61% of NYC high-schoolers graduate, which is considered a success, since it’s an improvement over the dismal numbers of a few years ago. What is unqualifiably and utterly dismal, though, is the 21% college-readiness figure.
With the average NYC public-school class size at 24 students, this means that 5 people in any given class are truly ready for college, although as many as 15 may graduate.
What does college-readiness mean? Simple—it means that, upon graduation, high-school seniors are able to do college-level coursework: i.e. understand the lectures, not be stumped by textbooks and other materials they’re assigned daily by the dozens of pages. If students don’t have a habit of reading for homework, and if they don’t know certain SAT-level words that tend to appear in college-level assignments (after all, there’s a reason they appear on the SAT) then they will simply fail in college—fail in every way.
What should be done? Reading. And then, some more of it.
And reading, which many kids see as too daunting and boring, needs to be presented to them as the lesser of two evils. Either fail to get into college because you simply can’t read at a certain level, or actually read purposefully—to ace the entrance exam. Either cram the kinds of words you’ll need to know to understand what you’re assigned in college, or learn them naturally, contextually, via un-lame stories that actually feature those words.
In the end, there’s no way around reading, so they (or you, if you’re reading this and you’re a teenager) might as well read something you’ll enjoy sharing with your friends.
That’s why we think STORIED is just the thing to improve these godawful statistics. We believe NYC kids are better than this. And we challenge any and every NYC school—any school in the land!—to try STORIED for a quarter, trimester or semester—for free—and see what it can do for its students.
Instead of agonizing over it, we decided to begin today, right in the middle of it, (or, to be all high-falutin’ about it, and say like the Romans used to say,—in medias res).
So, what we’ve got here is a literary educational platform called STORIED. Check it out here: www.readstoried.com if you like. And the reason we went to the trouble of creating a whole platform in the first place is that there’s not a whole lot of reading going on in schools (and probably even less of it happening when school’s out). So, being writers, (and readers) we wanted to change that.
The last thing we wanted, though, was to do something about the low reading and test-performance levels in schools by making something boring and bureaucratic. We set out to make reading fun, engaging and relevant to teenagers, and to give them (or you, if you’re reading this and you’re a teenager) an improved chance of doing better on the P-SAT / ACT and beyond. *And without the stress of cramming.*
So we chose contextual learning as our method: you read stories in which the SAT words appear organically. Listen along to the audio versions of the stories, click on the underlined words if you want, check out the enhanced flashcards, hear the words pronounced (a hundred times if you want; even the intonation of the recordings helps you understand what each word means). After a while, you’ll notice that you know more words than before. Test yourself to see if that’s actually true. In 2-3 months you’ll know all the words you need to know to ace the verbal sections of the test you’re taking.
Here are some tech specs for STORIED:
Works on any device with a Web browser (desktop, laptop, netbook, tablet, smartphone, eReader, etc). iOS version (for iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad) is available here. The stories are written by talented young writers and feature clickable SAT-level words, enhanced flash cards, self-testing, illustrations you’ll be blown away by (just get a load of some of them here) and audio recorded by professional actors (Broadway, TV, radio—the works). We strive to have something for everyone, so, counting fairy tales, sci-fi, noir and others, as well as satire and urban poetry, we’ve got the popular genres and vernaculars covered, offering something uniquely familiar to you. Yes, we mean you.
Registered users can keep track of how they are doing on those extra-difficult words—you know, like, say, impecunious or perspicacious—and rate their favorite stories. The catalog of stories is ever-expanding, and new features, such as objective testing, leveling-up and comprehensive performance analytics are coming soon. A middle-school / TOEFL collection of stories is also underway.
OK, OK, since you’ve read this far—as a reward—here is illustration 2 of 5 by the insanely talented Devon Doss for a 5-chapter noir story, Falcon, The Maltese, coming soon to Collection III at readstoried.com:
If you’d like to see more original illustrations, check out our Facebook page or, better yet, go to STORIED itself (you can even log in instantaneously via the self-same Facebook).