Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Vote me off Study Island


It's not often that I am accused of "misrepresenting the mission and values of" anything, yet Mr. Tim McEwen, the CEO of Study Island, did just that today.

I do not know what the missions and values of the corporate folk over on the island. I suspect that their primary mission is to make money, and I've lived in this land long enough to know not to question that--in turn, I ask Mr. McEwen not to ride some mythical high horse. He makes a fatuous accusation. I will respond with his own company's words.

Nashworld has already made a spirited defense in the comments of the last post, but there's still plenty to chew on.
And yes, I am having fun.




I stand behind my words--teachers monitoring a child's time on-line is more creepy than Santa's Naughty or Nice fetish. Let us be clear--we are talking about 9 year olds.

This is from a Study Island Training Manual:

When introducing Study Island to students, be sure to communicate the data that is available to teachers on what they do. This will help hold them accountable for all they do in the program.

Create a fake student user and record some stats under that user. Then, in class, pull up the reports that are recorded for that fake student on a projector screen.
Go through the stats with the students and show them all of the stats that teachers can pull such as time spent on each topic, missed questions, etc.

By doing this, you will be demonstrating that work in Study Island is tracked and off task behavior should decrease.

Dana is a third grader. She can show her age without using all her fingers. She is a child. She worships her teacher. She has dry heaves at night because of your program.

Tell me how creating a fake user account to demonstrate her teacher's power differs from bullying?

It gets better. Suppose it's May, 78 degrees outside, and some slick tyke elects to blow through the test bank.

If the website senses that the child might (*gasp*) be guessing, it will automatically activate a "guessing detector" that forces the child to wait 10 seconds before allowing the child to enter an answer.

10 seconds of staring at a frozen screen. Welcome to power, little one.

Still not sold?

You can convert the questions to a game called the "Splat Game." Children must get their lady bug across the road before a car runs over it, hence the, um, splat.

Mr. McEwen, do you have any children under your roof? Do you see Dana as anything more than part of your market share?

Moreover, doing well on high stakes assessments is a by-product of content mastery gained through Study Island, not a goal in and of itself.

I'm all ears--how is Study Island more than a test bank tailored specifically to state testing?
What appeal does Study Island hold for administrators beyond a promise of improving their students' test scores?

I do not want to minimize the pressure felt by administrators today--the NCLB goal of 100% proficiency by 2014 reflects either an inexplicable grasp of math by our previous administration or a cagey attempt to cripple public education. (Maybe both?)

You are providing a service. No need to hide behind a banner of righteousness or chase after a small-time blogger with some nonsense about misrepresenting values.

Hey, I'm a retired board certified pediatrician--why not offer me a reasonable fee to endorse your product? It's a win-win.

I get a little pocket change. You get a bona fide pediatric endorsement.

And Dana? Hey, she's just a neurotic 9 year old who's going to be tested no matter what we do. We're just here to help.

Really.

It's in our mission statement.

57 comments:

Tim McEwen said...

For those of you reading this blog and the negative comments directed toward Study Island, I only ask one thing -- Go to our website, www.studyisland.com, and view the customer video testimonials, customer stories of success and case studies. There is a reason why Study Island is used by over 20,000 schools and 9.5mm students, and has a renewal rate of over 80% for first year customers and 90% for customers using our program for two or more years. It is fun, engaging and helps students learn.

Tim McEwen
CEO
Study Island

doyle said...

Dear Mr. McEwen,

No worries--this blog is a tiny island in a big, big sea. I am, however, disappointed that you did not spell out the mission and values held by the folks on Study Island.

Alas, I'll have to look for some other product to endorse.

Cheers!

John Spencer said...

Our school used Study Island for awhile on a "test case" basis. There were no significant gains in test scores, so the district abandoned it. There were, however, significant drops in the motivation to read.

You can quote that in your testimonials, Mr. McEwen.

Incidentally, the negative comments aren't directed at you. They are directed at the impersonal process of standardization and mass marketing. Call me a crazy edu-anarchist if need be.

bill farren said...

Mr. McEwen: As a teacher I've noticed, sadly, most parents believe the line that mastering standards, memorizing factoids, and getting high grades produces an educated person. Looking around at the sad state of the world, run by valedictorians and "the top 10%", I think we need to look beyond simplistic metrics. I applaud Mr. Doyle for trying to get teachers, parents and yes, businessmen, to reevaluate the meaning of "success" and to help kids in the process.

nashworld said...

@ bill - "a world run by valedictorians and "the top 10%"

Seriously? Where have you been the past eight years? Do you really believe that this is necessarily true? The thoughts in my head right now are making me consider both a wicked case study and the associated EdD with it.

Actually no, not that I'd likely waste an EdD on such a protracted case study. I already know far too many examples of the "top 10%" who struggle to run their own affairs.

On the other hand, I know another ton of folks (one quite intimately) who were identified by a ton of other "gifted" or otherwise "accelerated" programs for whom the almighty pursuit of GPA was just not remotely enough of a draw.

I agree- these sad metrics are the only things we are smart enough to legislate. Really- it is reflection over ideas like this one that make me think I might spend less future time chasing a doctorate... and more chasing political office.

I still harbor a tiny bit of hope that an idealist can make a difference even in a big big world.

Sean

Anonymous said...

My daughter is a gifted student and is currently having to use study island as directed by her English teacher. I sat with her through a number of tests and read aloud the examples of prose and poetry offered in the test questions. My reaction is that I have never seen such worthless drivel in my entire life.

Obviously the people at study island are too tight fisted to pay for quality content and have stuffed the exams with whatever crap they could find for free or next to nothing. Even the questions and answer choices had glaring grammatical errors. I say this because my mother was an English major and I was raised constantly being corrected on my grammar (suffering childhood but at least I have a decent mastery of the English language).

