Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students

AA053438Academic achievement by 8th grade is the largest predictor of college success according to the recent White House report “Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students.”

Merit has a strong track record of improving academic performance in elementary and middle school. The programs also help older students who have not mastered 8th level skills get on-track.

In Merit reading comprehension programs students acquire vocabulary through context, draw conlusions based on relevant information, and learn to find the main idea in a text.

Merit’s Punch writing programs help students write clear, descriptive sentences, organize ideas, and develop paragraphs and essays.

Grammar Fitness helps students with tenses, usage, irregular noun plurals, correction split constructions, and the like.

Click here to read the report “Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students”

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New Research Says Grades, Not SATs, Predict College Success

login-imageA recent study involving 33 private colleges and universities and the records of 123,000  students and alumni indicates that students who have low or modest SAT-type test scores but good high school grades do better in college than those with good scores but modest grades.

Merit products are known for improving academic performance in schools. The programs develop critical thinking and academic skills.

Merit’s Punch writing programs help students write clear, descriptive sentences, organize ideas, and develop paragraphs and essays.

Grammar Fitness helps students with tenses, usage, irregular noun plurals, correcting split constructions, and the like.

In Merit reading programs students acquire vocabulary through context, draw conclusions based on relevant information, and learn to find the main idea in a text.

Learn more about Merit:

Simple Truths about the Common Core

AA053438The transition to the Common Core has been controversial and poorly handled, particularly when it comes to teacher evaluations and new standardized tests.

However, the harsh reality is that reading scores in the U.S. have not improved in 20 years.

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The Student Cliff

login-imageNew Gallup.com research on U.S. students in grades 5 through 12 strongly suggests that the longer students stay in school, the less engaged they become.

“The drop in student engagement for each year students are in school is our monumental, collective national failure. There are several things that might help to explain why this is happening — ranging from our overzealous focus on standardized testing and curricula to our lack of experiential and project-based learning pathways for students,” writes a Gallop.com blogger.

We here at Merit Software also see this trend as problematic. That’s why we develop interactive, engaging learning tools to help teachers and students attain success.

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Using Assessments to Improve English Literacy Skills – Webinar Recap

ABC School District is looking for a way to help a large number of students in upper elementary and middle school grades improve their English grammar and reading skills.

The school district has several K-8 schools. Many students struggle with English Language Arts skills.

The school district’s high school graduation rate is 64%. Yet, state data show 89% of the district’s graduates need to catch up in college before taking credit courses.

The district is in a state that is part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium or SABC. The SBAC is one of the two standardized tests being evaluated for assessing how well students are mastering the Common Core State Standards.

To help students improve in English Language Arts, the school district wants to use real-time, formative assessments of performance tasks students could see on a standardized test.

Recommendations:

  • We looked primarily at Grammar Fitness. A few aspects of the program impressed webinar participants.
  • They felt the exercises provided in the program looked like ones students could see on a standardized test.
  • They liked the ability of Grammar Fitness to track entire classes with a few keystrokes, and drill down to see areas where an individual student needed help or where the entire class of students needed additional help.

 

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Students’ ability to be part of the mastery process also appealed to participants. Students can see their own progress with the end-of-round summary screens and within their own online portfolio.

 

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Grammar Fitness is personalized and students receive context-clues to help master troublesome concepts. Teachers appreciated this aspect of the program.

 

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Participants also liked the fact that they could have students redo exercises if necessary, and use the Finals section as part of an end-of-course grade.

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Common Core Practice Update – October 26, 2012

iStock_000018980120SmallWith the advent of the Common Core, Merit has introduced Open Punch, which helps students brainstorm and write assignments on the Web. In the Open Punch program, writing topics are assigned based on timely events as well as texts students have read. Highlights of the program include:

  • Interactive modules for Opinion, Fact, and Narrative writing topics.
  • Built-in tips that guide students through each step of the writing process.
  • A tracking tool that enables instructors to view pupil writing at different stages of development.

Recently the New York Times began posting three Common Core-aligned writing tasks based on news stories. Open Punch program ties in well with this feature.

In the writing tasks published October 26, 2012, the Opinion module can be applied to the “Chickens Threaten to Divide Brooklyn” task, the Fact-based module can be used for the “Gleaning Clues from the Clouds” assignment, and the Narrative module can be applied to the “Finding Zen” article.

Click here to learn more about Open Punch.

Weekly Common Core Practice – Introduction

School children in high school classRecent research has shown that the vast majority of U.S. secondary students struggle with writing. Merit’s writing programs have a strong track record of helping teachers improve students’ writing skills.

With the advent of the Common Core, Merit has introduced Open Punch. Open Punch helps students brainstorm and write assignments on the Web. Writing topics may be assigned based on timely events as well as texts students have read and personal tastes. Highlights of the program include:

  • Interactive modules for Opinion, Fact, and Narrative prompts.
  • Built-in tips that guide students through each step of the writing process.
  • Instructor monitoring that allows online tracking of student writing.

Open Punch ties in well with the launch today of a New York Times Learning Network Common Core Practice feature. In collaboration with two 9th-grade teachers, the Times began to post actual tasks English students have used in the classroom. Each week the Times will target one or more of the Common Core E.L.A. Anchor Standards and provide ideas for developing the task.

Our goal here is to help teachers know which Open Punch writing prompts can be used with the New York Times’ Common Core Practice activities.

For the Common Core activities posted September 21, 2012 the Open Punch Opinion module can be used for the “Medical Manga” and “Restaurant Review” tasks. The Fact module can be used as part of the “Restaurant Review” assignment.

More information: