Leaving No American Indian/Alaska Native Behind: Identifying Reading Strengths and Needs

In this study, the author looks beyond high-stakes assessment to highlight reading strengths of and needs for a group of fourth grade American Indian students in order to provide specific information to guide instruction. A description of skills considered basic to proficient reading is followed by an explanation of the assessment methods used. The majority of the students demonstrate fairly strong skills in phonemic awareness, vocabulary when assessed orally, and basic word identification (phonics). Reading with a rate appropriate to purpose and comprehension strategies are identified as instructional needs. Explicit instruction in the identified areas is suggested as vital to the future success of these students and may provide a starting point for the identification and instruction of other American Indian/Alaska Native students with similar needs.

Content Comments 

The content of this research study on alternative methods of assessing American Indian (AI) student reading skills focuses on a critical need for applying reasonable methodology. The author expresses unbiased, plausible, and research-supported concerns about the quality and utility of most state-based assessments, as well as of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and supports these concerns by including a section on the study’s limitations. Communications quality and the potential utility of the study’s results are solid. The study’s conclusions are informative: “Based on the average scores on the orally assessed test of vocabulary, the [AI] students likely know the meaning of isolated words as they read—it’s what students do with the words when encountered in context that appears to create comprehension difficulties for this group of students. Specifically, the findings suggest that the students would benefit from explicit instruction, teacher modeling, and think-alouds of key reading comprehension strategies (e.g., summarizing, self-monitoring, creating visual representations, evaluating), using a variety of types of material.” Evidence of effectiveness with a possible impact on learning is reasonable based on the overall quality of the study.