What I am seeing in study island (I am deliberately NOT capitalizing their name in case you are wondering) is nothing more than a bunch of people who chose to take the cheap and quick route to throw together a testing system that does nothing to really teach the student anything at all. If anything at all is being accomplished, it is the humiliation and frustration that the kids are feeling when they are forced to use this system as part of their grade.

McEwen states that all I need to do is to check out the endorsements on his site and see for myself just how much people are in love with his system. Selective endorsements on a website are NOT what I would consider reliable evidence of a quality site. Look at any scam site selling real estate money making programs or erectile dysfunction remedies and you will see the exact same type of endorsements. No - what you really need to do is to fire up Google and check out independent blog and opinion sites such as this one and see what the real people out there are saying.

Do your homework and you will learn . . .

Anonymous said...

I am a Study Island administrator at a charter school. This will be our 2nd year using Study Island. I am putting together a training PowerPoint for our teaching staff and that is what lead me to this blog.
I found last year that the Study Island test questions lined up well with the state standard test questions and it did really help prepare the students for end of year testing. Even though I do not believe that mastering standards, memorizing factoids, and getting high grades produces an educated person the reality is that this is the way our government has chosen to measure the success of a school. State mandated tests measure the schools ability to teach specific standards not the student’s ability to master them.

I just completed several online classes and all of the tests I took to evaluate what I learned were in the same format as Study Island questions are. Read material and answer multiple choice questions. Many high schools use web based tests or computer generated tests and of course there is always the ACT and SAT but maybe Dana's therapist could get her a exemption from these test because she gets dry heaves at night when she has to exert her brain too much.
As for poor Dana who is traumatized by the fact that the teacher may have some expectations of her is utterly ridiculous. I suppose if a child who is melting in the unbearable 78 degree weather decides to blow through a test then the program should award them with a "You tried your best award" just so her self esteem is not damaged. I just wonder what poor Dana would do if she lived in Arizona and had to take the AIMS test in April when it is 95 degrees. The bottom line is that the states require the children to take these tests and the schools are responsible for preparing the students to take the test. Study Island is just a tool to use that helps prepare these students. As for our school we will use Study Island again this year and hope that it helps to raise the score of our school overall. You would probably be surprised to know that I am very anti-government run schools and really do not like state mandated testing but I don't really have a better answer right now and my job is to help the children to master the standards so that is what I will strive to do.

doyle said...

Dear Anonymous #1:

I suspect that the reason the Study Island folk put out the stuff they do is because it has been selling. If school administrators with less discerning eyes will pay for what Tim McEwen sells, then what you see as "tight fisted" might be translated into "profit margin" in the books.

I don't think your words are going to find their way to the testimonials on Study Island, but I enjoyed them here.

Dear Anonymous #2:

OK, I'll bite, though I'm not convinced you're not a disgruntled student posing as a Study Island administrator.

"Even though I do not believe that mastering standards, memorizing factoids, and getting high grades produces an educated person the reality is that this is the way our government has chosen to measure the success of a school."

Leaving aside "mastering standards" (which is fine if the standards make sense), "the reality is that" you have chosen to accept money to administer a program that feeds into the insanity of high stakes testing even though you "do not believe that...produces an educated person."

OK, plenty of folks compromise their lives--the economy's in a rut, baby needs shoes, we all do what we have to do. So what do you do next? You've taken ad hominem to a new level and attack the child (ad pueri?)

"(M)aybe Dana's therapist could get her a exemption from these test because she gets dry heaves at night when she has to exert her brain too much."

Yes, that's it--she's using her brain too much. Perhaps she sees through charlatans promoting programs they do not believe in. You yourself admit that your program is not designed to educate but to get schools over the testing barriers.

Your subsequent rant against Dana I leave to stand by itself as a reflection on your critical thinking skills.

"You would probably be surprised to know that I am very anti-government run schools and really do not like state mandated testing but I don't really have a better answer right now and my job is to help the children to master the standards so that is what I will strive to do."

I'm not surprised once I parsed what "very anti-government run schools" meant (and yes, that's ad hominem, mea culpa); that you now serve as a tool pushing the Federal agenda you oppose because that is your job may help explain your attack against a 9 year old child.

baronsmear said...

We've been using Study Island at my school for about 4 years, now. We use it primarily for math. It has helped enough that it is worth renewing the license every year. Sadly, many kids had to simply attempt the same standard over and over until it all clicked. And for some, that meant upwards of 900 questions over the course of a semester. We use it as a remedial math supplement, and it does what it is supposed to do; get the kids ready for the graduation test.

So Doyle, you'd suggest rebelling against the system that mandates the passing of these tests (these tests that have little bearing on the future success and/or citizenship of a person) and telling the principal that I will not subject the kids the rote craziness of Study Island? Or are you just speaking ideally...as in "in an ideal world we'd all blah blah blah"...?

Ideally, I agree with you, but as Anonymous II stated, the reality is quite the opposite. And yes, it sucks. But when Study Island is used supplementally, there is still room and time for a teacher worth his/her salt to teach to improve character and for true, long-term knowledge.

Until we devise a better way, this is capitalism, and the need was to rote-train the kids to pass these lame tests. Study Island rose to meet this demand. Can you blame them? I just don't feel that Study Island is the bad guy, as you're making them out to be.

doyle said...

Dear baronsmear,

(At least you did not call yourself "anonymous." Any chance you teach in the Cleveland area?)

I will answer your questions in a moment, but first I ask that you kindly and critically read your response. You might consider re-reading my post, as well.

