Special Presentation on Assessment by Dr. Tom Sticht

This week we have a guest post from Jose L. Cruz, Chief Executive Officer, San Diego Council on Literacy

I wanted to share with all of you the information we captured yesterday from a special two-hour presentation made for the San Diego Council on Literacy by Dr. Tom Sticht

(Farrell Ink note: did you check out Dr Sticht’s bio!  He’s amazing! He literally wrote the book on Intergenerational Transfer of Learning. Turns out one book wasn’t enough…here’s volume 2.)

Locally, we have this notion of reporting the literacy skill advancement of students countywide. If you were with us, you would have heard Tom deliver an outstanding presentation on the history and challenges of measuring learner progress in adult education and literacy. Here are my notes from Tom’s presentation:

  1. Many tests, not just normed or criterion-referenced tests, are standardized. Anyone can create a standardized test as long as it is administered and scored in a consistent, or “standard”, manner.
  2. Knowledge is attained faster than skills. Skills take time and practice. They are not taught.
  3. Oracy (listening, speaking, vocabulary) is the foundation for reading. Most often, a person’s oracy skills exceeds their reading or decoding skills. The goal is to close this gap so that the person’s ability to read catches up with their vocabulary.
  4. A first question to ask and answer is, “What are we testing?” Most tests do not test what was taught, especially those that are norm-referenced, criterion-referenced, and competency-based. These tests (CASAS, TABE, ABLE, TALS) are typically those that are recognized as being approved for measuring learner progress.
  5. Curriculum-based assessment tools test what was taught.
  6. A flaw in literacy instruction is the inclination to focus on general literacy and literacy skills, while minimizing the advantages that come from teaching literacy sing a specific content area.
  7. Most unfortunate is that literacy assessment tools, like the Test of Adult Literacy Skills (TALS) and others, test general literacy. The data shows that, when this is done, literacy skill advancement appears to be deceptively minimal.
  8. When skills are assessed via emphasis of instruction upon specific content areas or goals (read the Bible, prepare for a job, learn about healthcare) knowledge is acquired and skills are improved and can be proven to be improved if the assessment tool relates to the specific content that was taught.
  9. Also not being measured are the increases in the confidence level of adult students (parents) who receive instruction and who are able to support the literacy skill acquisition of their children because they are engaged in their own improvement in reading and overall education.
  10. What is important is that students are able to transfer skill acquisition to tests that measure general literacy.

How does this relate to your thoughts on assessment? Is this relevant to our current discussion on the 2014 changes in the GED test?


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