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MASON EDSE 844 - Evidence-based Practices in Secondary Reading Comprehension

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Reading Comprehension 1Running head: READING COMPREHENSIONEvidence-based Practices in Secondary Reading ComprehensionSara MillsGeorge Mason UniversityEDSE 844April 21, 2009Reading Comprehension 2Evidence-based Practices in Secondary Reading ComprehensionReading is arguably the most important skills students learn in school. Not only does success in school rely increasingly on the ability to read and comprehend text as children progress through the grade levels, but literacy skills also are considered necessary for many jobs in society today. The National Reading Panel report (2000) focused national attention on learningto read in the primary grades. There has been no such national attention, however, on reading comprehension for older students.An urgent focus on the needs of adolescents who continue to struggle with reading, particularly students with learning disabilities and other mild disabilities, is needed. The NationalLongitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS-2), for example, tested youth with learning disabilities ina variety of subject areas, including passage comprehension, synonyms/antonyms, math calculation, applied problems, social studies, and science. Students performed lowest in the area of passage comprehension, with a mean standard score of 82 – more than one full standard deviation below their same-age peers (Newman, 2006). Similarly, in Special Education in America: The State of Students with Disabilities in the Nation’s High Schools, Swanson (2008) notes that a full 73% of students with disabilities are reading at the below basic level by the 12th grade, as compared to 25% of their nondisabled peers. Swanson (2008) goes on to point out that only 12% of high-school students with disabilities are achieving at the national average on measures of reading comprehension. That number is further broken down by disability category, showing that only 12% of students with learning disabilities – the largest disability category in special education – are achieving at the national average. These numbers are truly abysmal, providing strong evidence that much work is urgently needed to improve the reading comprehension skills of older students.Reading Comprehension 3There are two different groups from whom work is needed on this critical topic. First, researchers must focus more time and energy on the problems facing older students in reading. Second, teachers must ensure that they are using the most effective strategies possible to teach their struggling readers. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB, 2002) required teachers to use strategies validated by scientifically based research to address students’ needs in reading and mathematics. The use of “evidence-based” best practices is the new standard in the field of education. However, what scientifically based research advocates and what effective teachers do in the classroom may not always match. This leads to the question: Is it in the best interests of older students to base reading comprehension instruction on what research tells us works or on what teachers tell us is most effective? What Research Says About Reading to Learn There have been a number of meta-analyses on reading instruction for older students (e.g., Gajria, Jitendra, Sood, & Sacks, 2007; Scammacca, Roberts, Vaughn, Edmonds, Wexler, Reutebuch et al., 2007). Results of two such meta-analyses (Gajria et al., 2007; Roberts, Torgeson, Boardman, & Scammacca, 2008) are presented here to provided an introductory overview of what research shows to be effective instructional approaches for reading comprehension.Roberts, Torgeson, Boardman, and Scammacca (2008) summarized the findings of Scammacca et al.’s (2007) meta-analysis of reading interventions for adolescent struggling readers. The authors point to five critical components of reading instruction for older students with learning disabilities – advanced word study, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and motivation. The first essential component of reading instruction for some struggling readers –Reading Comprehension 4advanced word study – involves analyzing words based on the structure and meaning of their parts. Overall effect sizes for advanced word study instruction are were moderate (ES = .60). Second, the research on fluency for older readers, the second essential component of reading instruction, yielded very small effect sizes (ES = .26). In fact, the repeated oral reading approach that has been found to be effective for younger students is not effective for older students. Rather, it seems that more time spent reading text, in general, has a more positive impact on improving reading fluency because it exposes students to a wider range of new words, giving them opportunities to improve their sight word vocabulary.The third essential component of reading instruction for older students is vocabulary instruction. There is little research in this area focused on adolescents. However, Roberts et al. (2008) pointed out that while direct vocabulary instruction may have a “slight accelerative effect” (p. 66) for improving reading comprehension, “the most reliable gateway to improved vocabulary for older students appears to be reading a lot, reading well, and reading widely” (p. 66).Explicit comprehension instruction, the fourth critical component of reading instruction for older readers, has a large overall effect size (ES = 1.35). Such instruction may involve strategies like activating prior knowledge, using graphic organizers, summarizing, question-generating strategies, or other multi-component approaches. Finally, motivation to read is a key consideration for older, struggling readers. Reading comprehension, particularly for struggling readers, is a demanding task. Therefore, students mustbe motivated to do it effectively. To be motivating, the authors (Roberts et al.) suggest that students must have interesting content goals for reading and interesting texts to read, they mustReading Comprehension 5have a level of autonomy in the task, and social interactions among students related to reading must be included.Another meta-analysis conducted by Gajria, Jitendra, Sood, and Sacks (2007) focused exclusively on comprehension instruction, namely, comprehension of expository text for studentswith learning disabilities. Because so much information is relayed through textbooks in upper-level content-area classes, comprehending expository text is crucial for students’


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