Your words:
"Ideally, I agree with you, but as Anonymous II stated, the reality is quite the opposite. And yes, it sucks."

If you think it "sucks," why not work to change it? And why turn it into "rebelling against the system" rhetoric when it was a straightforward post outlining issues with Study Island?

I do not speak "ideally" if by that you mean I toss words into the air merely to soothe contorted souls--I'm mortal, I do not have that kind of time.

If you mean that ultimately my goals will fail in our given culture, yes, failure is always a possibility.

Again your words:
"Until we devise a better way, this is capitalism, and the need was to rote-train the kids to pass these lame tests."

What is capitalism? Our constitution (for what it's worth these days) proscribes a form of governance, not economics. While I do think that Mr. Duncan, Mr. Gates, and more than a few other CEOs would like us to believe that public schools exist for the betterment of their corporations, that is not the history nor the charge of public schooling in the States.

Have you shared your views with your supervisor, your principal, your BOE? You might be surprised at how many others agree with you that a lot of what we're doing "sucks"--if you believe this, help fix it.

Passively accepting a system you believe is broken is sad; working to change things is not "rebelling against the system." If it were, I would not be employed by my BOE.

Anonymous said...

Why not judge it on the students? I am a student in middle school, and we use Study Island for mathematics and English. By a great majority, the students agree that Study Island is NOT a helpful tool, and is used more for the purpose of filling up a lesson plan than actually helping. We also agree that the questions are mostly cheap or free bits of stories that the test writers could get free or cheap. We all believe Study Island is an unfair system that has been put together and used inappropriately.

Wilson E. said...

Personally, I think that Study Island is the worst testing program ever devised. I am a middle school student, and recently I've been forced to do at least 100 questions a week of this crap. The questions make no sense, the "games" look like they were coded in about 10 minutes and the answers are almost universally false. Has Tim McEwen ever used his companies product? If he ever had, he wouldn't be posting such drivel.He'd be out fixing it (I hope) Oh, and of the 9.5 million students, I can guarantee you that about 9.5 million of them are forced to do it.
-Wilson E.

doyle said...

Dear Wilson,

I hope it goes a little better for my students. We'll see. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

doyle said...

Dear Wilson,

My response was pretty lame. Let me try that again--we'll give it a shot. Fortunately, I do not need to continue using it if it does not work for the students.

I would love to see students create their own version. I agree that the coding leaves a bit to be desired, at least at first glance. I'll know more in the next few weeks.

Anonymous said...

Mr. McEwen,

My son is tormented by your program nearly every day for math and writing. After finishing "real" homework he is then subjected to sitting in front of the computer for an hour only to become more and more frustrated with the goal of a "blue ribbon" until I, his mother, tell him to shut it off. I will no longer subject my children to something that "teaches" absolutely nothing more than "Oh yeah I remember the answer is B". I love our teachers but any teacher that use this system for teacher.....Computer programs cannot and will not replace actual instruction and you really are doing a disservice to your students.

doyle said...

Dear Anonymous,

Not sure he's still following this thread, but it gets visitors just about every day.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

doyle said...

From Jerry McCosar
August 13, 2011:

Hello, I know this blog post is old but.. I refused to let my children use the school isn't very happy about it but, I really don't care. This company won't even tell me what security measures they have in place to protect my children's information. This company (Study Island) really really fails in my book.

Not sure if you meant to be a spammer, so I took the liberty of reprinting your letter without the link.

Jerry McCosar said...

Hello Doyle,

Thanks for keeping the post on here. I was not intending to spam. I choose to use my name, as I have nothing to hide in my post, and it had a space for URL, so I added mine. I wasn't aware that it wasn't allowed. Sorry about that!

Anonymous said...

Mr. McEwin,
My children are working with study island now - and they hate it. In every other online learning program we've worked in my children have enjoyed the challenges and been motivated to push forward and acheive more.... Sadly, your program makes my daughter cry and my son becomes physically ill when he hears from his teacher he must go into your site. My otherwise healthy, intelligent children loose it when they have to work with your pathetic program. Instead of trying to impress us with your sales figures (I could care less how many schools you con into buying your trash - it's still trash) Why don't you take a moment to sincerely read the negative reviews of your crap product and LEARN FROM THEM! Don't stand behind a product that children hate - modify the product so that it is actually helpful to students, schools and families. Until you make changes to this miserable set up I will continue to tell my friends and family to avoid your site at all risks.

Sincerely,
Elle Enlow

Unknown said...

I cannot rate this STUDY ISLAND a NEGATIVE 10, on a scale of 1 to 10, or I would. THIS RUBBISH is getting SO BAD that I have now begun to inquire about schools for my son that do not use this educational cancer. I would hate to leave any school because of this ONE aberration, but when a 7th grader in PRE-ALGEBRA is given complex quadratic equations to SIMPLIFY that is the last straw. I am FED UP with this Shipwrecked Study Island. I have complained to STUDY ISLAND in Texas and to my son's school and NO ONE IS LISTENING! Both at field trips and on the Web, parents and students unanimously agree with me about the hideous nature of STUDY ISLAND. I dare say that MORE than a few teachers agree that this thing is to Education what war is to Paradise! Why do administrators insist on defying reason and the students' welfare by continuing to sponsor this wretched program? There MUST be a logical explanation: perhaps there is a contract that schools cannot back out of. Perhaps there are kickbacks involved. I know that realities exist and I can live with them WHEN THEY ARE OUT IN THE OPEN. Right now, it seems as though a rabid virus has gotten loose in education and no one cares.

Mauricio Escobedo

Anonymous said...

