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Subject:

Re: Developmental Reading

From:

"Mayfield, Linda" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 9 May 2006 17:45:04 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (140 lines)

List Colleagues (this is long):
	Although we have wandered a bit from the original question, I
completely agree with Shevawn's "two cents."  At the recent "On Course"
conference in Saint Louis, I had the opportunity to speak to Skip
Downing about the issue of required standardized tests--I think we
agreed that although they are antithetical to many opinions about
teaching and learning, they are still widely used for a wide variety of
purposes, and that is not likely to change any time soon. If students
pass courses, whether deservedly or not, but cannot pass standardized
reading tests (or any other required test), I think learning assistance
professionals need to target the specific test-taking skills involved in
the tests. 
	For your nursing student example, Shevawn, and for all my
students, standardized testing is a big part of their academic world,
and the only door into the profession for which they are preparing.  ESL
students (for probably 20% of this year's junior class, English is their
third language), students who transfer in with inflated grades (such as
I mentioned previously today on my "soapbox"--we have had a lot of them
lately), and older, non-traditional learners, frequently deal with the
issues of underpreparedness in both reading and test-taking, so the
standardized tests are even bigger barriers for them.
	To address this issue, our college has gone to an intensive
program of standardized testing integrated into every semester at all
levels of the program, with specified minimums required to progress to
the next level, regardless of course grades. My office offers the help
in testtaking and reading. It is the intention that by the time the
students graduate and sit for State Boards, they are so accustomed to
standardized testing that the Boards reflect only their knowledge, and
their scores are minimally affected by any level of testing anxiety or
deficiency of test-taking skills. But that testing is being required by
faculty in the major, not in the context of learning assistance. If a
student is unsuccessful twice on a test at a certain level, they have to
take/retake a course in the major--not in reading. If they are
unsuccesful in a course, they are required to meet with me for an
assessment of the causes and appropriate referrals.  All I can do is
help them prepare for all that testing, so that has become a major part
of my work. 
	I had more than 200 appointments with individual students on
test-taking skills this semester, and in my observation, that type of
intervention is beneficial to students at all reading levels. We have
seen some spectacular results, and I need to design documentation. I am
also working on a grant for a research project to address the reading
deficiencies I am assuming in the incoming class in the fall, because
they are always there. (I was pleased to see Noreen's
endorsement--A+dvancer is one we are planning to pilot in the study.)  
	Whether you think the standardized test score is skewed because
of anxiety or traumatic experience, or other factors, the reality of its
significance remains; I think we have to become very good at teaching
test-taking skills. If you're interested in participating in future
research of a specific test-taking strategy, let me know and I'll
contact you if I get the grant.
Linda
	
 

-----Original Message-----
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Shevawn Eaton
Sent: Tuesday, May 09, 2006 2:18 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Developmental Reading

I wonder how many of these students have test anxiety.  Knowing the
significance of the test puts a lot of pressure on them.  Add that to a
standardized test format, and they just might end up shutting down or
blanking on the test.  Comprehension goes out the window, palms are
sweaty.  Suddenly they are just picking answers.  I've seen this happen
so often.

Example, student with a 3.6 GPA looking to enter the Nursing Bachelors
program which requires passing a standardized reading test.  Hard
courses all the way through.  Obviously she can read and she's an
excellent writer.  Yet, she failed the test twice. 

The pressure and the stakes of that test hit her hard.  Eventually, she
told me that her first language was Spanish.  She said that when she
gets nervous, her English goes too, and she has to spend more time
translating the questions and didn't finish.  

Another student told me that she had a bad experience with a
standardized test in grade school, which she believed resulted in her
being held back in school a year.  This was a huge scar when it came to
taking any standardized test once she got here. 

Many of our students end up taking developmental coursework in large
part because they have issues with standardized testing, yet
standardized testing still is used as the basis of success or as a
barrier in front of their life goal.  What is wrong with that picture? 


Seems to me, then, if these tests are state required, some time
practicing testing in the environment and in the format (particularly if
the test is on line) is absolutely essential to the students success. 
Reduce their anxiety and their skills have a better chance of getting
measured. 

Secondly, look at the course grades, other courses in which the student
had to do serious reading and see if there is a discrepancy between this
test and other measures of reading.  I think it is vital to take test
anxiety into consideration if this test is mandated for a student to
move forward. 

Just my 2 cents.



  

Shevawn Eaton, Ph.D.
Director, ACCESS/ESP
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115
PH: (815) 753-0581
www.tutoring.niu.edu

FAX: (815) 753-4115

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