Monday, May 7, 2012

    We don't need no stinkin' programs!

    I'm sorry, but I can't help myself: I need to brag on my reading students a bit right now. 

    At my college, all of our students take the standardized COMPASS reading exam before and after taking a developmental reading course. The COMPASS exam is a computer-based dynamic test that measures a student's reading ability.

    With so much concern placed on students' reading ability over the last decade, many schools and instructors have resorted to using boxed programs or fancy technology in an effort to help their students improve their scores on such standardized exams.

    Of course, I wouldn't have any of that. My belief always has been and always will be that students must read real books if they are to become better readers. Silly me, I know. What does reading books have to do with become skilled readers?

    Well, ladies and gentlemen, here comes the brag:

    My developmental reading students made average gains of 17.92 points per student on their COMPASS reading exam scores this semester. 17.92 points! 77% of my amazing students passed right out of our course, and 39% of those students passed OVER the next course and into the course beyond that one! What about the 33% who did not pass into the next course, you may ask? Well, all but 2 of those students' scores went up significantly, so even though they didn't make that cutoff score to get into the next course, they experienced significant gains.

    And do you know how they did it? Did they use fancy technology with lots of bells and whistles? NOPE. Did they use a fat reading textbook that cost a quarter of their semester's tuition? NOPE. Did they spend hours and hours sitting in front of a computer practicing to take this test? NOPE.

    You know how they did it? They read books. Real books. Books that they found on library bookshelves and read for free. Books displayed in the windows of their local independent bookstores. Books that I had sitting in my office, just waiting to be read. My students read an average of four novels each this semester. We also read a 100-page course packet on reading skills that I created and that our college bookstore makes available for $4 a copy. And we printed articles from online newspapers and magazines and talked about those. But mostly, we read. And we talked about reading. And practiced reading. And some of us ended up loving reading by the end of our 16 weeks together.

    My students are proof that you don't need fancy technology, or shiny new programs wrapped up in pretty little boxes to help your students become better readers. You just need books. And some time. And a community eager to talk about them. That's when the real magic happens.


    AllieBallie said...

    I, what you're saying is to PRACTICE a skill to become better at it!?!? Hmmm...genius. ;-) Congrats! Your students' scores are obviously a reflection of a process that works!

    Julia Tomiak said...

    Congratulations and thanks for sharing this good news! I'm so glad you could reach so many minds!

    Lori Oster said...

    Thank you, ladies! I actually miscalculated, and it turns out that my students had 18.04 point average growth--even better!

    I'm really proud of them, and really grateful for more proof that REAL READING is the key to growing readers.

    Carol M said...

    To become a good cook, a person cooks.
    To become a better runner, a person runs more.
    To become a reader, one does workbooks?? Obviously not.
    Keep spreading the word.

    Carolyn F. said...

    Send this to administrators everywhere!

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