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.

Preparing Students for High School English

Educators are always interested in learning more about ways to intervene and assist with students. Here at Merit we receive many inquiries about our products from teachers who wish to find new ways to improve learning.

A recent message came from a teacher who is working with students in a newly developed general English course for first-year high school students who are not ready for the standard English 1 course in the district.

About half the students are ESL or on an individualized education program (IEP). The rest have tested over two grades behind in writing and grammar. They need lots of writing practice and intervention.

The first nine weeks of the course were spent on sentence writing and fluency, including work on simple, compound, and complex sentences, and transitions from one to another.

The second nine weeks built on the sentence writing work by focusing on strong paragraph writing.

The teacher turned to Merit’s Paragraph Punch, a program that takes students through the process of writing a basic paragraph. Online interactive exercises guide the students.

The program has an online tutor whom the students call “Lola.” Lola leads them step-by-step through the writing process.

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

 

 

Does Digital Reading Hurt Reading Comprehension?

Schoolgirl Using Computer At DeskReading online may be causing people to skim rather than read in depth according to one expert.

With the vast amount of information that comes in onto people’s computers and mobile devices, reading online is causing people to skim rather than read in depth in order to keep up.

Online reading is not necessarily superficial. Merit Software’s online products are in-depth interactive learning tools. In Merit’s Reading Comprehension Booster, for example, online context clues and multiple activities reinforce learning.

Click here to read the article.

Learn more about Reading Comprehension Booster.

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”

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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