Study Island is a flawed program. If students can randomly guess answers, and if most questions are multiple choice, the students may not even be learning, but just trying to "make it quick". I completely agree with the blogger. If study island senses that the student is guessing, do not, I repeat DO NOT make the kids wait for 10 seconds! It should notify the teacher, or take away from the score, or make the kids redo the test, but REALLY? Waiting for a measly 10 seconds?

Anonymous said...

As the valedictorian of my class I cannot stress how much Study Island does NOT do. It's questions largely have no connection to what is being taught int he class room which really bothers me! I feel as if i'm "learning" this pointless material just so I won't get a zero at the end of the day. It seems my fellow students were more inclined to actually study something in a handout or in a book but now they're more likely to just bully a "smarter" kid into giving them the answers. Sorry for my poor English skills but it is not my mother tounge.

Anonymous said...

Many of you are forgetting many things when you consider study island and our current educational situation. Teachers are battling a situation where we get 1 hour of preparation for every five or six hours of teaching. China, Finland and other countries who are kicking our butts educationally have opposite ratios of classroom preparation to classroom teaching time not to mention student to teacher ratios. Yes this takes more money but every time I bring this up to administrators they acknowledge its validity, but point out we don't have that kind of situation...I'm like why not? If teachers had more time to prepare and assess their students situations, their lessons would get better. I mean really I could do much better if I could spend that kind of time preparing etc. But the public doesn't want to spend that kind of money on education. It would require mountains more money than what we spend now in order to facilitate the kind of situation u find in other countries that are whipping us. The elephant in the room no one wants to admit is there is the fact that we are doing the best we can with the funds we get....why do u think we do standardized testing? Because it is cheap citizen...lbecause it is cheap. Yes there are other issues...the fact that Chinese families generally funnel the wife and husband's energy and resources into one or maybe two kids whereas most at risk kids come from absent father families and or families with multiple kids. Also, most parents from the butt kicking countries generally expect much more from their children from their kids than we do. In educational research people are always looking for some commonality between successful student populations. Here is one for you...Finland and china kick our butts because the students and the parents know that if u fail certain tests, you get to be the trash man. In America at risk, honary students know the test won't hold them back....alternative placement....it will just get the person that is trying to make them do something they really would rather not be doing.

Anonymous said...

in trouble...sorry I meant to type the rest. Typing on my iPad is tougher,than I thought it would be.

Also...so many think American public education is individualized education.....how can it be? As a teacher, I volunteer an extra hour and fifteen minutes per day to my kids...btw I only get paid for two extra a week. Even with this, I ant provide the individualized instruction I would like....unless I divorce my wife and abandon my responsibilities as a father. Sorry ain't doing that.

doyle said...

Dear Latest Anonymous,

I am not convinced we are doing the best with what we have. I come from a field where putting time in at the expense of a personal life was routine, so my view may be slanted (and even unhealthy), but while many of us bust our butts to get our students what they need, a few of us don't, and it shows.

My diatribe was against Study Island--and while I agree our short-sighted view and our compulsion to test may both be, in part, a result of our lack of support for schools, this particular post was specifically directed at a business that profits at the expense of children.

Mr. McEwen obviously disagrees, and was kind enough to engage in discussiom.

If you are, indeed, a teacher, I worry about your state of mind in the classroom. While many of our children do come from difficult circumstances, I suspect our obsession with teaching to the test is doing much to make a bad situation even worse.

As far as picking up trash--and women can also work in sanitation--it's what my Grandad did when he got here from over the pond. My brother and I both spent time working on the docks of Port Newark. Working outdoors getting exercise for decent pay is highly under-rated.

If, on the other hand, you're trolling, you got me. =)

Anonymous said...

Dear Doyle,

I am sorry for the sake of whatever family you have that you are willing to sacrifice your time with them for your job. My dad was a coach. I never saw him. To this day I hate sports because I saw it taking my dad from me...moreover, I saw him spending more time with something when he shouldve been teaching and guiding me into adulthood. To illustrate, when he found out I was cutting class, he chuckled and laughed. The society that doesn't support the family is doomed to fail. Moreover, I don't know what era you grew up in but you look older. I do totally agree with you that people need to work but I believe it should be balanced with other things such as not worshipping at the altar of the almighty dollar from time to time.

As far as my time in the classroom and on the job, I spend plenty of extra time with my low kids every week. But I balance that time with the needs of my family. I won't apologize for that. I won't feel bad about that either.

The point of me saying we are doing the best we can with what we have has to do with the countries that are outperforming us. They are spending massive amounts of money in the right places and in the right ways....on improving the situation for teachers...we are the grunts...on the front lines. Those countries are letting the teachers teach...paying them for planning times and preparation instead of expecting them to make up for it at home....hiring teachers that are experts in their fields rather than hiring people who are experts in teaching methodology. Let me illustrate, my principal gives us one box of paper per semester. If you make more copies than that, you buy the paper. So after the first six weeks, the paper is on me.

Here...all we do is blame the teachers. In China and Finland teachers are respected and esteemed. In America, everyone who ever did crappy in school blames the teacher....I should know. All of my friends in high school dropped out. It wasn't because some teacher failed them. It was because they were too lazy or too busy blaming someone else for their issues. Personally, I'm really tired of all the teacher bashing. The only thing that allowed me to graduate by the skin of my teeth I might add was my dad moved me to the school where he worked which inspired me to start busting my butt as a student. It was only after some of my family issues began to be resolved did I even start thinking about school....hello maslows hierarchy of needs. All through that, I never blamed a single teacher. I blamed myself and my dads willingness to be a parent.


