the summer break. Dubbed summer reading "loss" or "slide," this dilemma has caused consternation in educators everywhere, with hard-won improvements being lost during summers filled with sun, fun and often very little reading among school-aged children. With no regular assignments and challenges to keep them engaged, students look elsewhere for entertainment and lose the skills they-and their teachers-worked so hard to build over the school year. However, a study by Dr. James Sangil Kim, assistant professor of education at Harvard University, demonstrated that students' reading skills could grow over the summer if they were able to select books based on their personal interests and at their Lexile reading levels. Last summer, a community coalition in Durham, N.C., worked together to roll out a summer reading program.
Houston Independent School District (HISD) is no different from most major urban school systems. As the largest public school system in Texas and the seventh-largest in the United States, HISD faces the challenges of serving a socio-economically and ethnically diverse student population with a wide variety of learning abilities and educational needs. Under the leadership of Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra, Ph.D., the district is dedicated to giving every student the best possible education.
Jim Hundemer, HISD's library services manager, attended the first Lexile National Reading Conference in Dallas. There, along with hundreds of his colleagues from Texas and around the country, Hundemer learned more about The Lexile Framework for Reading and the power that it could have for helping improve student reading abilities at HISD.
A vital ingredient in a school district's success is the dedication and determination of its administration and educators to overcome obstacles. In Mississippi's Corinth School District, educators and administrators build on a longstanding local legacy for prevailing against overwhelming odds.
Located in the northeast corner of Mississippi, Corinth was the site of the Civil War's Siege of Corinth, where the Union and the Confederacy fought for control of key railroad lines. One hundred fifty years later, this small town of 14,000 is a community united in its commitment to providing its students with outstanding educational opportunities. The Lexile Framework for Reading and The Lexile Framework for Writing are tools that have helped make that goal a reality.
Schools everywhere are grappling with balancing the ever-increasing emphasis on standardized test scores while ensuring that each student's individual learning needs are met. A small Alaska elementary school has achieved that delicate balance. East Elementary School in Kodiak implemented a school-wide reading initiative that is instilling a lifelong love of reading in its students and making their scores on the Alaska state reading assessment skyrocket.
Part of the Kodiak Island Borough District, East Elementary is located on an island off the southern coast of Alaska, where it serves 320 students from the town of Kodiak and the nearby Coast Guard station. School principal Ron Fried and reading specialist Margaret Reed embody the independent, self-sufficient attitude for which the forty-ninth state is known, and in 2002 created an in-school reading program using The Lexile Framework for Reading.
In the competitive testing and assessment world, schools and districts are constantly on the lookout for new solutions from developers of educational technology. In response, Scantron, an Irvine, CA-based data collection and assessment company, has linked The Lexile Framework for Reading to its popular Performance Series assessment solution.
Performance Series is a standards-based, computer-adaptive test that educators use as a diagnostic for student placement, and for progress reporting. By administering a reliable and valid standards-based test that adapts automatically to each student's individual level—and reports results instantaneously—educators gain clear snapshots of students' performance across a range of subjects. Immediate reporting saves teachers time and frustration, as individual students and classes can get started in the right direction the first week of school.
With studies showing that as many as 40 percent of college freshmen require remedial reading/writing instruction, high schools must increase their focus on building literacy skills. At Chatham Central High School in Bear Creek, NC, The Lexile Framework for Reading is the basis for a class for freshman students who need additional instructional support for building reading abilities.
Chatham Central High School is one of four high schools in the Chatham County School District, a predominantly agricultural area in the heart of North Carolina. Although the county is close to the populous Research Triangle, it is distinctly rural, with only one-fifth of its population residing in the county's four towns. While more than 80 percent of Chatham Central's students meet achievement expectations, school administrators are determined to increase that percentage. They believe that improving students' reading and writing abilities are the keys to reaching 100 percent.
