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Another Vote against Oral Reading Measures

by Anne-Evan Williams, LGL Director of Educational Development

Teachers have long used oral reading measures as a standard of reading assessment.  Meanwhile, opponents have launched a variety of criticisms, pointing to the social stigma associated with reading out loud and claiming too great a focus on "sounding right."  But new research from the University of Maryland presents fresh, concrete data against oral reading measures and in favor of silent reading comprehension in student assessment.

The study, released by National-Louis University and the University of Maryland, asserts that oral reading measures fail to distinguish between reading difficulties and oral language difficulties, particularly "word-finding difficulties" that may affect as many as 10% of all student readers.

Says Diane German, the principal investigator and a special education expert from National-Louis University, "This potential for misdiagnosis and under-estimating of children's reading abilities is disconcerting.  Reading teachers and speech and language pathologists need to be more cautious with oral reading screening tests."

The study recommends using silent reading assessments along with multiple-choice comprehension questions to gain a truer assessment of reading ability.  With this new research pointing towards misdiagnosis of reading difficulties, coupled with past criticism of oral reading assessments, it makes little sense for schools and teachers to continue placing so much emphasis on the oral reading abilities of their students.

Tags: oral reading assessment, silent reading assessment, reading assessment

  1. Anne McBride
    Reply 03/22/09

    I couldn’t agree more!  Another case in point is the proliferation of DIBELS.  Teachers and administrators have been crazy.  Still even after the backlash on DIBELS, Colorado requires schools to use it when it ignores so much of the reading process. Florida is another state that is crazy and overly focused on oral reading.  They don’t even look at prosody, only reading rate!  Actually, I think you wrote another article on that topic.

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