Dr Kerry Hempenstall, Senior Industry Fellow, School of Education, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.
Updated version of: Hempenstall, K. (2009). Research-driven reading assessment: Drilling to the core. Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, 14(1), 17-52.
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There is considerable interest and controversy in both the US and Australian communities concerning how our students are faring in the task of mastering reading, and how our education system deals with such a vital skill. There is concern in both countries that national and international comparisons have not been flattering.
For decades, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (known as “The Nation’s Report Card”) has shown that 2 out of 3 students are not proficient in reading by the end of the 4th grade—the first year of schooling in which reading is an essential tool skill.4 Over 1 out of 3—more than a million students per year—fail to reach even the basic skill level (Stone, 2013, p.3).
There is a current public perception that either educational outcomes for students have been declining or that the education system is increasingly less able to meet rising community and employer expectations (Jones, 2012).
Parental concerns about literacy are becoming increasingly evident in Australia, too. In the Parents’ Attitudes to Schooling report (Department of Education, Science and Training, 2007), only 37.5% of the surveyed parents believed that students were leaving school with adequate skills in literacy. There has been an increase in dissatisfaction since the previous Parents' Attitudes to Schooling survey in 2003, when 61% of parents considered primary school education as good or very good, and 51% reported secondary education as good or very good. Recent reports in the press suggest that employers too have concerns about literacy development among young people generally, not simply for those usually considered to comprise an at-risk group (Collier, 2008).
Confidence in US public schools (Jones, 2012).