Mastery of reading comprehension is something that is difficult to attain for any child. But it is especially difficult for children with developmental disabilities, learning disabilities, and especially my students on the autism spectrum.
I find it disconcerting that we have few provisions in place for students on the spectrum who are also spending part of their day in the regular education setting. Especially considering that, according to the CDC, approximately 1 in 68 children in the US has a diagnosis of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). In my school, that would translate to about 1 student per grade level. I know for a fact, that our numbers of students with an ASD diagnosis are higher in certain grade levels this year.
Not all students need accommodations for tests, but when you consider the fact that autism often presents with difficulties with social interaction and synthesizing language, we need to consider new best practices across the school environment. I have had school specialists who train us for assessment systems say “I don’t really know what to tell you, or how to help you. I don’t really know anything about EC.” I think this needs to change. If we are going to require all students to take these tests, then the “training support staff” should be better versed in aspects of administration and accommodation.
I have been going through MClass training recently, and although I see the benefits, I also see some areas of concern. I don’t quite understand how a one-minute timed assessment can accurately measure fluency and comprehension. For any child. But, that is one of the first tests that I was shown how to administer. If the child reads quickly enough to get through a substantial part of the passage, there is no guarantee that they will remember what they read. Then their answers for comprehension are scored for accuracy, and complexity (number of words used to verbally explain their answer).
This is certainly not how we instruct and approach reading comprehension during our class instructional time.
There are students who give correct answers, and there are those who give correct and complex answers. Most of my students (regardless of their diagnosis), fall into the former category. They are correct in what they can remember, but they do not like/are not able to expound upon their answers. No wonder my students, in particular, always score way below their instructional reading level. They have not developed the ability to read quickly.
I’m not asking for my students to attain mastery at the same level as their peers. I’m looking for them to do their best. I am looking to see if they can reach a level within reading comprehension that allows them to access the world of written language. And they can get there. It may not look that way according to standardized assessments, but they can do it. I wish there were more adequate assessments to prove just how much they are learning.
So why isn’t there a better way to show it?