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Research on New Reading Assessments: Opportunity for Adult Learners and Programs

Educational Testing Service (ETS) is leading a multiyear research study sponsored by the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) that aims to develop innovative, Web-based reading assessments for adult learners. ETS is creating a web-based suite of valid and reliable assessments that are precise, relevant, and instructionally informative.

The suite consists of two types of assessments designed to provide a more complete picture of reading ability: (1) a reading components test battery and (2) scenario-based assessments that model and measure higher-level comprehension. The current research project extends ETS’ extensive K12 Reading for Understanding work to adult readers with third- through eighth-grade reading levels; the assessments are designed for use in adult education programs.

With a battery of brief subtests targeting foundational reading skills such as vocabulary, understanding word parts, sentence processing, and fluency, the SARA (Study Aid & Reading Assessment) was developed to help identify students with skill deficiencies in important reading components and to provide detailed information to teachers to guide instruction. The GISA (Global Integrated Scenario-based Assessments) measures comprehension skills such as integration, evaluation, and perspective-taking in digital and contextualized reading environments. The GISA is scenario-based, aiming to motivate and support less skilled readers through a model that incorporates realistic purposes for reading, meaningful structure and sequence, and interaction with simulated peers.

In fall 2018, ETS moves from small-scale usability studies to begin large-scale field testing and data collection across the country. Adult education programs are invited to participate at one of two levels:

The first level is to support recruitment efforts directly: to identify adult student volunteers who can participate in research sessions. Volunteers will provide consent, take the new web-based tests, answer online questionnaires, and receive a gift for their participation. Ideally, programs will provide Web access using digital devices (such as computers or tablets). Adults can consent to have their score results shared with the participating program. Programs will also be compensated for their support.

The second level is for programs to request outcome data directly. ETS will then provide timely score reports that describe the reading strengths and weaknesses of the students, both individually and as group, to assist in making instructional decisions or for other appropriate uses. Participation at this level will provide continued access to the assessments over time and at a larger scale than the grant would expect to support for the cross-sectional study. ETS hopes to provide this service for no fee or for a minimal fee for the duration of the grant period (through 2020) in exchange for access and rights to the student data.

Anyone who would like to know more or get involved can contact Kathy Miller by email at recruitment@ets.org.