[Assessment 1279] Assessing reading when reading means listening to text

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David J. Rosen djrosen at comcast.net
Sat Mar 29 09:52:52 EDT 2008

Assessment Colleagues,

On the Learning Disabilities discussion list this past week there has
been a fascinating discussion initiated by Glenn Young. He has
proposed that it is time to focus on helping adults with learning
disabilities learn to read using technology. By this he means having
computers and hand-held devices read text out loud, with new readers
focusing on their getting meaning, not on learning how to decode
text. The archives of this discussion will be found at

Glenn wants to see this idea piloted and evaluated. I think that's a
good idea, not that I think we should stop teaching reading but that
we should help learners get access to information from text when
learning to read well may take a very long time, or not be possible.
Inexpensive electronic text readers can help them get access to the
meaning of text that might not otherwise be available. This is an
issue of social justice, of accommodations.

Glenn's proposal, and the excellent discussion that has followed, has
led me to wonder if this idea were piloted how would we measure
"reading gains"?

This, in turn, has led me to remember the importance of looking at
change in reading behaviors. Many years ago ETS researcher, Ron
Solarzano, developed an assessment for library literacy programs in
California in which the learner and tutor, using a check list, kept
close track of how actual reading behaviors changed over time. As I
recall, the learner kept track monthy of what kinds of reading she
did and how many items for each kind. I believe the checklist
included such behaviors as reading children's books to pre-schoolers,
reading cartoons in newspapers, and reading sports articles in
newspapers or magazines. As I recall, because of the diligence that
was required in keeping these records, and the tutor training in
using the instrument, this was a good measure of change in reading.

Are there good reading behavior instruments being used now? If so,
what are they? Please tell us about them here.

Do you have thoughts on how we might measure "reading gains" , for
example vocabulary growth, comprehension, perhaps even fluency
(ability to gain meaning from text read out loud at a faster rate?)
for those who read using electronic text readers?

David J. Rosen
djrosen at comcast.net

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