Quick & Painless Assessment Tests:
Replication of Findings by University Researchers is Requested.

by Don McCabe

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Origin and Theory behind the Tests

Since 1969 I have been actively involved in the remediation of reading problems of adolescents and adults.  As part of my professional duties, I have had to administer standardized reading tests to dyslexics and functional illiterates.  I have had to watch them suffer the embarrassment and humiliation of having their ignorance exposed for the duration of the tests.  After the standardized tests were administered, I knew no more about the student than I did before except that now I had a number such as 1.7 or 2.3 to insert in the appropriate blank on a reporting form.

Special Note:

In April, 1981 the Delegates Assembly in the International Reading Association passed the following resolution: "RESOLVED, that the International Reading Association strongly advocates that those who administer standardized reading tests abandon the practice of using grade equivalents to report performance of either individuals or groups of test-takers and be it further RESOLVED, that the president or executive director of the Association write to test publishers urging them to eliminate grade equivalents from their test."  –The Reading Teacher

If a reading remediation specialist is to follow the ethical standards regarding testing, i.e., to protect "...participants from...mental discomfort...and take all possible measures to minimize distress and still be able to justify placement into programs via accepted standardized tests, a new test must be devised and validated as no such test exists today." (APA Monitor 8, No. 3 [1977]:22-23)

This is what I have tried to do.

Directions for Administering the Tests

Tell the student you are going to give him a 'QUICK AND PAINLESS" Test to see where you should begin helping him.  Show him the list of words that comprise the test over Type #1 Words.  Ask the student if he can read any of the words. 

Type #1 Words ("Simple") Level Notation
  scratches A  
  strolling B  
  faithfully C  
  misleading D  
  coastline E  
  disapproval F  

If he can't, the test is over.  No point in continuing.  He can't read.  Our recommendation would be to start teaching him the most basic rimes (word families) and phonic patterns that can be found in AVKO's Suggested Order for Diagnosis and Remediation of Type #1 Words pp. 198 to 202 in The Teaching of Reading and Spelling: a Continuum from Kindergarten through College.  These pages will be available on our website by June, 2005.

If he can read the words scratches, strolling and faithfully but not the word misleading, again, the test is over.  Start him at Level B, one level below the last word he read successfully.

Only if a student gets at least four of the six words correct should you give the test on Type 2 words.  But before you do, tell the student that the first test was using very difficult words that contain patterns that generally are taught in school.  The second test is a test using words that contain patterns that are not normally taught in any school. 

Again just show the words and ask if he can read them.  If he says no,  the test is over.  He didn't learn what he hadn't been taught.

Type #2 Words ("Fancy") Level Notation
  malicious A  
  initialed B  
  emphatically C  
  fatigue D  
  decoupage E  
  entrepreneur F  

As the phonic patterns of the Type #2 words generally are not specifically taught in any major reading program, we recommend that you follow the "Suggested Order for Diagnosis & Remediation of Fancy Patterns" on pages 204-209 of The Teaching of Reading and Spelling: a Continuum from Kindergarten through College.   Any student who can read all these words in Test #2 does not have a reading problem.  But you might still want to give him Test #3.

Even if the student couldn't read any of the Type #2 Words, you can administer Test #3.  Same general approach.  Ask if he can read any of the words.  If he says no, the test is over.  Tell the student that this test is concerned with those words in our language whose spellings are totally insane.  Chances are that very few teachers of reading can correctly read the last two words.

Type #3 Words ("Insane") Level Notation
  shouldn't A  
  beautifully B  
  thoroughly C  
  ancient D  
  usually E  
  aisles F  
  salve G  
  cache H  
  hors d'oeuvres I  
  victuals K  
  gaoler L  

Note that many students will misread salve as slave.  Very, very few college students will correctly read victuals as "vittles" and gaoler as "jailer."  Some might not even know that cache is pronounced "cash."

As we strongly recommend that a test on Type #4  ("Tricky") and Type #5 Words ("Scrunched Up") not be given in a remedial situation below that of college, we are not listing that test here.  Those who are interested can find these tests in the book The Teaching of Reading and Spelling: a Continuum from Kindergarten through College with the others.  From experience we know that any student who had perfect scores on the first two tests and seven correct out of the eleven on the third test will score highly on the test on Type #4 words.   These are the "Tricky" words, homophones such as new, knew and gnu, almost homophones such as accept and except, heteronyms such as lead and lead, produce and produce, etc.


Preliminary findings that we request university researchers to replicate or disprove:

1.  A raw score of 0 or 1 on Test 1 indicates that the student is reading below 5.0 and would be found qualified for special help by all other testing devices.

2.  A raw score of 0 or 1 on Test #2 indicates that the student is reading below 7.8 as measured by any standardized test.

3.  Scores of 5 & 6 on Test 1 and scores of 0 and 1 on Test #2 will be the most common scores among students reading between 4.0 and 6.0.   Preliminary conclusion is that for these students to progress in reading they must be systematically taught the phonic patterns of Type #2 words.  Our preliminary findings also indicate that students systematically taught these phonic patterns do indeed increase their reading ability rapidly up to the point that their vocabularies and life experiences can bring them.

4. Scores of 0 or 1 on Test #3 indicate the student is reading below 5.0.

5. Combined scores on Tests #1, #2, and #3 of 21 or more will correlate highly with other tests that predict the ability to do college work.

If you would like to take part in the validation process of this instrument, contact Don McCabe.

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