Accuplacer Prep Recommendations

The United States needs to increase the number of college graduates.  However, far too many students start college and do not finish.

Colleges rely on Accuplacer test results to know if new students are ready for college level work.   Providing practice for Accuplacer tests is important.  There is no reason for students to take credit courses if they aren’t ready for the workload.  Conversely, it is very expensive for students if they are needlessly placed in remedial courses.

Recently, we have received several inquiries from colleges looking for Accuplacer test help for Essay Writing, Sentence Skills, and Reading Comprehension.

Merit is ideal for helping students prepare for Accuplacer tests.   Merit programs cover a large span of skill levels with content designed for older users. Students receive built-in hints and tips while they work and advance as they demonstrate readiness. All the while learner progress is automatically tracked in an easy-to-use management console.

Recommended Merit programs for Accuplacer practice are:

Essay Punch
Grammar Fitness Advanced
Developing Critical Thinking Skills for Effective Reading for Upper Grades

Education for the “New Majority” And how the American education system needs to readjust its priorities

The American education system needs to readjust its priorities and serve what Bill Gates, in a recent speech, called the “new majority.”

Who are the “new majority”? Students who

  • graduate from high school, but are unprepared for college
  • attend college, but do not receive a credential in six years
  • start their higher education after the age of 25 and who are the first in their family to go to college

Not only are more alternative education providers needed, says Gates, but “we also need to focus within the [education] system, and understand why technology doesn’t scale.”

Solutions, according to Gates, will emerge from a 3-pronged approach — effective personalized learning, building an evidence base of what works, and adoption of proven educational technologies.

Merit has been working on these issues for several years. Based on insights gleaned from working with K12 and college students, as well as instructors who use our software, we have learned of ways to improve how our content is created and used. As a result, we are about to launch two initiatives to help educate the “new majority.”

The first initiative is News Punch.  News Punch is based on Paragraph Punch, a popular and widely used tool for teaching writing skills.

News Punch takes links to fun and fascinating news stories and provides guided writing prompts about them.  The program helps students find evidence in texts and write about it.

New news-based writing prompts are to be released almost every week. Suggestions are welcome from users. Custom prompts can be created for any informational text or media.

Research from the Carnegie Foundation shows that writing about reading improves student reading comprehension.

News Punch is scalable: its built-in supports help students of a wide range of abilities participate in English Language Arts writing exercises.

News Punch activities can be used by both K12 and remedial college students, as well as non-U.S. learners who want to improve their English. Although further evidence is necessary, we believe work in News Punch can probably be used as a measure of college readiness.

There is a free, full-working example (no login required) on the News Punch web site.

The second initiative is syncing Merit Online programs with social media tools such as Facebook and Google Plus. This step has many potential benefits. For example, enhanced collaboration and discussion opportunities based on students’ writing.

Feel free to share comments on these issues below.

Are Schools Acting Smart About Literacy? How a new idea from Merit can help

News-Punch-Screenshot

According to a new report from the Brown Center on Educational Policy, states that have adopted Common Core standards are likely to see a de-emphasis in use of fiction materials and increased use of nonfiction materials in language classes. This is in accordance with the Common Core recommendations. NAEP test scores have been lower, and some educators have charged that this is a consequence of these changes and other Common Core recommendations.

Yet, states that have not implemented the Common Core standards have seen a similar depression of scores. The Brown Center report concludes that whatever is depressing NAEP scores is more general than the application of one set of standards or another.

The team at Merit talks to educators every day. It is clear that educators need to be smarter about how, and when, they choose to use interventions to improve test scores.

We have observed that schools rely too heavily on leveled reading programs to help students catch up to grade level. Despite wide use, there is little evidence to show leveled reading programs close large, long-term gaps in reading comprehension beyond those in early primary grades.

The increased use of nonfiction has coincided with advances in text simplification tools, Text simplification tools have made it easier than ever to create, and use, leveled texts in language classes.

It is understandable that a school would want to use adaptive reading technologies for struggling students as an intervention, or for short-term test prep. However, leveled texts should not be the driver of classroom instruction.  Leveled texts strip a lot of the meaning out of the content. Students would be better served if there were another way that they could participate in classroom activities to promote comprehension.

This is why we created News Punch — a program that builds comprehension through writing about texts. The program combines links to fun and fascinating news stories with step-by-step, guided writing prompts. New topics are created and deployed at least 40 times a year.

Recent News Punch topics have covered the Flint water crisis, the race to build reusable rockets, and a public wall in Seattle covered in chewing gum. Input on which articles to use is welcomed from educators and students. The Merit team can create custom activities for schools for a modest fee.

Research has shown that when students write about reading, as well as read challenging texts, there is a strong correlation to improved reading comprehension.

While we are just launching News Punch now, the program has been in test mode for several months.  Many educators have already used it with students and they love it. Please contact us if you would like to try News Punch now too.

Can The Rise Of College Student Dropout Rates Be Stopped? and how Merit can help!

Only 55 percent of first-time U.S. college students in 2008 completed a degree in 6 years, according to a recent report by the National Student Clearinghouse. This poor performance impacts not only the future of students but of institutions themselves. Ranking, reputation, and the bottom line can be affected.

To stem the dropout rate, many institutions are turning to web-facing services to improve learning and to support students to stay in school and complete their degrees. Here are two examples of technology-based tactics, as outlined by eCampus News, that can keep students in college and help them graduate.