Yeah there are bad teachers out there. They need to find other jobs. But our system is broken...broken bad. The source of the ailment isn't teachers, though admittedly some teachers do suck. The main culprit is a society that doesnt want to get up form the xbox, tv or their own drama and improve itself. It is ruled by a mentality governed by politicians both republican and democrat who are trying to look like they are doing more when they in fact are just passing the buck...can you say unfunded mandates etc.

Until these things change, keep expecting stuff like study island which I happen to think is a decent product. But it is no substitute for a good parent....which by the way,, neither is the best teacher in the world.


With all due respect,
Israel

doyle said...

Dear Israel,

Ah, not a troll--and the cogent and thoughtful letter much appreciated!

I agree with much of what you said, which periperally affect my view of Study Island.

Study Island leeches off the part of education I find most odious, bad tests and tests used inappropriately. Study Island encroaches on a child's homelife. Study Island makes life easier for teachers for the wrong reasons.

I'd love to know what parts of Study Island appeal to you. I'm not looking for spurious sparring--our school dropped Study Island, so I've got no dog in this fight anymore--but I am looking to understand wat I am missing.

Thanks for writing--I enjoyed your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Doyle,

It looks like we agree on more than I had originally realized.

I too detest the testing environment in which we live...I hear this complaint a lot from parents. But these same parents vote against tax increases and other fund raising. This won't change until the public comes down much harder on standardized testing and realizes the cause for the testing the way it is done is in fact money. But my district like so many other districts is about money first regardless how much they want to say they are about the kids first.

As far as study island, i like that it is a video game given that this is a format with which many kids are familiar. Also, it helps many kids' problems when other things don't...admittedly I do have kids that don't respond well to it but every curriculum doesn't get to every kid. Do I hate that fact that I have to "stoop" to a medium that in some waysis part of the problem?...yes and no. I think games can be used in a positive way...so this fits the bill in some ways.

I don't like how some of the questions don't seem to go quite along with some of the objectives in our state as much as I would like. I think a kid on this discussion noted that. I also don't think it should be used to replace a teacher but it is a good supplement....not a perfect one. Since it is not perfect, it is reasonably priced.

Good chatting with you.

Respectfully,

Israel

Anonymous said...

Doyle,
I was surprised to find that schools are using Study Island as an official part of the curriculum. For that, I don't blame the product as much as the schools choosing to take the shortcut.

When we were living in Michigan, our children's school provided Study Island accounts as a supplement. During the summer we found this as a very useful tool for our kids to practice concepts. When they came across a new concept, we sat with our kids and worked through the exercises together until they understood them. After that, they were able to practice their knowledge with more questions.

I consider Study Island (just like other workbooks) a tool for children to use concepts that they learn in different ways. Yes, the number of ways to use the knowledge is limited, but it's a stretch to say that nothing is learned. We are now in California, and since they do not provide Study Island accounts, we will buy one on our own. We also use other tools (Kumon, other workbooks).

Study Island,in itself, is a decent product. It sounds to me like some schools misuse the product. Yes, the SI sales people will sell any way they can to make money. It is still a choice of the school. Also, in my experience, the PTA has significant influence. Hence, the parents share some blame as well.

Regards,
Sunil

Anonymous said...

So I get that study island may not be the best option. Is there a good option for a computer lab? Thanks

Anonymous said...

I am a parent and I am homeschooling a kindergartener and a sixth grader. This is our first year at it and although I like the school we chose they are using study island. Study Island is really frustrating for me and my student. Thank god its just my sixth grader that has to do it.Its very confusing and I am not a newbie when it comes to computers. My daughter is really good at reading,writing, language arts,science and social studies but math she struggles with. She has been in public school for every grade but 6th and the math on this site is ridiculous. She hasnt even learned most of it yet and is expected to pass this? Please vote us off study island too!! I would not reccomend it to anyone.

India said...

Hi, Doyle,

I DETEST Study Island. I was so happy to run across this thread--it's good to know that I'm not just being a sourpuss.

I am schooling two of my elementary-aged sons at home through an online school. Study Island is a requirement in our school and it is used as part of their report card grades. We have had to use Study Island for the last two years.

I find Study Island completely useless as a learning tool--USELESS. For one thing, the content almost never matches what we are learning at the time. I usually have to teach a mini lesson beforehand just to enable my boys to earn their blue ribbon. So, of course, as soon as they earn the blue ribbon, they immediately forget what they just "learned".

For some of the topics, a "lesson" is provided. A few of the topics have a half-decent video lesson. However, most "lessons" consist of nothing except what I would call a fact sheet, (ex: "A noun is a person place, or thing. A proper noun names the person, place or thing.") or, even worse, nothing but flashcards which are incompatible with most topics (ex: "Is this sentence a compound, simple, or complex sentence?). Sorry, but fact sheets and flashcards ARE NOT LESSONS!!

For kids who are just learning to read, the speakers that "read" the questions and answers are very, VERY slow. Just as you are about to give up on the speakers, the computer-generated voice pipes up; nine times out of ten, it is completely unintelligible.

Pictures that are used in the questions and answers are--no joke--1980's clipart quality, so that half the time, you can't even tell what you are looking at.

I have completely given up on the Study Island games. I can get the games to load only about 25% of the time, so now we just answer questions in "test mode" every time. My kids are still young, so they are satisfied with the simple nature of the games (when and if they load), but I have a feeling the games would bore older kids out of their minds. I am a big fan of using fun games and technology to re-enforce learning, but Study Island is NOT that. It amounts to nothing but a dreaded chore--and one more reason to hate school!

