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Nic covered this so well. It seems to me that you've developed a sound
approach to solving your reading needs. You are exactly right in your
misgivings about Accuplacer: of course it's not assessing what you are
teaching. It's not designed to. It's a *placement* test. Your
self-designed final is what assesses whether students have achieved your
outcomes.
I'm also not wild about the idea of using SAT or ACT scores as reading
placement tests either. They aren't designed for that.

-----Original Message-----
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Barbara Kirkwood
Sent: Wednesday, September 30, 2009 8:12 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: I need help from a reading specialist

Hello everyone,
I am in need of some help or advice.  We have a class (Critical Inquiry)
for students who are not reading at collegiate level.  We were strictly
using the Accuplacer test for placement but moved to using the SAT and
ACT reading scores along with Accuplacer for students who have not taken
the SAT or ACT.  Accuplacer seemed to be inconsistent and we had some
students who scored over 600 in our classes while students who scored
below 400 were not. The most recent ACT report indicated that the
equivalent of an SAT 560 score is academically ready for college.  The
executive decision here was to use SAT/ACT scores and a cut off for the
required class at 450 and below.  The question is how to assess whether
we are successfully teaching students to read better. 
 
We link the Critical Inquiry class with a heavy reading class like
psychology, philosophy, or chemistry. We use a reading and study skills
text but for the bulk of the work, we use the textbook of the linked
class.  Students learn a skill and immediately apply it to the linked
class.  We teach annotation, questioning, and context vocabulary. 
 
For a final, we have been having the students read and annotate a
published study to see if they understand it and pick out the salient
information.  I am being tasked to have a pre and post reading test or
something to indicate reading at or near college level.  I am aware of
the Nelson Denny and TABE, but I am looking for anything else that may
be appropriate.  I tried sending six students to take the Accuplacer at
the end of the class: 2 I felt would easily pass, 2 who were
questionable, and 2 I thought would not pass the test.  One of the top
two students did not pass.  He came to my office and told me he didn't
feel the test was an accurate assessment of his ability to get
information from text, which I thought was an interesting perception on
his part.  The other top student did pass along with one of the
questionable students.  Thus, I have questions about whether Accuplacer
is assessing what we are teaching.  Perhaps we need to develop an in
house assessment and work towards establishing reliability and validity.
This is where I need help and advice.  
 
Has anyone else developed such an instrument and have you established
validity and reliability? Is there anyone who could advise me on
accomplishing such a task?  I have spoken to our reading experts in the
education department but their expertise applies primarily to elementary
school ages.   Is there something else we might be using?  I would
appreciate any advice you can give me.
Barbara
 
 
Barbara L.S. Kirkwood
Associate Director for Group Academic Support
CASA - Center for Academic Support and Advancement
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne
(260) 481-6881

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