Reading standards at the end of Key Stage 2

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chew8
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Reading standards at the end of Key Stage 2

Post by chew8 » Fri Jun 26, 2009 7:01 am

I have recently had the opportunity to hear the reading of all 80 Year 6 children at one school. All of them are aged between 10 years 10 months and 11 years 10 months - i.e. they have 11th birthdays between 1 September 2008 and 31 August 2009. They took the Key Stage 2 SATs in May and should get their results very soon. I gave them all the same passage to read: a 329-word passage from Susannah of the Mounties, a 200+-page book which none of them had encountered. My contemporaries and I had it as a class text in the year in which we turned 10. I know that Susan S. knows the book, so she can perhaps say whether she thinks that getting 10-to-11-year-olds to read aloud from it provides a reasonable way of assessing their competence.

I typed out the passage in 12-point font, preceded by a few lines about the characters and the story which I got the children to read silently to themselves before starting to read aloud. Just over 100 different grapheme-phoneme correspondences occurred in the passage, including a couple of unusual ones (e.g. 'ui' for /oo/, in 'recruit'). I would count only about 12 of the words in the passage as 'irregular' in the sense that they contain a grapheme-phoneme correspondence which occurs in few is any other words. Examples: 'through', 'one', 'said', 'laughing', 'broad' - the first four of these occur frequently enough in children's reading material not to have caused problems for most of the 80 children, but 'broad' was obviously less familiar and many read it as /brode/, which, though wrong, showed good decoding ability. There was plenty of scope for reading with expression, and I felt that I could tell quite a lot about the children's comprehension from the expressiveness of their reading. I made notes on whether or not they read at roughly their normal speech speed, whether they stumbled much (I couldn't get all the examples down but noted some), and whether they gave up completely on any words.

I also timed each child on a 101-word section in the middle of the passage - I didn't tell them I was doing this as I wanted them just to keep going normally and not to feel under pressure, and I don't think any of them realised that I was timing them. The best readers managed this section in times ranging from 35 to 50 seconds - I timed myself reading it aloud as if I were reading it to a class and I took 40 seconds. The weakest took 90 to 120 seconds.

Judging more subjectively, I felt that 60 of the 80 children read at roughly their normal speech speed; 17 were pretty close, and only 3 were a long way short. 51 read with good expression and 26 with expression which was not great but which made me think that they were understanding most of what they read. Only 3 read with really poor expression: these were exactly the 3 whose reading speed was far short of their normal speech speed, and I stopped them before the end of the passage because they were struggling so much. The very weakest of all had come to the school only in Year 5 so had not had the full benefit of the help given by the excellent special needs teacher.

All 80 children stumbled to a greater or lesser extent, even those with spelling ages 4 years or more above chronological age on the Vernon spelling test, which would suggest very good knowledge of the alphabetic code. In many cases I felt that the stumbling was mainly because they had not been coached on reading aloud - most spontaneously went back and self-corrected after stumbling, so they did end up getting the right words and meaning.

A word which caused problems for almost all the children was 'prairie'. Two of them read it correctly without hesitation and when I asked them about it at the end, they clearly knew what it meant; 6 decoded it correctly after slight hesitation but didn't know what it meant; some of the rest decoded it as /prayrigh/ (plausible) or /prighree/ (perhaps plausible by analogy with 'Thailand'), several said /prarree/ or /parry/, several said 'private' or 'pirate', and quite a few said non-words starting with a /p/ sound but otherwise not containing many of the right sounds. Only 5 of the 80 gave up on any words at all, asking for help with no more than 2 words each.

By and large, I felt that about 85% of these children would deserve Level 4 or 5 for reading at KS2 and that this represents quite a reasonable 'expected level'. It will be interesting to see what their actual results are.

I also gave the same passage to the 30 best readers of the 90 children in Year 3. There wasn't much difference between their reading and that of the Year 6 children. 20 of the 30 read the timed section in 50 seconds or less, and even the two slowest managed it in 65 seconds. I then had the opportunity to give the passage to 19 of the 20 Y6 children at a school which has always taught excellent phonics in Reception (the 20th child was absent). All these children read extremely well. They weren't totally stumble-free, but they stumbled less than the others, largely because they didn't rush and had a better sense of what was a suitable pace for reading aloud. 16 of the 19 read the 101-word section in 40-45 seconds and the other 3 took 50 seconds.

