A consultant targets achievement Proficiency in reading is key to improved scores on tests, she emphasizes

May 03, 1998|By Joanne C. Broadwater | Joanne C. Broadwater,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Gail Lynn Goldberg is an educational consultant who works with school systems around the state to help teachers improve instruction and student achievement on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests, the latest round of which begins tomorrow.

A specialist in test development for the Maryland State Department of Education for a decade, Goldberg was involved in the design, implementation and scoring of MSPAP from its inception. Recently, she discussed reading proficiency and ways improve MSPAP test scores with The Sun.

How would you define a proficient reader under MSPAP standards?

What's being tested on MSPAP is not just a child's ability to locate information and recall what he has read. In addition to literal understanding, a student needs to base his answers on ideas that come from across the whole selection.

He should be able to support inferences, interpret what he read and make connections between his own ideas and experiences and the text. He should also be able to analyze strategies that authors use to convey meaning, such as word choice, format and illustrations.

What has MSPAP testing shown about reading ability?

It has shown that most children can decode words and form a general understanding of what they have read. A key problem is that when students respond to questions, their answers often don't provide evidence of the kind of thinking and developed understanding they need to show.

What reading deficiencies have been uncovered through MSPAP testing?

Children can generally read with their fingertip, which means that they can locate and retrieve information. They are usually fine at recalling bits of learning. But if the answer isn't on the page, they can't tell you. So many children seem to be very dependent on finding the clues right in front of them. What we're trying to help children do as readers is to be able to draw valid interpretations and conclusions from what they read.

What are the most frequent problems with answers given on MSPAP tests?

Sometimes students will talk in very general terms about what they have read. Their answers don't give any evidence that they have understood and can make connections between the ideas in the text and their own ideas and experiences. Also, they do not support their statements with information and ideas that may be explicit or implied in the text. In a good answer, there are footprints in the snow that show that the student read the material.

How can children's reading proficiency be improved in the classroom?

In day-to-day classroom instruction, teachers need to ask a wide range of questions that require more than just information location that get children to come up with new ideas that are supported by what they've read but are not explicitly stated in the text. They should give frequent reminders to use what was read to support answers. If support is not given, the teacher should prompt students with more questions, saying, "For example?" "Tell me more." "Such as?"

If a child says that he likes the details in a story, he shouldn't stop there. If kids are used to being asked for more information from the text, they will, by force of habit, get used to answering rTC reading questions with more information and I think we'll see improvement in MSPAP test results.

What can parents do to help their children become more proficient readers?

Parents should use the same questioning strategies as teachers when reading with their children. Don't just ask them to recall and retell the story. Ask them to draw a conclusion and come up with a new idea. The range of questions children are exposed to should stretch their thinking and make them go back and use what they read.

Pub Date: 5/03/98

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