Presentation to the New Hanover Human Relations Commission: January 26, 2009
At the invitation of Mr. Carl Byrd, President of the New Hanover County Human Relations Commission, Jess MacDonald and I presented an overview of the Hillcrest Reading Program. After I briefly explained that we began the Program in response to the large and enduring achievement gap between black and white children in New Hanover County Schools (see the second slide in the presentation, "Learning to Read at Hillcrest"), Jess explained how the Program is structured, who are our children and tutors, and the logistical details, as well as longer-term plans. I then went over the early results of our progress testing.
A brief overview of the research will be helpful to make better sense of the presentation linked above. The research is a straightforward pre-test, post-test experimental design. In September of 2008, we administered one or two of three quick, and empirically validated, tests of children's reading skills, to determine where they should be placed in the 100 Easy Lessons curriculum. The tests are called DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills).
- Older children were given the Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) Test (an example is given on page 9 of the presentation), in which children read aloud from a very short story. They are timed, and after one minute, they read another story, and another. All in all the test takes about 4 minutes.
As they read, the tester follows along on her own copy marking out words the child gets wrong or does not get correct, and marks the point at which time elapsed.
- Each test has established benchmarks for the children: for the ORF, they should be able to read: 40 words per minute in spring of 1st Grade; 90 in spring of 2nd grade; and 110 in spring of 3rd grade.
- The younger children were given either (in some cases, both) the Phoneme Segmentation Fluency (PSF) Test or the Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF) (examples are given on pages 12 and 14, respectively, of the presentation.
Both are one-minute tests, and administration and scoring are the same as is used for ORF (above).
- PSF determines whether, and how well, children recognize that words are made up of discrete sounds. The benchmark for this test is 35-45 Correct Letter Sounds (CLS) by spring of kindergarten or fall of 1st grade.
- NWF is a check to see if children can sound out words they have never seen before (and likely will never see again); if they can they are developing the phonetic decoding skills necessary to becoming a good reader. The benchmark for this test is 50 CLS by mid-1st grade.
- In December, at the end of the first semester of tutoring, we re-administered the tests to see what progress the children had made. There are multiple versions of each test, so the children were not taking the same test over again. The results follow the sample copies of the tests in the presentation linked above. In a nutshell, though, all of the children made progress: some, quite dramatic; some very good. Two or three of the children will need extra attention (which was why we did the progress testing: to have data to guide our planning and decisions.
Photos From the New Hanover County Human Relations Commission Presentation -- January 26, 2009