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  • Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships for ALL Students

    Reading Skills and the Career Readiness GapA Study of High School Students

    Preparedness for College and Career

    Willard R. Daggett, Ed.D.Founder and Chairman, International Center for Leadership in Education

    Founder and Chairman, Successful Practices Network

    Jerry A. Pedinotti, Jr.Vice President and Lead Research Analyst, Tipping Point Analytics

  • CopyrightJuly2014bySuccessfulPracticesNetwork.Allrightsreserved. 1

    ReadingSkillsandtheCareerReadinessGapAStudyofHighSchoolStudentsPreparednessforCollegeandCareer

    Theworldweliveincontinuestoevolveandshowsnosignsofslowingdown.Whatthefutureholdsinterms of academics or jobs is uncertain and barely imaginable. Educators cannot assume that thetraditionalfocusoncollegepreparationorspecific jobtrainingwillbeenoughtoprepareourstudentsforwhatmay lieahead;our researchhas shown that it isnotenough. In fact, lifeoutsideof schoolrequires substantially higher levelsof reading proficiency thanmost students experience in thehighschool classroomandeven inpostsecondaryeducation.Thebestoptionwehave is to redefineandrestructureteachingandlearninginwaysthatequipstudentstodealwiththeunexpectedandadapttochanging circumstances. This will involve a level of retraining, not only in terms of professionaldevelopmentforteachers,butalsointheentireschoolcommunitysshiftinculture.Statesdefinitionofreadingproficiencyneedstoaccountfornotjusttraditionalacademicmeasuresofreadingcompetence,butalsotheskillsthatmakeindividualsemployableandsuccessfulintheirlivesbeyondhighschool.

    The implementation of the higher State Standards, Next Generation Assessments and ValueaddedAssessmentshasreenergized the focus toensure thatstudentsarebothcollegeandcareerready.Tohelp create anunderstandingof and establishnecessaryproficiency levelswithin the standards, theSuccessfulPracticesNetworkcommissioned theCTETechnicalAssistanceCenter (CTETAC)ofNYandTippingPointAnalytics(TPA)toconductastudytodeterminehowtheliteracyrequirementsfor11thand12thgradehighschoolstudentscomparetothetextdemandsthatatypicalentrylevelemployeewouldencounterduringhisorherfirstyearonthejob.

    Previousstudieshaveexaminedawiderangingsampleoftextsfrombothacademicandnonacademicenvironments.Prioriterationsofthisstudyhighlightedtheliteracychallengethathighschoolsface:theliteracy requirements of adults in their daily life, entrylevel employees, firstyear postsecondarystudents, and people in the military are significantly higher than the required levels of readingproficiencythatmosthighschoolstudentsexperience.

    Theprimaryfocusofthe2014studywastoseewhetherornottheliteracyrequirementsforentryleveljobshave changedover time. Technology and innovations in the global economy change constantly.Likewise,thetextsthatpeopleintheworkplaceneedtobeabletoreadandunderstandareshiftingand more so than in academic areas, which remain relatively static. Inspections of literature andtextbooksusednowand in thepastas instructionalmaterials inschoolsandcollegeshaveconfirmedthis.

    ThiscurrentstudybeganinNovember2013andfinalmaterialsubmissionswerereceivedinJune2014.Thisreportcontainsthereadingcomplexitymeasures,reportedasLexiles,ofallsubmissionsthatwerereceivedandanalyzed.Personaluseorjobspecifictextsthatwerenotwrittenwithstandardsentenceandparagraphstructurecouldnotbemeasured.However,thiswasnotatypicaloccurrence.

  • CopyrightJuly2014bySuccessfulPracticesNetwork.Allrightsreserved. 2

    TheLiteracyGapStudent learning styles, interests, and aptitudes are like fingerprints: no two are the same. In aclassroomsituationwhereateacherislecturingorthestudentsarereadingapassagefromatextbook,it can be assumed that only a fraction of the students are experiencing the appropriate amount ofinstructionalmaterialforthelessontobeeffective.Studentswhofindthe lessontoorigorousbecomelost anddiscouragedwhileother studentsmaynotbe challenged enough andbecomebored. Somestudentsmayhavenointerestinthelessonwhatsoever.

    Ideally,eachstudentwillexperiencemeasurableandsustainedimprovementfromclasstoclass,daytoday,andgradetograde.Bythetimeastudentgraduatesfromhighschool,heorshewillhavegainedtherequisiteskillstosucceedinthenextstageoflife,whetheritiscollegeorinacareer.Ifastudentcanstep seamlessly into thatnextphase, then theeducation systemhasworked for that individual. Ifallstudentscanmakethattransition,thenthesystemonthewholeissucceeding.Butthisisnotreality.

