tagline
WETA

Search LD OnLine

Get our free newsletter

advertisement

Forums
Postsecondary Education

reading comprehension skills assessment


Author Message
Joined: Nov 03, 2005
Posts: 69138
Other Topics
Posted Dec 07, 2004 at 7:51:09 PM
Subject: reading comprehension skills assessment

I get requests for help from adults who fail GED, apprenticeship exams, or pre-employment exams. They fail "reading". Educational backgrounds range from functionally literate to grade twelve or better. Most have sight and phonetic reading skill, and read at an acceptable speed, so it is not word attack skills or fluency that are lacking. In general, their vocabulary is extensive enough to meet or exceed what is required to successfully complete the exams. I suspect problems in comprehension. I have written the exams (of which one in particular requires every reading and test-taking skill one could imagine!), but they all score it as "reading" or "reading comprehension", which tells very little about the actual problem!

Comprehension assessments I have found
1) give a score for over-all comprehension
2) assess a limited range of 2 or 3 subskills
3) assess phonetic and sight word skills (which I do not need), or
4) assess only K-3 levels.

I need to know which subskills to address. The best I've been able to do is a home-made test using Barnell-Loft Specific Skills Series. I am not happy with it; too often when I assign practice in areas that appear weak, clients complete the practice with little or no difficulty. That may be because I deliberately chose a fairly low reading level in an attempt to assess the skill and not the extent of their vocabulary?

I have not been able to find a reading comprehension test which breaks scores into specific skills: following directions, selecting main ideas, interpreting, making predictions, interpreting questions, etc. I am further limited by the fact that most clients cannot spend hours on assessment.

Can anyone suggest a test for reading comprehension that addresses the above concerns? Failing that, can anyone offer suggestions to "tweak" the home-made test to ensure greater accuracy of assessment?

Thank you for any suggestions, comments.

Back to top Profile Email
victoria
Joined Jun 13, 2003
Posts: 1784

Other Topics
Posted:Dec 08, 2004 3:11:54 AM

My personal experience is that the decoding and sight vocabulary are very often much lower than they appear on the surface. The student may be able to answer test questions using strategies rather than actually reading the words. And in connected text the student may have habits of skipping, rushing, filling in predicted words rather than reading what is there, etc. So often these skills need to be addressed before comprehension makes any sense at all.

If your homemade questions are easy for the students and are not picking out what you are looking for, try raising the bar/ testing various levels. Make one question on main idea using K-3 vocabulary and structure, a second using 4-6, and a third using 7-9, maybe a fourth using 9-12. A fairly easy way to do this is to take a sample page from an appropriate book at each level (say, Boxcar Children, Hatchet, Call of the Wild or Treasure Island, any literature text, for examples I use), have the student read it, and ask a few questions about each passage. This is quick and gives you a quite accurate level right away.

Back to top Profile Email
Anonymous
Joined Oct 21, 2014
Posts: 69138

Other Topics
Posted:Dec 08, 2004 5:57:50 AM

Take a look at Curriculum Associates, Comprehensive Assessment of Reading Strategies (CARS® Series) and the follow-up STARS (Strategies...) series that teaches each of the skills assessed in CARS. I have only used the 1 - 4 grade levels, but it appears to go up to 8th grade.

Back to top Profile Email
ejw
Joined Apr 26, 2005
Posts: 10

Other Topics
Posted:May 04, 2005 4:45:45 PM

Sorry for taking so long to get back to this topic -- I've been away for a quite while. I did reply before I left, but I think the reply is floating around in cyberspace somewhere!

Thanks for your responses.

To explain a little better, before they are given the exam, they are checked out for fluency through a reading speed check, do oral reading for me, and if needed, are administered a R.E.A.D. test.

If your homemade questions are easy for the students and are not picking out what you are looking for, try raising the bar/ testing various levels.

Victoria, the questions are not easy for the students, it's the practice that is. If they are weak in a skill, they should make mistakes in independent practice as well as on the exam, I would think? Would you raise the level of the practice above that used in the assessment exam? (Right now, the instructional material is at the same level as the section of the exam they did not pass. There are two levels of reading for each skill in the test; one about grade 7/8 and one about grade 10. Anything below grade 7 I would not recommend tutoring for -- if for no other reasons than the expense of long-term tutoring (especially for someone with minimal work skills and/or income) and possible future job safety issues.

Angela, I checked out CARS with real hopes that it would meet our needs, but it didn't come close. I'd say why, but while I was gone, someone threw all our catalogues out, and without a look see, I can't remember why it wasn't suitable.
:? :roll:

Back to top Profile Email
JohnBT
Joined Mar 14, 2005
Posts: 42

Other Topics
Posted:May 05, 2005 10:12:06 AM

I don't have a specific diagnotic tool to recommend, but watching consumers work through some of the practice modules at the following site has helped us make realistic vocational recommendations for training, education and job placement. If you, and they, have the time it might be a place to begin exploring where their skills break down.

www.testprepreview.com/ged_practice.htm

As you know, the GED is very difficult - more difficult than getting through high school for the majority of folks.

John

Back to top Profile Email
JohnBT
Joined Mar 14, 2005
Posts: 42

Other Topics
Posted:May 05, 2005 10:32:01 AM

I just stopped our psychologist in the hall and posed your question. She has been doing lengthy, multi-test LD assessments here for 18 years and does not know of a single tool that will provide the info you need.

John

Back to top Profile Email
ejw
Joined Apr 26, 2005
Posts: 10

Other Topics
Posted:May 05, 2005 12:57:43 PM

JohnBT, thanks for the information. I will make that site available to clients, and if they are willing to do the tests we can certainly work with the results. It's too bad the site doesn't categorize comprehension mistakes into subskills, so testees can identify their strengths and weaknesses for themselves.

