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.

Use the Super 5 to Get Your School Year Off to a Great Start

Be a Learning Hero has launched The Super 5: Back-to-School Power Moves to help families get their school year started right. Families know their child’s interests, habits, and personality, but they may not know what their child is expected to learn. The Super 5, in both English and Spanish, provides families with resources to address the five critical areas for student success:

  1. Start Smart by knowing what your child needs to master this year in school.
  2. Support Learning Anywhere by incorporating the provided ideas into your daily routine.
  3. Stay Connected by getting the most from parent-teacher conferences and developing a partnership with your child’s teacher.
  4. Take on Challenges by encouraging your child to try new things and praising the effort, not the result.
  5. Speak Openly with your child and their teacher to help them live up to their fullest potential.

Be a Learning Hero also provides learning tools for families that can be tailored to your child’s specific grade, topic, and state. These resources include both homework help and life skills your child needs to be successful.

5 Things You Need to Know About the PARCC Score Release

parcc-logo-purplejpg-54a6aed43765c4b0Last week, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released preliminary score reports for this spring’s PARCC assessment. Here are five important points to understand about these scores.

  1. The scores are only preliminary. The scores are aggregated at the state level, and school districts have not yet checked the data to eliminate duplicate student records or other inconsistencies. These statewide scores may change once the data has been cleaned up.
  2. The scores are out earlier this year. The 2015 PARCC assessment was the first time it was used. As a result, scoring the test also required determining what the benchmarks were for the five score levels on each question. That delayed both the initial release of scores and the individual student scores. The final student scores will be included in the Illinois Report Card release on October 30, compared to December 11 last year. Your individual student’s score report will be provided by your school district in the next month or so.
  3. The scores are an honest assessment of student achievement. The preliminary scores show that statewide, 36.2% of students are meeting the English/Language Arts Illinois Learning Standards and 30.5% are meeting the Math Illinois Learning Standards. These scores are in line with the ACT’s most recent report on college readiness, other student assessments, and remedial courses taken by college students. With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the definition of school accountability is returned to the states. It is up to the citizens of Illinois to ensure that the state does not lower standards to show success and continues to provide an honest measure of student and school success.
  4. ISBE’s PARCC Place is your source for assessment information. ISBE has collected a variety of resources and new for educations, families, students, and administrators at PARCC Place. Use PARCC Place to find out what is happening with assessment in Illinois and how to interpret your student’s and your school’s results.
  5. PARCC is changing again next year. The 2016 PARCC assessment reflected feedback from school districts, educators, and families, moving from two testing windows to one and reducing the amount of testing time. The PARCC assessment will be changing again in 2017, with only grades 3 through 8 taking the PARCC and high school students taking the SAT instead. One reason for this change is the complications of administering a class-based assessment at the high school level where students taking the Algebra II assessment could be freshman, seniors, or in between. A second reason is the US Department of Education’s determination that Illinois’s decision to allow school districts to decide whether to use the 9th, 10th, or 11th grade assessments in their district violated No Child Left Behind’s requirement that all high school students take the same assessment. Third, the College Board changed the SAT in the spring of 2016 to align with the Common Core State Standards, which are essentially identical to the Illinois Learning Standards, making the SAT an applicable assessment for the high school level. Finally, both ISBE and citizens from across Illinois felt that it was important that the state provide every high school student with a college entrance exam, especially after no such exam was provided by the state in 2016 due to the state budget crisis.