The quality of the QUESTIONS THEMSELVES is terrible. Here's an example of the type of thing that pisses me off the most. My 3rd grader struggles with reading. Even short passages take a good amount of effort for him to complete. He is working on a topic called "Recounting Stories" in which the student must read a passage, then pick the best summary of the story. I haven't done an exact count, but I would guess that at least 20% of the questions have NO CLEAR ANSWER or are just plain WRONG. I am 36 years old and no dummy. If I can't figure out the answer, how is a 3rd grader supposed to do it?! He has spent over an hour reading more than THIRTY passages and still cannot pass this thing. Do you get the feeling that our time could be spent more wisely?

By the way, there is a link labeled "Comment on this question" on every question. I tried to use the link to contact Study Island to point out some of these ridiculous passages; unfortunately, only teachers may leave a comment!

For the record, I have absolutely no problem with a private company making money by providing a service or product to a school. It's normally the way most of us find the highest quality product at the best price. But in order for that to work, there has to be an alternative product AND the consumer has to be free to choose the alternative. In the case of Study Island, the students and parents, not the schools, are the true consumers; and we are not free to choose an alternative.

As much as I hate it, testing--and therefore practicing for tests--is a necessary evil. Perhaps the biggest problem with Study Island is that there is no other alternative island in sight.

Anonymous said...

Dear corporate head of Study Island,
I would like to reinforce what others are saying about your websites ablity to engage students over content material. I am the salutatorian of my class and have a 3.97 GPA. and yet I never use your program to enhance my education.
My entire school endorses Study Island and uses it constantly. they rely on it for easy grades because it is so easy to cheat an it so called "rigorous" content by getting the braniac to give them all the answers.
I was also an Oklahoma state Biology Champion last year. Whenever i tried to use study island to study, i noticed that its biology subject was strangely lacking in some certain contents. If it was supposed to reinforce my skills by being a supplement then why did it never help win such standard interscholastics tests covering easy content matter.
schools would be better off investing in teachers wo care and in-depth textbooks than waste their money on such useless programming. Its entire question bank on biology must surely number between 30 and 40 questions because i am capable of memorizing them all and scoring 100s everytime for lack of content

Anonymous said...

My children attend a virtual school that requires Study Island. I have been getting emails threatening to lock me out of the curriculum because someone isn't satisfied with their progress through Study Island. So, our school is willing to turn off our access to math, literature, science, and history if we do not spend hours on this multiple choice test drill. I am so tempted to complete Study Island for my children after they go to bed at night.

Anonymous said...

Study island is hard...And especially with the goal of the blue ribbon. My daughter would spend most of her life on one of her nodules because she has over 1000 questions and refuses to learn anything because she's frustrated with the way this program works. If anything you might as well put a reset button the students can access not just the teacher. Especially when the student has more than 100 questions, who knows how long that will take them to finish that. My daughter had to quit most of her sports and after school activities just because she was failing in studyisland. I mean are you serious? She got held back a grade just because she couldn't complete all ten modules in time because the questions kept adding up and the percentages kept decreasing every wrong question. Please...Do everyone a favor and delete this stupid useless program..because I for one won't have my own child sit and stare at the computer for most of her life. No matter how educational the program is.

Anonymous said...

Okay, So what alternative would you suggest to Study Island?

Lynn Pettepher said...

Hi,
I understand everyone's point of view but they all seem very extreme. I'm an 8th grade science teacher who has used Study Island in the past and gotten decent results. I'm using it tomorrow. One year, at the end of the study island program, one student said he'd memorized the answers after retaking the tests so many times. OK, not really the way I wanted him to learn it. However my goal that week, just days before the end of year exam, was just a content knowledge "boost." I realized that its best use for teachers is as as a formative assessment tool after a unit, throughout the year. It would provide great data about what I should reteach.

At home, kids can use it on their own or as extra credit. For kids under age 10 or 11 however, I would use this tool carefully, no more than 2 times a month at the school per subject. It just depends on what your goal is. Any tool or device can be used for good or be misused. No one tool is going to be a "magical answer." If you're using it right, it does take time on the teacher's part to learn how to use it well. I'd also like to say that American kids need to limit their screen time and go and play outside. But if its a choice between 1 extra hour a week on study island at home or playing an extra hour of a violent video game on the Xbox, Study Island wins!

I was impressed with how fast they changed their program to meet our brand new curriculum this year.

The questions are not all perfect for sure and the study Island folks should embed some kind of interactive feature. Say a student raises their hand and I go over to look and she says "both these answers look right" (this happens a lot.) I should be able to click some icon right on the student's screen, put in some kind of "teacher code" and right there be allowed to comment on that question. Ideally study island would then fix the issue within 30 days or less.
I also think they need to let the teacher choose the lexile, or reading level of the questions. Its easier for a math teacher to put an 8th grader on a 5th grade study island level if needed, but impossible for science because the objectives are not the same.
I also agree with the biology student that the science question bank is not big enough. More work to do there! But so far they've done a decent job evolving and hopefully they'll continue to do so.

Anonymous said...

I am a high school student who has never used the tests or exam reviews or even looked at them for the matter. However, both my Chemistry and Pre-Calculus teachers do have the ability for our classes to take practice exams and quizzes prior to a test in the classroom. After this review for maybe an hour the night before, my test grades rose from barely getting a B with an 85%, to achieving three high A's (98%, 100%, and 99%) on the next three tests after we began to use study island in Chemistry class. Not everything is bad if you ask me on Study Island. In fact I am studying right now for my final exams on what, Study Island.

Anonymous said...

We are a homeschooling family. My children use many curriculum for different subjects. To prepare for SAT's, college midterms and finals, we have them sit the AIMS. We use Study Island exclusively for test prep. Yes, the children hate it. They hate the way the questions are worded. However the questions are worded in a manner very similar to the actual AIMS. The major benefit is that the children are are prepared for the wording of the questions when they sit the AIMS. DO NOT USE STUDY ISLAND FOR TEACHING CONTENT.