We still have the main problem: how do you quickly and accurately identify comprehension subskill deficiencies and strengths? <Sigh> Part of independent learning is self-assessment, and as far as I can discern, no one is providing those tools for reading.

I'll play with the tests for a while and see if I can categorize the questions.

Off topic, but I found your comment "the GED is ... more difficult than getting through high school for the majority of folks" interesting. Here in Alberta, GED is roughly equivalent to grade nine; for our clients the GED would be the easier route IF it was considered equivalent to grade twelve.

Back to top Profile Email
Sue
Joined Jun 14, 2003
Posts: 1845

Other Topics
Posted:May 06, 2005 12:27:37 PM

This is an area I'll be exploring this summer. We get students who test into our college "098" level -- maybe a little higher than what you're talking about , but frankly I doubt it -- but their success rate is abysmal.
I, too, have learned to ask "and on what do you base your inference that decoding and fluency are not the problem?" THe four folks I tested last summer ranged from fourth to sixth grade; comprehension was significantly higher, and they did not think they had reading problems.
This year I did work with some students in that "reads fluently but don't understand" category. VOcabulary is like decoding, I believe, in that for the demands of "regular" discourse, a person can have a more than adequate vocabulary, but when that threshold into academia is crossed, things fall apart. For instance, a student had to read an essay about the INterent as a "social phenomenon." Welp, she got off on the wrong foot because to her, "social" meant "socializing," not "society." The context of the essay just confused her; as soon as I made the connection to society she was in much better shape, but still assumed that the paragraph about business men "posturing" at each other had something to do with how they were standing or sitting. Again, a quick explanation and the light bulb went on.
I think there is a lot to be said for teaching the studnets to *look* for a different meaning than they may be expecting (some of my major grievances against "predictable" reading showing up here!!!).
In general, I teach comprehension skills through oral language -- with an overall emphasis on thinking about the words somebody is using; trying to figure out *their* perspective, more than "what does this mean to me?"
ASsessment-wise, we *had* a test that included a breakdown of comprehension skills. However, the market wasn't there for it so it was taken off the market. Alas, the market is for the Quick & Dirty, not the diagnostic (okay, and there *are* all kinds of inherent issues in standardizing the more subtle comprehension skills).

Sue J, webmastress www.resourceroom.net

Back to top Profile Email
ejw
Joined Apr 26, 2005
Posts: 10

Other Topics
Posted:May 06, 2005 4:57:54 PM

[i]we *had* a test that included a breakdown of comprehension skills. However, the market wasn't there for it...Alas, the market is for the Quick & Dirty, not the diagnostic (okay, and there *are* all kinds of inherent issues in standardizing the more subtle comprehension skills).[/i]

Sue, there doesn't happen to be a copy floating around somewhere that I can buy, beg, borrow, or steal?

Did you find "inherent issues" made the test inaccurate for diagnosis or were they a problem when it came to standardization? Because, frankly, I really don't care about percentiles. I want to know which skills I need to zero in without spending weeks I don't have discovering deficiencies! If I can say, "Here is what we need to work on, and I need a committment", I can get the committment. I won't get it with "We can maybe get somewhere before you lose a job opportunity or flunk".

I am very careful to rule out issues like decoding, tracking, and others, including understood vocabulary. I totally agree understood vocabulary is a huge factor in comprehension. I have frequently worked with students who only appear to have mastered a vocabulary.

Back to top Profile Email
PT1
Joined Mar 07, 2005
Posts: 34

Other Topics
Posted:May 14, 2005 10:08:28 PM

<We still have the main problem: how do you quickly and accurately identify comprehension subskill deficiencies and strengths? <Sigh> Part of independent learning is self-assessment, and as far as I can discern, no one is providing those tools for reading.>>

Hi EJW,

Unfortunately, I have no advice to offer you but greatly applaud what you are trying to do. I am an adult with various LDS who has reading difficulties, including comprehension

When I went for remediation several years ago, it was a disaster because no one bothered to find out why I had comprehension difficulties. The instructor would have me read passages and answer the questions which was an exercise in futility because I never could remember what I was reading. I finally realized I was quite capable of making inferences but the problem was that I could never remember what I just read. Now of the material is abstract like English Literature, then I do have difficulties.

Because I have NLD, Dyslexia, ADHD, and possibly CAPD, I think my problems are due to a number of factors. After my CAPD testing next month, I do plan to seek a more comprehensive assessment for my reading difficulties so I know exactly what I am dealing with.

I was quite bitter for a long time that the place I went to which has an excellent reputation did not understand my difficulties. So you are to be greatly commended for striving to make sure what happened to me doesn't happen to other adults.

I just don't understand why what you're asking for seems to be so difficult as that just seems so obvious to me. People in the LD Field and I am not talking about the folks on this board, need to get their head out of the sand. Unfortunately, I think you are going to have a hard time pulling them out.

Finally, as someone who has NLD, it is possible to decode words perfectly and still have comprehension problems. I am one who has problems in both areas but I wanted to provide another reason why I feel that you are on the right track.

Good luck!

PT

Back to top Profile Email
ejw
Joined Apr 26, 2005
Posts: 10

Other Topics
Posted:May 16, 2005 4:47:54 PM

I do plan to seek a more comprehensive assessment for my reading difficulties so I know exactly what I am dealing with.

If you find a more comprehensive assessment, please, please let me know if there are any aspects that delve into comprehension skills. I would be very interested in seeing any tools they use!

Back to top Profile Email