College, Reinvented

iStock_000014379691XSmallU.S. colleges need to provide more counseling and academic support for students who are at risk of dropping out, according to a recent report. Student loan debt is at an all-time high, and barely half of students who start college get a degree in six years.rnrnThe report, Debt to Degree: A New Way of Measuring College Success, from the non-partisan research Education Sector group says students need to be better prepared for college and colleges need to find ways to make higher education more effective for students.rnrnCurrent examples of how colleges worldwide are using Merit programs include:

  • providing English grammar training and support at the start of the academic year.
  • nurturing students’ mastery of expository writing techniques – to persuade, inform, and describe.
  • enabling students returning to school to reacquaint themselves with reading comprehension, writing, and math skills before enrolling in credit courses.

Learn more about Merit Solutions for College Prep.

Read Debt to Degree: A New Way to Measure College Success.

New Report: High School Graduates are Falling Short, Need Help

60 percent of recent U.S. High School graduates are at-risk of failing in their college and career endeavors according to new research by ACT, Inc.

“The best way to help students prepare for successful futures is by monitoring their achievement, academic behaviors and goals starting early in their academic careers and providing appropriate help whenever we find they are not on track for success,” says ACT Chief Executive Officer, Jon Whitmore.

Merit Software programs are developed with these features in mind.

Merit programs cover a wide range of academic skills and track students’ progress while they work. The programs provide context clues and built-in supports. Students automatically receive help when they encounter troublesome concepts.

{read the complete article from Reuters}

High School Writing and Grammar Help – Webinar Recap

Grammar Fitness Heat Map

Grammar Fitness Heat Map

STEM High School* has 500 students. Many struggle with reading and writing but are good with math and science.

The English department needs to find a way to help a large number of students improve grammar and paragraphing skills.

Last year the department did not have a good diagnostic in this area. They tried to teach writing skills in the context of the curriculum but that strategy wasn’t helpful.

Grammar instruction trails off in the district after sixth grade. STEM High School students are familiar with grammar concepts, but they haven’t practiced them enough to master them. The faculty feels the students need a program devoted to grammar and writing mastery.

Most STEM High School students plan to go to college. The SAT Writing test is primarily grammar, according to the English department head. Improving grammar skills should have the added benefit of improving SAT scores.

*STEM High School is not the real name of the school. It represents an accurate description of how the school’s administrators view its mission and goals.

Merit's Online Teaching Portfolio

Merit’s Online Teaching Portfolio


First, we looked at Grammar Fitness. A few aspects of the program impressed webinar participants.

  • They were pleased with the broad range of content.
  • They were thrilled with the ability to track entire classes through the heat-map.
  • Participants were also impressed with the program’s ability to drill down and see the areas where students needed help. They also liked that they could have students redo exercises if necessary.

Next we looked at Paragraph Punch.

  • The teachers liked that they could see where students were in the stages of the writing process.
  • They also liked that they could show students their own work at different stages of the writing process.
  • They liked that the program helped students brainstorm ideas.

English Vocabulary and College Admissions

College students in a computer labIn a recent blog post, the New York Times addresses the growing and passionate interest students from India and China, particularly Indian students, have in top American colleges and universities.

A number of questions about applying to American colleges and universities were submitted to admissions officials at the University of Pennsylvania. As expected, a key difference for Indian students as opposed to their American counterparts is the varying levels of English (particularly academic English) preparation.

Merit Software’s web-based programs are being used in several learning organizations and universities in India, as well as other non-native English speaking countries. Two vocabulary programs that have been successful are Confused Words Fix-Up, which helps students understand commonly misused English words, and Vocabulary Stretch Online, which helps students recognize challenging words in different contexts, and understand where many English words come from.

Both programs cover a wide range of English words. They are self-paced and self-advancing. Students apply words as they learn them, and receive immediate feedback while they work.

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Can Changing Reading and Writing Instruction Raise SAT Scores?

Common Core Standards for English LanguageSAT reading scores in 2011 were the lowest on record. This is the second time in the past two decades that reading scores have fallen as much in a single year.

It is well known that middle and high school students are reading less at home and rarely write letters anymore. Could greater use of technology strengthen reading and writing instruction in schools and raise SAT scores? We think so.

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Cheating in Schools – Lessons Learned

cheatingThe recent discovery of vast numbers of teachers in Atlanta who faked students’ scores on high stakes tests is an astonishing twist in the use of tests in U.S. public schools.

To deal with this issue, some have called for the elimination of standardized tests. However, we feel that accountability data is too important to stakeholders to drop completely.

Hopelessness about how to improve student achievement is one of the reasons teachers felt compelled to cheat on these standardized tests.

If teachers had a better way to know where students stood academically, if they had a better idea about the areas where their students needed help, if the teachers felt they had a chance to help all their students, then perhaps there would be less incentive to cheat.

And it goes without saying that if students received the evaluation, support, and direction they needed, their scores improve.

Teachers need useful, formative assessments to help them determine each student’s strengths and weaknesses. Administrators need a way to know during the school year if their teachers are actually helping their students. Students deserve to learn and achieve.

All groups need a partner to show them how this can be done. This is where Merit Software fits in.

Need for College Remediation Linked to Before High School Performance

There is a clear link between college remediation needs and how well students performed before entering high school, according to data released by the New York City Department of Education.

This analysis was published in a recent New York Times article about how many graduates of top rated New York City high schools need remedial help when they go to college. Education officials plan to change the way high schools are ranked to reflect their students future college remediation needs.

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