Anonymous said...

As a new parent to home school I have had to use Study Island for my daughter. She hated it at school and now I can see why. The Revision passage was about a weight loss program named 'Lard Losers'. If that's not bad enough a couple of fake responders to the program were named Hugh G. Bouty (Huge Booty) and Aneita Leif (Ineed a life). Enough already, who is auditing this stuff?
My next gripe is how annoying it is to have to read the passage through a 'letter box.' Has anyone else found this annoying. The students are unable to look at the whole passage in one piece and have to keep scrolling up and down to review.
It has left me wondering what exactly my daughter is getting out of this because i really don't know

Anonymous said...

Study Island could annoy some students but they can enjoy learning while interacting to technology.

Anonymous said...

I use Study Island, not because I believe it's great, but because my high school is forcing me to and if I don't I get a 0. Have I learned anything? Not really. Have I wasted valuable hours of my life? Yes, most definitely.

Anonymous said...

study island allows teachers to simply stop teaching....my teacher never even taught us this stuff and they expect me to know it and i must get a 80 percent or else i fail

Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting out this blog. I am glad to see McEwen (ex-CEO) respond in 2010. My daughter's school used another program- IXL during the previous year and now uses StudyIsland. I should say- I am very disappointed with StudyIsland. The explanations for each of the question is just the same definition that is not adequately supplemented with why other answers are wrong or even why the correct answer is exactly correct. As a grown-up the questions are confusing even for me and in general, very poorly written.

Nancy Stislow said...

Teachers DID stop teaching because our federal government dictated it! They can't add or multiply much less subtract and divide. The problems are LONG and complex. It takes a LONG time to complete one for a child in this age group. They do NOT think like adults. With a math degree, these problems are long, complex and ridiculous examples of real life math and certainly not a test of their mathematic skills but more of a test in how clever they are! I am a certified teacher and tutoring a youngster struggling. This program, I hate as much as the student does. Mr CEO, I hope you made a fortune but in the process you caused a lot of kids a lot of grief. The problems are ridiculous and certainly not real life at all! Geez, who divides a cake into 1.055% parts! Give me a break!

Anonymous said...

I am a parent of a student in Arizona and the students are being required to spend countless hours testing over and over again until a specific score is met. Sometimes it is 80% and sometimes it is 90%. The students are frustrated and the students are stressed. Some have spent between 10 and 15 hours in one week taking the tests after school. Much of the content has not been taught in their 7th grade class which causes the testing to take much longer. The schools are focused on improving standardized testing scores so that the funding to their individual school will increase. It is very disappointing. After speaking with two very good "A"-level students, they both said that they have learned "some" things in the English testing but the return on investment was HORRIBLE (ie, 10 hours to learn what a teacher could teach in much less time).

If this is important for schools, then the schools need to teach the kids the standardized testing content DURING SCHOOL.

Anonymous said...

Has your child found bugs in Study Island math items?
I'm talking text, numerical values and/or diagrams missing from the description of the problem as well as missing response values. And not just one item in a set of questions but many!

Anonymous said...

As a student user of Study Island I feel that I should gives my thoughts as i have dealt with it first hand.
I am a user of the "math" portion of Study Island and let me say that it has caused more stress than anything else. Being that I am not the greatest at math, with my strongest subject being English, Study Island is something I dead more than anything. I cannot tell you how many nights I've spent over five hours just trying to pass one lesson, and the frustration that stems from that is unbelievable.
This is my second year of doing it, and my teacher provides no instruction as to how to do the lessons, and expects us to learn on our own.
Easier said than done.
The "lessons" that Study Island uses are confusing and difficult to understand, and the video guides are of no help to me. My tutor has had trouble with the questions.
He has said that "I have never seen such ridiculously complicated questions. The wording is absolutely ridiculous."
Now you may not regard my thoughts as anything more than a brooding teenager complaining about school work, but let me tell you that Study Island has not helped me learn anything, and has been a tool for stress and frustration in my life.

doyle said...

Dear Anonymous,

I think you raise several valid points--I certainly would not dismiss you as a "brooding teenager," and it makes me sad that young adults face that perception every day.

Do your school administrators know of your frustration?

Anonymous said...

Unless you are actually someone who thinks with a mind that is capable of duality you will never get this world or the assholes that manipulate children this way. If no one recognizes some obvious signs such as asking questions that require the use of both sides of your brain at the same time which takes at least 3 minutes to actually see coming at you.
And I do want to bitch about the programming yes I do. There are many faulty things. Such as presenting a child with a box on screen that you drop a line down into the correct spaces provided. Except that the space provided is not an exact measurement. it is about 7 and some odd inches which is a Jedi Mind trick. What we all need here is a true professional to point out that this is indeed an undignified practice that must be stopped.
Stop mentally abusing the children who will possibly one day run our country. You will be sure to get as much negativity in your life and the lives of your staff to continue to engage in the destruction of the mental state of all our children.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I'm sure my daughter is crying about getting bad grades "its fun" right

Anonymous said...

I'm a student that uses Study Island and it is the worst way one could study for anything whatsoever. If fact, I spend more time trying to finish all of the tests online than studying for tests that I actually have in my classes.Not to mention that the questions are either way too hard or too easy there is no balance. I'm an A student in high school and this is bullshit. We know how to study by now. Also, this is a graduation requirement so it's not like I have a choice.

Abigail Deardorff said...

I'm a student forced to do study Island and would like to share my opinion. All kids hate Study Island. It is not fun unless the child is under the age of 9. Most kids guess or look up cheats anyway. A lot of kids can not on the computer because of eye problems and they prefer paper. They still do not get a choice on whether or not they do it. So they guess or cheat. I do not think children should have to do this and teachers should do their job and teach.

