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IES Grant

Title: Assessment of Comprehension Skills in Older Struggling Readers
Center: NCER Year: 2005
Principal Investigator: Waters, Gloria Awardee: Boston University
Program: Literacy      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $1,255,025
Type: Measurement Award Number: R305G050083

Purpose: Older struggling readers fail to read well for a variety of reasons. Current assessment tests are limited in their ability to identify those causes with sufficient detail to support high-quality intervention. Poor readers may struggle because of difficulties at the word, sentence, or discourse level. Helping these learners become better readers depends on understanding the factors contributing to their poor reading. The purpose of this project is to develop a new comprehensive, computerized language assessment battery that is organized according to psycholinguistic principles and that can be used to assess the comprehension problems of older readers (students in grades 7-10). The new assessment is called the Comprehensive Assessment of Reading and Listening (CARL) Test. At the conclusion of this project, the research team will have a validated and reliable computerized assessment test that educators can use to identify which comprehension skills are deficient in particular students, to target these deficiencies in focused remediation, and to assess whether the various subcomponents of reading are becoming more accurate, efficient and automatic with instruction.

Setting: This project takes place in a large city in the Northeast.

Population: A total of 680 students (80 in a pilot study and 600 in the main study) from grades 7, 8, 9, and 10 are participating. Participating students are balanced across grade levels in terms of socioeconomic status, race, and gender.

Research Design and Methods: In the first phase of the research effort, the research team is designing the tasks and stimulus materials to be used in the test. In the second phase, each participant is being tested on 16 subtests designed to evaluate language-processing abilities in the spoken, as well as the written, modality, in order to determine if comprehension problems are seen across language modalities. The four psycholinguistic levels being evaluated in both modalities are the single word level, the morphological level, the sentence level, and the discourse level. Participants represent a range of ability levels. Evaluation of the performance of each of the subtests should permit streamlining and shortening of the full battery.

Key Measures: Standardized measures of word-level decoding, vocabulary knowledge, and written and oral comprehension are being used to assess the construct validity of the new instrument.

Data Analytic Strategy: All participants are being tested on a battery of standardized tests in order to assess criterion-related validity. Construct validity is being determined by examining the inter-correlations among the subtests and by factor analytic and cluster analysis techniques. A random sample of 50 students at each grade level is being retested on the entire battery in order to assess test/re-test reliability.

Related IES Projects: Assessment of Comprehension in Older Struggling Readers (R305A100261)