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

Recommendations for English Language Learners (ELLs) and how Merit Software can help

College students in a computer labAlmost five million students in the United States public education system are English Language Learners (ELLs).

The percentage of ELLs graduating high school within four years trails other subgroups such as pupils from low-income families and students with disabilities.

Reaching all of America’s students includes meeting the needs of diverse learners that possess a wide variance in skills, backgrounds, cultures and family supports.

Supporting ELLs, and ultimately all students, involves multiple strategies, professional learning and environmental support. It also means providing next-gen and technological tools that can support language acquisition.

A new report from Getting Smart presents opinions from experienced ELL educators and thought leaders across the U.S. about existing tools and gaps in the field.

Merit Software’s programs for ELLs have a strong track record of effectiveness. Merit programs cover a variety of skills and a broad range of levels. Merit offers a clean, straightforward interface and as well as content that is suitable for older students.

Learn more about Merit’s English language learning products at www.meritsoftware.com

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.

Improving Adult Literacy with Technology

According to the Barbara Bush Foundation, which has established a competition challenging teams of developers, educators, engineers, and innovators to create mobile literacy learning applications for adult learners, 36 million U.S. adults lack basic English literacy.

Low-literate adults have difficulty with such things as reading over-the-counter medicine labels, completing a job application, opening a bank account, and more. Studies show that improving adult literacy could save the country an estimated $230 billion in extra healthcare costs. Even a one percent rise in literacy skill scores can increase labor productivity by as much as 2.5 percent, boosting output by as much as $225 billion.

Existing programs provided by nonprofits and public agencies offer only direct, in-person services, often in a classrooms or small groups. These programs cannot meet the needs of the millions of low-literate adults in the United States.

Merit Software’s programs in adult literacy have a strong track record of effectiveness.

Merit programs cover a variety of skills and a broad range of levels. Plus, Merit offers a clean, straightforward interface and as well as content that is suitable for older students.

Learn more about Merit’s adult literacy software at www.meritsoftware.com.

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

 

Why Standardized Testing Advocates Are Wrong

Answers to the testUse of digital, adaptive learning programs such as those produced by Merit reduce the need for annual standardized testing in core subjects, particularly English Language Arts, in U.S. public schools.

The programs’ built-in tracking and feedback provide useful formative assessments for teachers, parents, and administrators.

It is easy to compare the results of users of the programs to get a snapshot of competency. Merit learning programs are also for teachers to learn to use.

Technology associated with adaptive programs is no longer a barrier. Student use of Internet in schools has increased dramatically. Schools are providing better training and equipment.

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Standardized tests have their place, and should not be abandoned altogether. However, adaptive learning software can, and should, be used to monitor and enhance student achievement.

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

 

 

The High Price of Colleges’ Failures

Happy businessman with laptop smilingRecent college graduates who are struggling to start careers are being hurt by their lack of learning, according to Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, authors of the groundbreaking book, “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses.”

In the original study, the authors had a sample of four-year undergraduates take the Collegiate Learning Assessment during their freshman year. The same students then took the CLA again during their senior year, and their scores saw very little change. The test includes essay-based critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and communication skills questions.

A recently published follow-up study of the same students,tracking them for two years following graduation, found skills measured by high-scoring CLA students had made a significant difference to finding and keeping a first job.

Students who had higher CLA scores had spent more time studying alone and took classes where teachers enforced high expectations, such as writing long papers.

Low CLA scoring students were twice as likely to lose their jobs as high CLA students, implying employers can tell who got a good college education and who did not. Low CLA scoring graduates were also 50 percent more likely to end up in an unskilled occupation, and were less likely to be satisfied with their jobs.

Articles about the follow-up study are here, here, and here.

Merit Software helps build the skills that are highly correlated with high CLA scores, including critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and communications skills.

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.

Recommended resources:

Merit’s New UI Changes

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Merit is pleased to announce the recent rollout of several user interface changes to its online learning platform.

Among the changes are: a flexible design, based on the dimensions of the users screen display; larger font sizes; and crisper, clearer buttons.

The new look may be seen by trying any full-working demo from a Merit program’s web page.