Anonymous said...

I'm a student at a catholic school that once used Study Island. We've stopped using Study Island ever since my O.T showed my principal a few of the tasteless questions and the dumbed down testing system that this "educational" program offers, and since then I found it a lot easier to go to school. However, one day, pure old human curiosity about everyone else's opinion led me here to this blog, and to some of the outrageous comments posted by Mr. McEwen and others who support this sorry excuse for a testing program. I'd just like to offer my opinion on Study Island and the effects it has on us.
First off, Study Island is in no way, shape or form, "fun." Sure, it may have a few lazily crafted games that look like my little brother made it, but "fun" isn't playing a few rounds of a game that's either too boring, dumb, or hard to even bear after answering a few mindless questions. While we're at it, the questions! Goodness! My math teacher could think of better questions with one hand tied behind his back and the other hand behind a steering wheel, even if he was down with a concussion! They're either laughably easy, mind-numbingly dull, or confusing as the theory behind Van Der Waals' forces. Often, during computer class, which is when we mainly used Study Island, I come rather close to falling asleep - I rarely feel challenged, and when I am even slightly challenged, it's either too confusing, or the answer doesn't seem to be there. It's frustrating, boring, and just plain old infuriating.
Also, Study Island didn't help me in any way prepare for anything, whether it be a test or otherwise. I just took the Archdiocese of York's TACHS exam while lacking months of Study Island practice, and it was a breeze (somewhat). Months of slogging it out on Study Island, in my opinion, would have actually made the situation worse for me- in theory, it would have increased stress, which is bad, and the mindless questions that Study Island offers on a silver platter would have, in my opinion, robbed me of precious practice time that could have been spent on items that actually make sense.
In short, Study Island, despite the testimonials on Mr. McEwen's website, despite all his ridiculous claims about Study Island's greatness, is a waste of time and money, and a factory of stress and dullness. I beg any Study Island administrator out there who's still using this outdated program to please, listen to your students, and, if you can, make the right choice and cancel it. My school made that choice, and my schoolmates and I reaped the benefits. Yours can too, by rejecting Study Island.

Forest Star said...

I myself am a student that has study island as a part of my requirement, and I feel that it shouldn't be. Would you like to know why? STRESSS!!!!! I get soo stressed and I've had an anxiety attack before, I'm guessing that you think I'm not telling the truth. Math on study island is the worst thing you can do to a child, because it gives more things to worry about then it does to help you. I find that instead of being helpful and improving my learning, all study island does is make me upset, or stressed about my grades and what my parents are going to do if I come home with a grade lower then a B-. I know this sounds more like a complaint or its just the way I look at this but I for one KNOW that 75% of my class HATE study island. So I thank all of you for listening to my rant and that it would be greatly appreciated if you tell me if it stresses you out, I would like to make a graph and show it to my principle, showing that study island isn't a good site to use.

doyle said...

Dear Forest,

I don't get stressed by the app itself since I do not use it, but I do get stressed by adults who fail to see what kind of harm they are doing to kids in the name of making money.

Has your Principal tried using it yet?

Hang in there.

Sandy said...

Hi there,

I am a Mom of two children that school at home through K-12, Ohio Virtual Academy. My son is in fourth grade and my daughter in second. Up through third grade they were assigned a couple of Study Island lessons per month. This year, in fourth grade, they have loaded them up with S.I. assignments in Math, ELA, and Social Studies. I am getting so frustrated. First of all, we have a full curriculum with the school already that is intense and comprehensive. We work hard at it and can barely get through all of it each day. I did not enroll in "Study Island Academy". These excessive S.I. assignments just add a tremendous burden. The lessons can take a long time, especially in ELA. Plus, SO MANY questions offer more than one answer that seem right, so you can choose the one you think best and still get it wrong. Others seem to have no answer that truly fits the question. I copied and pasted an example from a question we did just today. My absolute disdain for this program led me to hours of reading through various sites on this topic, including Tim McEwen's great promotions. So, below is a typical question from ELA (though actually much shorter in length than most), with multiple choice answers:

Class Project

Each student should work with a partner. The topic is "Fingerprinting." Choose an interesting way to report on the topic:

research a famous police case
write a report on the history of fingerprinting
design a Wanted poster
compare fingerprinting and DNA testing

Reports are due in one week. Prepare to present your report to the class on Monday.
Which detail of the project is important and should be included in the summary?


A) Reports are due in one week
B) Research a famous police case
C) Compare fingerprinting and DNA testing
D) Design a wanted poster

So, the question is which detail of the project should be included in the summary, because it's important, right? Well, my son was having trouble because it seemed like more than one of those options are important. I thought it through and said I think that comparing fingerprinting and DNA testing would be the detail you would most likely include in a summary. I figured it wouldn't be designing a wanted poster, and the research of a police case would probably be in the body of the report. We clicked on C. X-wrong- So, I said, "Sorry honey, it must be B. X-wrong- I said, "What? I can't believe it would be D!" X-wrong- The answer was A, reports are due in a week.

This made no sense to me, so I clicked the button marked Explanation. After reading, it still did not make sense. (I tried to go back and get it so I could paste it here, but was only able to get the question again, not the explanation.)

That wasn't the only question today that he and I BOTH missed. Some were much more confusing and vague. My 9 year old gets frustrated and upset when he gets a question wrong. It isn't any consolation to him that I didn't get it either. He just sees that he didn't get the silly blue ribbon, and that means he has to start all over again with a whole other set of questions on the same topic that he may or may not pass. I hate Study Island, and it is making me want to withdraw from this school.

Sandy