Jenny C.

JIM CURRAN
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Post by JIM CURRAN » Fri Jun 26, 2009 8:18 am

Fascinating stuff Jenny. It will be really interesting to see how the year 6 group fare at Key Stage 2.

As an approximate guide to the readability levels of a range of texts I sometimes use the Fog Readability Test.


1. Gunning 'FOG' Readability Test [14]
Select samples of 100 words, normally three such samples.
(i) Calculate L, the average sentence length (number of words ÷ number of sentences). Estimate the number of sentences to the nearest tenth, where necessary.
(ii) In each sample, count the number of words with 3 or more syllables.
Find N, the average number of these words per sample.
Then the grade level needed to understand the material = (L + N) × 0.4
So the Reading Age = [ (L + N) × 0.4 ] + 5 years.
This 'FOG' measure is suitable for secondary and older primary age groups.

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri Jun 26, 2009 7:14 pm

A word which caused problems for almost all the children was 'prairie'. Two of them read it correctly without hesitation and when I asked them about it at the end, they clearly knew what it meant; 6 decoded it correctly after slight hesitation but didn't know what it meant; some of the rest decoded it as /prayrigh/ (plausible) or /prighree/ (perhaps plausible by analogy with 'Thailand'), several said /prarree/ or /parry/, several said 'private' or 'pirate', and quite a few said non-words starting with a /p/ sound but otherwise not containing many of the right sounds. Only 5 of the 80 gave up on any words at all, asking for help with no more than 2 words each.


Have I understood you correctly, Jenny, as I do keep accessing the message forum in haste...

Are you saying that 8 children out of 80 read 'prairie' correctly?

chew8
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Post by chew8 » Fri Jun 26, 2009 7:44 pm

I'm saying that 8 out of 80 read it with the conventional pronunciation. A fair number of others gave it a non-conventional but arguably plausible pronunciation - I'll try to decipher my scribbled notes to see if I can work out roughly how many.

Jenny C.

Derrie Clark
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Post by Derrie Clark » Fri Jun 26, 2009 7:45 pm

That is interesting Jenny. I wrote a sentence for my Year 6 daughter with 'prairie' in. When she reached the word, she looked at me and smiled and said "are you trying to trick me?". I said no but that I was interested in whether she could read it. She then just read me the word without any difficulty and when I asked her if she knew what it was she said no.

In fact, whenever we are not sure how to pronounce an unfamiliar word when reading, for example a name, we just ask her to read it for us.

I put this down to first class linguistic-phonic teaching!

By the way I have also presented her with those words for spelling that you previously identified. She had absolutely no difficulty spelling them - I think one was advertisement. When I asked her how she knew how to spell it, she initially replied she didn't know but eventually said that she said it how it is written . . . ad ver tise ~(ie)~ ment. It seems it was the syllabification that helped her not the root word.
By and large, I felt that about 85% of these children would deserve Level 4 or 5 for reading at KS2 and that this represents quite a reasonable 'expected level'. It will be interesting to see what their actual results are.
This is not a bad result Jenny for reading. Do you know how these same children fared with spelling and writing?

chew8
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Post by chew8 » Fri Jun 26, 2009 8:11 pm

Re. Debbie's question: I can't be precise as I didn't note down every child's pronunciation of 'prairie' - it was only after I'd heard quite a few children that I realised that this word was causing the most problems and started making the relevant notes. Any figure I give will therefore be an under-estimate. I've found 21 whose pronunciations were /prayrigh/, /prayree/ or /prighree/, all of which were arguably plausible.

Jenny C.

chew8
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Post by chew8 » Fri Jun 26, 2009 9:15 pm

Re. Derrie's question about spelling: 20 of these 80 children were at ceiling on the Vernon spelling test when they did it in in March - i.e. they had spelling ages of 15 years 10 months. A further 19 had spelling ages over 14 but under 15-10; 9 were between 13 and 14; 8 were between 12 and 13; 7 were between 11 and 12; 5 were between 10 and 11; and 11 were below 10.

