National Reading Assessments

posted in: Reading | 0

Are you a supporter or an opponent of national reading assessments?

In many countries around the world students are regularly assessed for reading proficiency. Catts (2022) argues that these assessments are unfair to students, teachers and schools.

Impact on students

  • The tests rely heavily on students’ general knowledge and language skills.
  • Reading tests over a wide range of topics which is a significant advantage for students with broad general knowledge, but a significant disadvantage for those who don’t.
  • If students come to school lacking the pre-requisite preschool language experiences, this in turn impacts on the developing of vocabulary and grammar skills which in turn impacts on reading comprehension.

Impact on teachers

  • The tests place significant pressure and expectations on teachers.
  • The curriculum is often not well-matched, from a content perspective, with the content in the reading assessments.
  • The expectation that teachers prepare students for these assessments by placing a greater focus on language arts and associated skills means there is less instruction time for society and environment, health education and science (subjects that broaden general knowledge).
  • While research shows that there is some benefit is explicitly teaching students strategies such as ‘finding the main idea’ or monitoring your comprehension’, this is only one component of reading comprehension.
  • If time is allocated to completing practice tests, it takes the focus away from teaching the underlying skills students may be lacking (e.g., phonological awareness, phonics, morphology, etc.).

Counter arguments

  • The tests provide an independent assessment for parents showing how their child compares to their peers.
  • It provides teachers and schools with information regarding general and specific areas of weakness within the school and particular cohorts enabling more focused attention to addressing those deficiencies.
  • If the tests are seen as a ‘teaching information tool’, then they should not be used to compare schools or teachers. From this perspective, time should definitely not be spent ‘preparing’ students for the tests or doing ‘practice’ tests as this then weakens their use as a diagnostic tool.

Catts, H. (2022). Why state reading tests are poor benchmarks of student success. The Reading League Journal, 3 (1), 15-23.