    Since the publication ofANation at Risk in 1983,which concluded thatAmerican schoolswere notpreparinghighschoolstudentsfortheirnextstageof lifeaftergraduation,the impetusforchangehascome primarily from pressure placed on elected officials by the business community and not fromhighereducation,whoseownslippingstandardsallowed formoreandmoredevelopmentalEnglishcoursestobackfillacademicdeficienciesamongentering freshmen.Businessand industrycontinuetofeelfirsthandtheskillsgapbetweenwhatstudentsareachievinginschoolandwhattheyactuallyneedinordertobesuccessful intodaysworkplace.Thebusinesscommunityhas long identified inadequatereadingabilityasa leadingproblemamongentrylevelemployees.Inthepast,manysecondaryschooleducators attempted to solve the problem by assigningmore reading,whichwasmostly prose. Theproblemwiththisistwofold:

    1. Prose isnot read inmostworkplaceenvironments.Literacy, in thecontextofwork, requiresbetter technical reading skills for understanding informational documents and quantitativematerial.Studentsneedtobeexposedtoavarietyoftexts,not justfromothercontentareas,butfromcareerandtechnicaleducationcourses,personaluseoradultrolestexts,andsampleoccupationalmaterials.Themoderndefinitionofliteracyneedstoencompassallthreetypesoftext:prose,document,andquantitative.Toooften, it ismaterialquantitative innaturethat ismissingfromastudentseducationalexperience.

    2. Assigningmore readingwillnotusually result inhigher readingproficiency.A student at acertain reading levelwill not improve his or her proficiency unless he or she is continuallychallengedbythetext.Astudentthatreadsatextwrittenatorbelowhisorherreadinglevelisnotbeingchallenged.Conversely,astudentpresentedwithatextwellaboveherorhisreadinglevelwillfind ittoocomplexandgrowfrustrated.Atextneedstobeslightlyaboveareadersabilityleveltochallengethestudentandpromotegrowthinreadingproficiency.

    Everystateinthecountry,whetherornotithasadoptedtheCommonCoreStateStandards,hasaddedtherequirementofCollegeandCareerReadytoitsstandards.TheshifttoincludecollegeANDcareerreadyhasbeenbothintentionalandconsequential.

  • CopyrightJuly2014bySuccessfulPracticesNetwork.Allrightsreserved. 3

    Traditionally,CollegePrephasbeenseenasarigorouseducationalprogram.Careerreadywasseenasarelevantbutnotnecessarilyrigorouseducationexperience.CollegeANDcareerreadyneedstobebothrigorousandrelevant.Therefore,transitioningfromthetraditionalparadigmofcollegeORcareerreadytocollegeANDcareer ready forall students requiresaverydifferent setof skillsandabilities. In thepast,collegereadymeantcollectingoraccomplishingaseriesofacademicmerits(e.g.,Carnegieunits,APcourses,ACTorSATscores),whereascareerreadyfocusedonacquiringtechnicalskills,participatingin a CTE program, or working toward a certification. With either focus, students were placed onmarkedlydifferentpathswithnoguaranteeofsuccess.

    The challengewe are facedwith today is ensuring that the factors thatmake students successful incollege and careers are the same: the ability to learn and apply new information, problem solve,communicateandcollaboratewithpeers,andcontributetothegreatergoodofsociety.Ifwecanfocusonteachingandthenmeasurethesemorebroadlydefinedcharacteristicsitwillbeabetterindicatorofwhetheragraduateistrulypreparedforasuccessfullifeafterhighschool.ThefocusofK12andhighereducationneedstomakeadramaticshiftfromwhatclassesstudentshavecompletedtowhatstudentsareabletodo.Collegeandpostsecondaryeducationneedstobeseenasameanstotheend,notjusttheendofastudentslearningcycle.

    StudentsinothernationsarequicklyoutpacingAmericanstudents,asoureducationsystemisfixatedonkeeping the status quo by adding new regulations and policies that are notmotivated by studentachievementandengagement.Movingtostandardsthataddressbothcollegeandcareerreadinesswillhelp us address this problem. Standards, assessment, and instruction remain critical parts of theeducationexperience,butanemphasisoninstillingasenseoflifelonglearningandengagingstudentsintheirowneducationwillensurethattheybecomeselfsupportingadults.

    TheLexileFrameworkforReadingThe Lexile Framework for Reading is a psychometric system formatching readerswith textsofappropriatedifficulty.This innovativeapproach to reading comprehension has been widely adopted andimplementedinschoolsacrosstheUnitedStates.Infact,theyarethemost widely adopted reading measure in use today. All majorstandardized reading tests and many popular instructional readingprogramsreportstudentreadingscoresinLexiles.Lexilemeasures,ascomponentsoftheincrementalLexilescale,allowformeasurementofbothtextdifficultyandreaderabilityonthesamescale.Thisenablesreaders to be appropriatelymatched with books that will be bothengagingandchallenging.

    TheideabehindtheLexileFrameworkforReadingissimple:ifweknowhowwellastudentcanreadandhowhardaspecificbookistocomprehend,wecanpredicthowwellthatstudentwilllikelyunderstandthebook.Forexample, ifareaderhasaLexilemeasureof600L(600Lexile),wecanforecastthatthereaderwillcomprehendapproximately75percentofabookwiththesameLexilemeasure(600L).When

    ALexilemeasureisavaluablepieceofinformationabouteitheranindividual'sreadingabilityorthedifficultyofatext,likeabookormagazinearticle.TheLexilemeasureisshownasanumberwithanLafterit880Lis880Lexile.

  • CopyrightJuly2014bySuccessfulPracticesNetwork.Allrightsreserved. 4

    theLexilemeasuresandtheLexilescaleweredeveloped,the75%comprehensionratewassetatthepointwherethedifferencebetweentheLexilereadermeasureandth

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