In yesterday’s Part 1 of this blog, I pointed out that high proportions of Kentucky’s students with learning disabilities are getting all tests, including the state’s reading tests read to them. As a consequence, we have no way to know if any effort is being expended to teach these students to really read.
Why are some Kentucky teachers fighting hard to maintain such a policy?
The facts are that the score inflating impacts of reading students the reading assessment are also very evident.
While common sense tells us that students who have the reading assessment read to them are obviously very poor to totally non-readers, this next graph shows that the average 2011 “reading” proficiency rates reported for these students were notably higher than the reading scores for the students with disabilities who did not have a reader on the KCCT.
Even though students who need to have the reading test read to them are clearly very weak readers, at best, the claimed “reading” proficiency rates for the students who got readers are higher in every grade up until the 10th grade, a time when dropout issues may impact the results.
For example, in the third grade, the red bar shows students who got a reader for the reading assessment were reported to be 65 percent proficient or more in reading. For the other learning disabled students who had to read the reading assessment for themselves, the blue bar shows only 63 percent scored proficient at reading.
Does that really make sense? How can kids who need the very big crutch of having someone read them what is supposed to be a reading assessment possibly outscore kids who are strong enough readers to handle the test all on their own? Common!
There is more. As you look at this graph, you will see that the gap in proficiency rates generally increases as you go up the grades. In the third grade, the gap in proficiency for the read-to versus the non-read-to students with disabilities is only two points. By the eighth grade, the gap grows to nine points in favor of the students who get the reading test read to them.
Again I must ask, is it reasonable for students who have the reading test read to them to get higher “reading” scores than other students with disabilities who have to read the test for themselves? In fact, could this actually be considered an extremely unfair and biased testing policy for those non-read-to learning disabled students?
One thing is certain: the score inflation message in this graph creates an extremely powerful inducement for our educators to want to keep on using lots of readers for the reading assessments.
And, as events unfolding in the legislature show, our educators are fighting hard to keep things just the way they are (more on that tomorrow in part 2 of this multi-blog article).
Still, while many educators claim they have the best interests of the disabled students at heart when they push to keep on reading the “reading” tests, I can’t overcome a very disturbing feeling that Kentucky’s current testing practices may be doing tremendous damage to the students receiving the reading accommodation. At the very least, we don’t have a shred of evidence from our testing program to show that any continuing effort is being made in many schools to try and help these students overcome their reading problem. And, that may be a very sad mistake, as I will discuss tomorrow in Part 3 of this blog series.
Here is a closing thought. I don’t think non-reading adults have a particularly good life in front of them. And, it is no secret that a high proportion of our prison population can’t read, either. I want our schools to make strong efforts to teach all of our kids to read. Right now, I don’t have evidence to show that is happening, and neither do you.
More next time in Part 3.