La Vergne Rosow

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Billion$ for Inside Game on Reading...
Washington Post research

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Current Reports

The National Reading Test Bears Study Let’s talk about it.

February 26, 2007

Rosow website Reading Test discussion

Dear Reading Enthusiasts,

The new national reading test has given us a lot of food for thought.

After you have had a chance to follow-up on some of the links in this newsletter, send me your thoughts on the situation.

The test results suggest that reading proficiency had moved backwards since the 1990 assessment. That is in spite of an average of 360 more hours of classroom time.

“Grades are Rising but learning is lagging, federal reports find” says the Los Angeles Times (February 25, 2007).

The question of validity may come up within seconds of reading news accounts. Does the test actually measure what it claims to measure? What do the federal test makers call reading? For a start on that answer, the link that describes what is viewed as important and measurable can be read at:

This site names the three contexts addressed:
--literary experience
--performing a task

Examples are novels, short stories, plays, and legends for the first context; getting information from text books, newspapers, and speeches for the second context; and understanding train or bus schedules, repair or game instructions, tax forms, and maps for the third.

It also says that students were tested on four aspects of reading:

--general understanding
--reader/text connection
--examining content and structure

There is a chart aligning the “contexts” with the “aspects” and giving endnotes about other terms used in the past.

SAMPLE QUESTIONS can be found at:

The first question is for grade 4:

Who did you think would win the race? Use information from the story to explain why.

It is followed by five blank lines, suggesting that the reader should write five lines worth of answer.

There is a link to the actual 851-word reading passage:

The credit to the publisher suggests that the passage is authentic literature and the retelling of the story (which sounds like a reinterpretation of Aesop’s “The Tortoise and the Hare” is written in an engaging and colorful manner. No source information for the fable is given.

Question #58 for a 12th grader who has read the 1,937-word passage from Days of Oaks and measures the reader’s ability to “Judge interpretation of words.”

The actual passage can be found at:

Question #58:

Some people say that the grandmother's statement "I'm keeping in the eyes of your time" contains the key to what the story means. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Explain why, using evidence from the story.

It is followed by 6 blank lines.

The “Assessment Procedures” are explained at:

NOTE There are a number of other interesting topics addressed at this same link.

It reads:
“All assessed students received a test booklet that contained reading materials and questions. Most test booklets contained two reading passages; however, at grades 8 and 12, some booklets contained a single passage of greater length. While longer passages were accompanied by as many as 16 comprehension questions, the typical number of questions to be answered about each passage was 10 to 12. Questions were presented in both multiple-choice and open-ended formats. The open-ended questions were primarily short constructed-response questions but also included extended constructed-response questions that required a more in-depth answer. The assessment time was 50 minutes, both for those students whose booklet contained two passages and for those whose booklet contained one longer passage. As a whole, the 2005 fourth-grade assessment consisted of 52 multiple-choice questions, 39 short constructed-response questions, and 8 extended constructed-response questions. The eighth-grade assessment consisted of 62 multiple-choice questions, 65 short constructed-response questions, and 15 extended constructed-response questions. The twelfth-grade assessment contained 46 multiple-choice questions, 57 short constructed-response questions, and 13 extended constructed-response questions. A number of these questions and their corresponding reading materials were administered at both grade levels to allow cross-grade comparisons.”


A question about the 4th grade question concerns how much the student’s writing ability will be counted in the reading score.

Another question about it concerns the message that is sent by the number of lines. If the student learns from every experience, what is the student learning about the writing process?

And regarding the 12th grade example, a question that occurs to me is how the reading of a novel and the thinking that goes into novel reading over the days, weeks, or months it takes to read it, are compressed effectively into 50 minutes.

I had hoped to read in this description that all of the selected test takers had read the entire novel as a class project, but I did not find that to be the case.

A page loaded with links to interesting “Reading Subject Information” is:

It is found at:

How the Governing Board Guides the Assessments, go to:

This page has a number of links to more detail.

The reading links begin at:

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is also referred to as The Nation’s Report Card and can be found at:

The LA Times article by Mitchell Landsberg can be found at:,1,7678299.story?coll=la-news-learning

Okay, you have my thoughts on several of these test issues. E-mail me your notions about them.


La Vergne

Selected Works

Classical Literature, Reference, Teen, Adult, and ESL Readers, Literacy, Annotated Bibliography and Teaching Ideas
Easy to Challenging titles will help those who want to discover or rediscover the books English readers have always loved.
Non-Fiction; literacy case studies; adult and family literacy
Theory-to-practice connections for pre-literate and low literate adults and children.
Reference and guide for teaching reluctant readers, new readers, and English language learners
This is a collection of great book titles sorted according to themes that appeal to adult and teen readers. Themes progress from picturebooks to challenging texts.