The Trick to Getting Higher Reading Scores

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By Timothy Shanahan
Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois

Note: On November, 20, Dr. Timothy Shanahan, Professor of Urban Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago will lead a McGraw-Hill Education webinar titled “How and How Not to Get Higher Reading Scores.” The session will will explain why the popular approaches don’t work, and will lay out several practical steps that really can help children read better—and score higher on the tests. In this post, Dr. Fisher previews the discussion.

Blog Post: The Trick to Getting Higher Reading Scores

Many teachers and principals spend a lot of time these days analyzing student data, trying to figure out how to best improve reading achievement. These kinds of efforts usually involve scrutinizing how kids perform with particular question types and lots of practice answering such questions. And, with all the new reading tests coming along (e.g., PARRC, SBAC), these principals and teachers are sharpening their pencils to try to figure out how to provide effective practice with the new types of reading questions that they are asking.

Would it surprise you that most of this time and effort is wasted? Unfortunately, this kind of data analysis and test prep is as effective as turning the thermostat to 90° to heat up a room more quickly! This widespread practice simply doesn’t work. Teachers and principals are wasting time when they could be taking actions that could lead to better reading test performance. In fact, practicing particular kinds of questions can’t possibly raise reading scores.

Instead of treating reading as just a collection of discrete cognitive skills (e.g., identifying main idea, making comparisons, predicting, drawing conclusions, inferencing), it should be treated as a language interpretation activity. Research-proven techniques—some that have been long forgotten—can improve how children interpret the language they have to read on accountability tests. There is no easy road to higher achievement, but that doesn’t mean that there are not practical and effective actions that teachers can take that will result in better reading scores for their students.

To register for the webinar go to: www.mheonline.com/literacywebinar

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