Testing for Testing's Sake
By Amanda Tocci
In Australia around 15-20% of the school population fail national benchmark tests in reading (Elkins, 2002; Louden et al, 2000 as cited in Woolley, 2007). Despite intervention, many children continue to experience significant difficulties during the early years of schooling and will continue to experience ongoing academic struggle and social difficulties (Fielding-Barnsley, Hay & Ashman, 2005).
With many Australian children experiencing difficulty to read beyond year 3, it is imperative that a framework for combining specific learning processes such as psycholinguistic and cognitive knowledge to literacy intervention programs (Australian Government, Literacy & Numeracy Innovative Projects Initiative, 2006).
Tests are one of those tasks that will make some children fake stomach cramps, ignite diarrhoea at the drop of a hat, bring on uncontrollable tears and/or severe panic attacks. Testing, especially for children with reading disabilities is full of anxiety.
Hence the question needs to be asked: "Is the test reflective of what has to be learnt and does it allow for remediation to take place or are we testing for testing's sake?"
The purpose of testing should not be to give a percentile rank of where a child is in their reading compared to other children in the same class, state or across the nation. The purpose of testing is clear and simple, "What do they know? What do they have difficulties with and how do we fix it?"
There is a saying I often use when asked about testing by families, "You can't fix what you don't know about."
For children with reading disabilities testing is paramount for appropriate intervention to occur. Torgesen et al, (2001) suggests that many children receiving remedial reading support in schools are making little or no progress. Effective strategy instruction is essential in developing effective reading programs for children with reading difficulties.
Kennedy, Birman & Demaline, (1986); Moody, Vaughn, Hughes and Fischer, (2000); Puma et al (1997); Snow et al (1998), have all documented the lack of effectiveness in providing reading instruction for children with reading disabilities. They reported that any gains that are made are lost when children leave the program (Birman et al, 1987). Elbaum, Vaughn, Hughes, & Moody, (2000) have highlighted the lack of research into the effectiveness of explicit and intensive instruction for children with reading disabilities after they have already exhibited reading failure.
If we use valid, proven and reliable testing measures which give the teacher detailed data of a child's strengths and weaknesses, then appropriate intervention strategies can be put into place. If our education system fails to take data from testing and actually implement reading strategies for children with reading disabilities then such children will continue to fall through the gaps.
Australian Literacy Clinic conducts extensive testing on over 250 children each 10 weeks. We use National and Global Standard Testing Measures at our initial assessment appointment and then consistently reassess the children in our clinics at the end of term 1, term 2 and term 3.
The test results are examined and the data is used to implement research based reading intervention strategies for each and every individual child.
Testing is used for:
About Amanda Tocci
Amanda Tocci is a Literacy Specialist and Managing Director of the Australian Literacy Clinic Pty Ltd. She is currently undertaking her PhD in Psychology at the University of Newcastle, investigating appropriate strategy instruction for children with working memory and reading disabilities.
The Australian Literacy Clinic Pty Ltd is a specialist centre located in Maitland and Newcastle, working with families and schools in assessment, planning and intervention for children with reading difficulties.
If you would like a Reading Checklist then please visit www.auslit.com.au.
Managing Director & Literacy Specialist
Australian Literacy Clinic Pty Ltd.
P: 1300 869 905