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IES Grant

Title: Diagnostic Assessment of Reading Comprehension: Development and Validation
Center: NCER Year: 2005
Principal Investigator: Francis, David Awardee: University of Houston
Program: Reading and Writing      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $1,590,077
Goal: Measurement Award Number: R305G050201

Co-Principal Investigators: Catherine Snow, Harvard University
Diane August, CAL

Purpose: Currently available tools for the assessment of reading comprehension have limited use in profiling students' strengths and weaknesses in the components of reading comprehension. These tools also are unduly affected by students' ability to decode the words in texts, they are generally non-informative for teachers in guiding instruction, and they are particularly limited in assisting teachers of language minority students. The purpose of this project is to develop a diagnostic assessment of reading comprehension (DARC) for children in grades 3 through 5 that focuses on the critical components of comprehension. Those components include (1) decoding and word fluency; (2) central comprehension processes such as remembering the text, accessing relevant background knowledge, making text-based inferences, and integrating text-based information with world knowledge; and (3) sensitivity to linguistic variation in the text. Data on the reliability and validity of this new instrument will be collected, and norms for both monolingual English speakers and for English language learners will be established.

Setting: This project will take place in public schools in four settings: a large Mid-Atlantic metropolitan area, a large city in the Northeast, a large city in the Southwest, and a small midwestern city.

Population: The assessment is being developed for and evaluated with both monolingual English speakers and English language learners. Between 300 and 1,200 students participate in each of the reliability, validity and norming studies.

Research Design and Methods: During Years 1 and 2, the researchers develop texts and items and pilot them for the underlying components of comprehension. Initial studies are being conducted to determine that subtests are developmentally sensitive, usable with English language learners, and related to other reading assessments that target similar constructs. During Year 3, the researchers are conducting a larger-scale validity study using a broader sample of students and relating performance on the DARC to performance on the Gray Oral, the state assessments, and textbook end-of-chapter assessments of text-based reading in the content areas. In Year 4, the researchers are norming the assessment and equating multiple forms.

Key Measures: Both researcher-developed and standardized assessments are being used to assess student knowledge.

Data Analytic Strategy: Validity will be evaluated using item response methods and confirmatory factor analysis to compare performance on DARC sub-scores to other targeted assessments of the hypothesized comprehension processes, and by relating DARC scores to performance on standardized and state-prescribed reading assessments, as well as textbook specific end-of-chapter assessments.


Book chapter

Pan, B., and Uccelli, P. (2009). Semantic Development. In J. Berko-Gleason, and N. Bernstein Ratner (Eds.), The Development of Language (pp. 104–138). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Uccelli, P., and Snow, C.E. (2008). A Research Agenda for Educational Linguistics. In B. Spolsky, F. M. Hult (Ed.), The Handbook of Educational Linguistics (pp. 626–642). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

August, D., Francis, D., Hsu, H-Y.A., and Snow, C. (2006). Assessing Reading Comprehension in Bilinguals. Elementary School Journal, 107(2): 221–239.

Francis, D., Snow, C., August, D., Carlson, C., Miller, J., and Iglesias, A. (2006). Measures of Reading Comprehension: A Latent Variable Analysis of the Diagnostic Assessment of Reading Comprehension. Scientific Studies of Reading, 10(3): 301–322.

Malabonga, V., Kenyon, D., Carlo, M. August, D., and Louguit, M. (2008). Development of a Cognate Awareness Measure for Spanish-Speaking English Language Learners. Language Testing, 24(4): 495–519.

Uccelli, P., and Pez, M. (2007). Narrative and Vocabulary Development of Bilingual Children From Kindergarten to First Grade: Developmental Changes and Associations Among English and Spanish Skills. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 38: 1–13.