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Russ Walsh, a literacy expert, is analyzing the reading passages on the PARCC test. In his first post on this topic, he reviewed sample questions from the test for readability levels; while the Lexile measure was aligned with the correct grade level, other measures showed the readability to be about two grade levels above the students’ actual grade. In the following post, Walsh looks at the kinds of questions that are asked.
Readability, however, is about more than the level of difficulty of the text itself. It is also about the reading task (what the student is expected to do with the reading) and the characteristics of the reader (prior knowledge, vocabulary, reading strategies, motivation).
In this post I will look at the second aspect of readability that must be considered in any full assessment of readability: the task that the reader faces based on the reading. Since this is a testing environment, the task is answering reading comprehension questions and writing about what has been read.
In any readability situation the task matters. When students choose to read a story for pleasure, the task is straightforward. The task is more complex when we ask them to read something and answer questions that someone else has determined are important to an understanding of the text. Questions need to be carefully crafted to help the student focus on important aspects of the text and to allow them to demonstrate understanding or the lack thereof…..
Whenever a new test is rolled out, we know through past experience that test scores will go down. Over time schools, teachers, and students adjust and the trend then is for scores to go up. It will be no different with the PARCC tests. As the scores rise, some questions will arise like, “Have we been focused on the right things in these tests?” and “Have the tests led to better, more thoughtful readers?” Based on my analysis of these test questions, I am not confident.