Leonardtown, MD — Middle and high school students in St. Mary’s County Public Schools (SMCPS) have a new online resource to help them improve their vocabulary skills. The St. Mary’s County Board of Education at its Sept. 14 meeting approved the purchase of the license to use a program called “Membean.” Cost is $49,000 for all middle and high school students for one year.

According to Assessments and Accountability Officer Alex Jaffurs, the school system rolled out a pilot project last year in several schools and the program proved successful. According to the presentation made by Jaffurs and Michelle Gallant-Wall, the school system’s supervisor of English and Language Arts, during the pilot program 3,537 students used Membean for an average of 35 minutes a week. They achieved an 88 percent average assessment score.

The school board was told Membean provides more than seven different ways of learning a word. With engaging content such as audio, video and word pictures, Membean’s game-like format succeeds in overcoming short attention spans.

According to Membean’s website http://membean.com/: “A high score on any standardized test needs a robust vocabulary. But many students don’t know where to begin. What words should I learn? Is there a preferred order? How will I decipher meaning when I’ve never seen the word before? Is it enough to learn definitions? And will I remember all the words I’m memorizing? We have the answers:”

According to the Power Point presentation made to the school board, Membean:

• Focuses limited resources; “Creating an effective vocabulary learning system is arduous and challenging. Something which most teachers do not have time to do in the most effective and efficient way.”

• Reinforces learning; “Our Memory Engine schedules learning and repititions to ensure that what students learn is not forgotten.”:

• Captures attention (see above)

• Differentiates instruction: “Our tool customizes a learning program for each and every student based on their existing skill level and speed of progress.”
Each student is given a discreet password to access Membean. It is recommended that students spend 45 minutes a week with the program. It uses what is called an Adaptive Reinforcement Engine to reinforce what the students learn over time. New words are added and old words are brought back up.

According to the presentation from Jaffurs and Gallant-Wall, high school students who don’t have their own computers will be allowed computer access during the new One Lunch period.

In addition to purchasing Membean for every middle and high school, student, the school board also approved purchase of an online science resource called Discovery Plus. The program provides “skill building games, audio files, images, writing prompts, encyclopedia articles and assessment resources.

Discovery Plus has been available for many years. During this past summer K-8 science teachers revised their pacing guides to align with the new textbooks and Maryland State Science standards.

Annual cost for Discovery Plus is $26,000. It was unanimously approved after a presentation from Jaffurs and Jason Hayes, supervisor of Science Instruction.

Contact Dick Myers at dick.myers@thebaynet.com