  1. Online and blended learning: This tactic is good for remediation and course-credit recovery. It combines online coursework with in-person interaction and real-time class discussions.
  2. Monitoring, assessment, and early alert: These evaluate risk factors and develop appropriate interventions.

This is where Merit comes in.

In Merit programs, strategies have been developed and implemented both to prepare students for college and to provide remediation to college students who require it.

Merit offers online programs in college prep reading comprehension, process writing, grammar, and vocabulary.

With Merit, student progress is automatically tracked in an easy-to-use-tool for students and instructors. Results can be viewed on line and discussed in real time. Built-in tips and hints support students while they work.

Learn more about Merit Software

Improving Employability and Academic Skills How Merit Can Help

A recent survey of Kentucky Chamber of Commerce members bemoans the lack of “soft skills” or employability skills among prospective employees. In fact, 27% of employers surveyed report a need for improvement of these skills. Such skills include communication, teamwork, motivation, and the like.

Among the reasons students struggle in college and later in the workplace are lack of motivation or persistence and inadequate preparation, say the authors of a new report from Achieve.org.

Merit’s personalized learning software has built-in scaffolds and supports. The programs motivate students while they work. This enhances both academic and employability skills.

Learn more at www.meritsoftware.com

 

Are Chinese Students Faltering in American Universities?

There have been a number of recent news articles about the changing relationship between Chinese students and American universities. In the past, such students tended to be well-qualified graduate students sponsored by the Chinese government and living on tight budgets.

More recently, the resources of a burgeoning Chinese middle class have given parents the ability to send their children abroad to study. Unlike their predecessors, many of the students are less prepared and are entering undergraduate rather than graduate programs. At this time, they seem to care more about the reputation of the school than finding programs that fit their capabilities. As a consequence, according to an estimate by a U.S. education company, some 8,000 Chinese students were expelled from American universities last year alone—owing primarily to poor grades and cheating.

This issue is not just confined to Chinese students. Some Montana Tech students from Saudi Arabia who were caught in a cheating scandal back in 2012 were reportedly offered flights home to avoid arrest according to a local report.

This is where Merit Software comes in. By using Merit programs, the English language skills of Chinese and other international students can be improved to make study abroad more accessible and beneficial. Several Chinese students in U.S. schools have benefited from the Merit’s Grammar Fitness and Confused Word Fix-Up products.

Read more:

California’s Acceptance of Common Core State Standards

Merit Software helps the common coreA recent report issued by Children Now, a national think tank and advocate on children’s issues, states that 93 percent of California voters want schools to teach skills mandated in the Common Core Standards—that is, greater daily use of analysis, critical thinking, and real-world skills.

The strong acceptance in California of the Common Core is in contrast with overwhelming resistance to it in many states. Teachers and parents in some states are trying to repeal its use by urging students to refuse to take the test.

However, Californians are on board with the program and in favor of “measuring students on reading and writing skills across all subjects, including math and science.” They believe the program will prepare students for the competitive job market and make them more competitive with their peers from other countries.

Click here to read more.

Affordable ACT Preparation

Community Charter HS wants to provide ACT help for all 11th serves students with a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds.

The school is seeking to utilize existing technology resources to help students prepare for the English and Reading portions of the exam. In previous years, a teacher provided ACT test prep outside of the classroom.

*This school does not exist. It is a pseudonym for the school that took part in the webinar.

Recommendations

We looked primarily at Developing Critical Thinking Skills for Upper Grades and Grammar Fitness Advanced. Several aspects of the programs impressed webinar participants:

Faculty liked the variety and constructive feedback in Developing Critical Thinking Skills for Upper Grades.

Grammar Fitness Advanced aligns well to the ACT test, according to webinar participants.

Learn more about:

New Enhancements to Punch Writing Programs

Merit is pleased to announce new enhancements to its Punch process writing programs including Paragraph Punch, Open Punch, and Essay Punch.

Students who have completed a written work may now edit it by logging into their Online Portfolios.

The Post Published Editing tool allows users to see the current state of their work, review past versions, and print their newly updated paragraphs. The paragraph as it was initially published will be preserved both on the Published Paragraph screen, and on the Post Published Edits screen under the title “Original.”

New-Punch-Tools

The improved editing functionality has been seamlessly integrated into the software and is backwardly compatible with all previously completed written works.

Learn more about the Punch writing programs:

Starter Paragraph Punch

Paragraph Punch

Open Punch

Essay Punch

 

It’s Time to Level the Playing Field So More Students Can Compete Academically

FriendsWhile students respond positively to teachers who set high academic expectations, teachers often fail to set these expectations for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

A report from the Center for American Progress entitled “The Power of the Pygmalion Effect” indicates that teacher expectations strongly predict college completion.

Data suggest that more needs to be done to improve teachers’ instructional skills and to dispel social stereotypes.

Teachers do not get the rigorous training they need and most teacher prep programs do not give training in high-performing, high-poverty schools, according to the report.

This is where Merit fits in.

Merit programs provide detailed coverage of the core competencies students require to succeed.

Concepts in reading, writing, grammar, and vocabulary are covered from the basics to higher levels. Built-in hints and tips support students while they work.

Progress is automatically monitored in an easy-to-use tracking tool for instructors.

The software is adaptive and adjusts to a suitable level of challenge with minimal teacher intervention.

Learn more at www.meritsoftware.com