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Johns Hopkins University
While U.S. literacy rates have improved over the last century, in recent decades progress in U.S. student reading levels have stagnated while other economically developed nations have progressed. Progress among adolescents has been particularly limited when compared with some improvements in younger U.S. readers in the last three decades. This problem is associated with in-school and out-of-school factors. Policymakers intended the advent of standards-based reforms to restore U.S. competitiveness in mathematics, reading, and science. While there is evidence of improvements in mathematics, there have not been corresponding improvements in reading. Furthermore, the standards-based tests that emerged have influenced teachers to emphasize discrete reading skills with no basis in evidence over helping students to discern the meaning of whole texts, which is fundamental to effective reading instruction for adolescents. In 2019, the state of Louisiana initiated a new Grade 7 reading test under the federal Innovative Assessment Design Authority (IADA) in which students respond to multi-select and constructed-response items directly related to texts they have read in the widely used curriculum ELA Guidebooks 2.0. This is a mixed-methods study of the implementation and outcomes of the IADA test. Implementation research questions examine the extent to which students participated in the test as intended and had necessary technology available to participate. Outcomes questions measure the extent to which IADA participation correlated with teacher methods or principles that differentiate teachers of students participating in IADA and other Louisiana teachers using ELA Guidebooks 2.0. Quantitative outcomes are dominant. To measure outcomes, the study collects data from an online survey administered to treated and non-treated teachers by the Louisiana Department of Education in 2019-2020 and 2021-2022. Where there are significant differences in mean ranked responses among groups in a given method or principle in one year, the study indicates promising but incomplete evidence of a correlation. When there are significant differences in mean ranked response for both years, the study notes compelling evidence of a correlation. Qualitative data from 12 interviews of treated participants validate or mediate quantitative findings but do not establish findings unto themselves. While promising evidence of several differences in activities were present in one year, the two groups showed repeated significant differences in the influence of interim assessments provided outside the curriculum. Treated teachers were more likely to eschew such tests, relying instead on curriculum-embedded interim tests, which, qualitative evidence indicated, teachers trusted as an adequate basis for evaluating fitness for the IADA state test. This finding provides evidence of the potential for curriculum-aligned state tests to encourage teacher emphasis on comprehending the meaning of texts in a curriculum, rather than to emphasize fragmented skills extraneous to a curriculum or its texts.
standardized tests, curriculum, reading, ESSA, NCLB, Common Core