THE BLOG

Changing How Students Read: #NoMoreTextbooks

02/05/2015 04:57 pm ET | Updated Apr 06, 2015

Both educators and students face an enormous challenge in the vast range of reading levels in a classroom. Teacher's are unable to cater to student's individual needs and it shows in the numbers: the US illiteracy rate hasn't improved in 10 years. This disparity between student reading levels in classrooms--dubbed the literacy gap--is holding back both gifted and struggling students from learning to their full potential.

After "7 years teaching in urban Los Angeles," Brendan Finch "began creating a tool to address the root of the problem." The problem centers around textbooks; both teachers and students can agree that the rigid, abstruse prose is neither understandable nor educational. The hashtag, #NoMoreTextbooks has since unified common sentiments against the uselessness of textbooks.

"From 4th grade on, learn-to-read turns into read-to-learn." Students fall behind textbooks and continue to be further and further outpaced. In the meantime, teachers are forced to spend their time interpreting textbooks rather than using their own skills to teach content. Finch argues the pressure shouldn't be on either students or teachers, but on technology.

Thus BirdBrain Science was born in 2011: a library of articles written at different reading levels. The adaptive, standards-based readings automate literacy growth in the classroom. Students begin by assessing their reading level through a test, then teachers can select readings based on their results. "I built BirdBrain Education from my own classroom to support literacy growth for students who are behind grade level and to further challenge students who are above grade level," said Finch.

All different students are able to both learn content better and improve their reading level--on their own. By automating student literacy, BirdBrain enables teachers to focus on what their good at: designing innovative lesson plans. The numbers speak for BirdBrain's success: over 55,000 students and teachers worldwide have taken advantage of this innovative system.

Finch, CEO & Co-Founder of BirdBrain Education, now has his eyes on the next field: history. BirdBrain History will bring the same dedication to Common Core Standards and teaching freedom of adaptive linguistic complexity to Social Studies for 3rd to 8th graders. Articles will be paired with free response questions to challenge students to retain and understand information. The same concepts will be taught to every student, just at different reading levels based on their diagnostic test results.

BirdBrain recently announced an ambitious crowdfunding campaign, "We are now launching a Kickstarter campaign on Feb 15. to raise $30K to create the content for our new Birdbrain History curriculum." The campaign will also exponentially lower the costs for schools: almost $1 per student. Donate on PreFundia.