Open eBooks Provides Free Books to Children in Need

A critical part of a child’s academic success is learning to read and developing a love of reading. For many children, developing this love is hindered by a lack of access to books in their home. Now, Open eBooks is helping educators, librarians, and program leaders working with children from in-need families get free access to thousands of age-appropriate books through a phone app.

The initiative is a collaboration of literacy, library, publishing, and technology organizations that joined together to create the app (Android and iOS). The app requires someone working with children—teachers, librarians, after-school counselors, early childhood educators—to sign up for the program for free. They then request the number of free codes they need for the children they serve. Students then enter the code in their app to access the Open eBooks library.

The Open eBooks initiative began with the realization of the increasing access that students at all income levels have to technology at school. In addition, research has shown that 85% of families with children ages 6 to 13 living below the poverty level have access to mobile devices. The Open eBooks program has the ability to put far more books in the hands of children than could ever be accomplished with physical books.

Parents cannot sign up directly for Open eBooks, but they can encourage their child’s teacher or their school’s librarian to sign up for the program. The Open eBooks site walks educators through the process of signing up and getting free codes for children. The initiative also provides a flyer that you can share with your school about the program, as well as a flyer the school can send home with children with their access code once they sign up. Help every child develop a love of reading—encourage your school to sign up with Open eBooks.

 

Illinois Releases New School Report Card

The Illinois State Board of Education released its state report card for the 2015-2016 school year yesterday. Illinois PTA has shared how to navigate the report card, and this year’s version offers some new tools and new information. This year’s report card is also mobile-friendly, an important feature since many families in Illinois only have internet access through their mobile provider. Much of the report card is translated into Spanish by clicking the “Español” at the top or bottom of the page, though some parts remain in English, primarily descriptions and embedded text on charts and buttons.

Among those new tools are a series of short videos to help you navigate the report card and use the information available. These videos are all on the main page at IllinoisReportCard.com. New information is being collected are reported this year as well, including teacher attendance and the number of high school students earning college credit through dual credit, Advanced Placement (AP), and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses.

The 2016 Illinois Report Card will serve as a benchmark as school accountability changes under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ISBE is currently drafting its ESSA Implementation Plan, due in March 2017, which will define how school success is measured. Illinois PTA has covered ESSA and accountability in an earlier One Voice Illinois post.

Despite Illinois’s budget and education funding issues, the report card notes improvements in some areas of student performance, though many indicators remained fairly steady. Those improvements include:

  • An increase in students earning a 21 or higher ACT composite score from 45.6% to 46.4%
  • An increase in students meeting or exceeding PARCC math proficiency standards from 28.2% to 30.5%
  • An increase in statewide student attendance from 94.2% to 94.4%
  • A decrease in the high school dropout rate from 2.3% to 2.0%

Be sure to check out the report card to see how your child, your school, and your district are doing.

First Lady Michelle Obama Launches Campaign to Help Students Go to College

bettermakeroomImproving student success depends on a lot of different variables—poverty, accountability, school climate, teachers, curriculum, and more. One piece of the puzzle that doesn’t get much attention is access to college advising.

The Economic Mobility Project notes that in schools serving predominately low-income students there are more than one thousand students per counselor. Those counselors are responsible for walking each student through high school to graduation and onto college or career, and the lack of access to student counseling is a contributing factor in the gap between students’ goals after high school and their attainment. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 59% of students from the lowest quarter of household income expect to graduate from college, but eight years later, only 14% have done so.

First Lady Michelle Obama, herself a first-generation college graduate, has launched the Better Make Room initiative to help families navigate the path from high school to college. One important part of the Better Make Room initiative is Up Next, a national mobile messaging tool that provides assistance with college searches, applying to college, federal student aid, and student loan repayment. This advising is designed to supplement school counselors and to provide extra support for students who may not have any access to counseling in their schools or communities.

To sign up, students or parents simply text COLLEGE to 44044. Better Make Room takes it from there.

The initiative also provides families with tools and resources to help make informed decisions about college and adulthood, including:

  • Napkin Finance: A financial education and resource site to help students with all of life’s major decisions.
  • Financial Aid Shopping Sheet: A document that students can fill out to break down the costs of going to college.
  • Net Price Calculator Center: A tool that links to each college or university’s online calculator. This calculator lets students enter information about themselves to find out what students like them paid to attend the college after taking grants and scholarship aid (aid that students receive that they do not have to pay back) into consideration.
  • Federal Student Aid (FSA): An information site to help students learn what types of aid are available, how to become eligible for aid, and how to apply and manage loans once they’ve been accepted.
  • College Navigator: A tool to help students locate colleges and universities that meet their needs and career goals, including distance from home, type of college, degrees offered, and more.
  • College Scorecard: A tool covered previously on One Voice Illinois that provides information on college costs, graduation, student debt, and post-college earnings.

Any family trying to help their child go to college will find these tools and resources from Better Make Room useful in navigating what can often be a confusing process.

New Guide Helps Hispanic Families Navigate the College Application Process

graduate-2-0-cover-spanishLatino students are graduating high school and enrolling in college at the highest rates in our history, and they are now the largest minority group in our nation’s colleges and universities. However, only 23% of Hispanic adults 25 and older have an associate degree or higher, and only 12% have a masters or doctorate.

In order to better support Hispanic students in completing high school and enrolling in college, the US Department of Education released ¡Gradúate! 2.0: A College Planning Guide to Success on October 11th. The guide is a follow-up to ¡Gradúate!: A Financial Aid Guide to Success. Both guides are available in English and Spanish and are useful to all families. The new guide outlines the steps that students should take through high school up through heading off to college, including:

  • Preparing for College
  • The Process of Applying and Enrolling
  • Paying for College
  • Preparing for the First Semester of College

Students who are the first in their family to go to college face challenges that those whose parents went to college don’t deal with and may need extra support, whether it is taking the classes needed to be accepted into college, understanding the application process, or applying for financial aid. This new guide will provide these students and their families with information and resources to navigate the process of going to college.