As every educator knows, reading must be taught on an ongoing basis and throughout the curriculum—not just in Reading and Language Arts classes, but in all classes, particularly in elementary and middle school. As students progress up the educational ladder, they must use their reading skills to interpret and analyze materials in every subject area. At Boca Raton Community Middle School in Florida, a new program is putting The Lexile Framework for Reading to work throughout the school's curriculum, helping teachers to ensure that students meet state learning goals.
As schools grapple with stretched budgets and increasing performance scrutiny, creative solutions are the order of the day. One site-managed elementary school in southern California has taken the bold step of making The Lexile Framework for Reading the cornerstone of assessments and evaluation for the entire student body.
Green Tree East Elementary School serves K-6 students in the San Bernardino County city of Victorville. More than 70 percent of the students are low-income and 26 percent are English Language Learners. Creating a paradigm to help these children meet the federal No Child Left Behind Act and California's rigorous state standards—while still making sure they have had breakfast, lunch and help with homework—was a challenge that brought together a committee of dedicated teachers. The title of their project is "No Teacher Left Behind (NTLB) Curriculum Realignment: Charting a New Course for Academic Success."
K-5 educators face unique challenges. In addition to teaching and preparing students for high-stakes tests, successful teachers of young children also create lifelong readers. This responsibility weighs heavily on the shoulders of Susan Sidden, K-5 supervisor of reading and writing for the Wilkes County School District in North Carolina.
Wilkes County is a quiet, largely rural county located in the northwest part of the state, at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains. With a spread-out population of about 66,000 and a 45-minute drive to the nearest major metropolitan area (Winston-Salem), Wilkes County—and, by extension, its school district—is self-sufficient, self-reliant and determined to excel. It was that determination that led the district to turn to Lexiles to help its students build literacy skills.
School districts are under increasing pressure to deliver improvements on standardized test scores, and they are looking for tools that will help them accomplish that goal. For San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District in San Marcos, Texas, the solution was PASeries® (Progress Assessment Series®) from Pearson Education.
While standardized testing has been a part of the public school experience for decades, the federal No Child Left Behind Act requires educators to link testing and curriculum in new ways. Preparing students for a specific assessment is straightforward; however, there hasn’t always been a clear path for teachers who want to use those test results to improve student learning. Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) is one organization that makes the path clear. A nonprofit assessment organization that provides testing to more than 1,900 U.S. schools serving more than 2 million students, NWEA has linked its assessment data to The Lexile Framework for Reading.
With the increased focus on standardized testing in U.S. education, a pitfall many school districts face is maintaining the fine balance between providing a comprehensive education and “teaching to the test.” Resourceful districts are seeking solutions that augment the standardized requirements while integrating seamlessly with existing curricula. A small school district in rural northeast Colorado, Brush Public Schools began an initiative in 2000 to enhance its assessments of student achievement in reading. In collaboration with the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), Brush implemented a levels-testing program, which incorporates The Lexile Framework for Reading. The integration of Lexile measures into the district’s assessment process enables teachers to tailor assignments and reading materials to their students’ individual reading levels without sacrificing content. Simultaneously, the district can now closely monitor a student’s progress in reading.
When a school district decides to change its approach to teaching students, the decision has a seismic impact. It affects the administration, teachers, technology staff and parents, before the students even take their seats. Just such a challenge was faced by the elementary school district in Wilkes County, N.C., in 2001. Despite the district's longtime use of a reading management software system, improvement in standardized reading and language test scores was slow. Susan Sidden, Wilkes County's K-5 supervisor of reading and writing, knew they could do better.
Sidden had noticed a disconnect between the classroom activity and results in the End-of-Grade tests required in North Carolina. Concerned that the students weren't being empowered to pursue independent as well as guided reading, she set out to find a program with a balanced literacy approach. (For more information about Wilkes County's success using Lexiles to encourage independent reading, read the case study "North Carolina Students Use Lexiles to Build Reading Skills"). After learning about Lexiles at a professional development workshop, Sidden discovered a success story right in her own district, at an elementary school that was already using Lexiles to help students build reading skills.