Re. your daughter's correct spelling of 'advertisement', Derrie: perhaps there are two ways of looking at it, but I would say that it's arguable that she was using the root word if I'm understanding your account correctly. You say her explanation was that she 'said it how it is written' and then pronounced it with the third syllable rhyming with 'tries' (which I think must be what you mean when you put 'ie' in brackets) - doesn't this mean that she was starting by thinking of 'advertise'? If she had syllabified the normal pronunciation of 'advertisement', wouldn't she have pronounced the third syllable with an /i/ sound rather than an /ie/sound?

Jenny C.

chew8
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Post by chew8 » Sat Jun 27, 2009 9:00 am

Jim -

I've now got round to working out the readability level of the passage according to your formula. I make it 10.92 - i.e. ability to read this passage indicates a reading age of almost 11. This seems about right to me - we had the book as a class text in the year in which we turned 10, and we were very good readers by today's standards, so it's not surprising that we could cope as a class with a book which would now be regarded as suitable for 11-year-olds.

The fact that the readability level comes out at close to 11 also reassures me that getting Year 6 children to read this passage aloud was a reasonable way of assessing their reading competence. The 'expected level' for these children should allow for reading ability down to about 10-year-old level or even a bit below, as (a) some children have not yet turned 11 when they do the Key Stage 2 SATs and (b) an 'expected level' should allow for reading ability which is a bit below average as well as for average and above-average ability. So if about 85% of these 80 children get Level 4 or above for reading in the Key Stage 2 test (the results haven't come yet), it will confirm my feeling that this is not a bad test, in the sense that children who get Level 4 and above can actually read at a reasonable level. It will be interesting to see whether there are any discrepancies at all - I suspect there will be a few.

Jenny C.

chew8
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Post by chew8 » Wed Jul 01, 2009 3:39 pm

I've now seen the Key Stage 2 test results for the 80 children I've reported on above. 74 got Level 4 or 5 for reading. Of these, I felt that 4 should have got Level 3 - one of them actually got Level 3 for English as a whole. Three children got Level 3 for reading, and I felt that this was the right result for them. Another three got 'N' - i.e. were below Level 3, which again I felt was absolutely right.

51 got Level 5 for reading and 23 got Level 4 - when listening to the children read a couple of weeks ago I hadn't attempted to discriminate too carefully between these two levels, as the main thing I was interested in was whether or not I thought the children should get the 'expected' level, which is 4. Of the 51 who got Level 5, however, 40 had spelling ages of 13.0 years or more on the Vernon spelling test when tested in March.

So there were only four children out of 80 (5%) who I thought didn't deserve Level 4 for reading but got it. If I've used Jim's formula correctly to calculate the reading age required for the passage I got them all to read, the Key Stage 2 results really do seem to give an accurate picture of the children's reading in 95% of cases. In view of this, I think we should be wary of rubbishing these tests.

Jenny C.

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Post by JIM CURRAN » Thu Jul 02, 2009 7:25 am

Thanks for all your hard work Jenny and it would seem to confirm your feelings about how well these children read. There seems to be a strong correlation between their ability to read aloud from ‘Susannah of the Mounties’ and their Key Stage 2 levels in Reading.

As I’ve never taught in the Primary Sector I’m not that familiar with the Key Stage 2 levels but we’ve always had a feeling in the secondary sector that some of the levels have been inflated. It certainly doesn’t seem to have happened in your school but I feel that it is more likely to happen in some schools in disadvantaged areas or in schools where the teaching of reading is still whole language led. I also feel that it only happens with children who are borderline 3 – 4 and may get pushed through as 4’s.

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Post by maizie » Thu Jul 02, 2009 8:57 am

I would find it interesting to have a copy of Jenny's 'test' and administer it to the 'Level 4s' in our new Y7 intake in September (time permitting).

We always have a significant number of L4s with poor Reading & Comprehension ages. I also get comments from teachers about L4s not having secure reading skills; they are, apparently, particularly bad at attempting unfamiliar multi-syllable words; which severely restricts their 'reading range'.

I still cannot help feeling that Jenny's results are the exception rather than the rule.

chew8
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Post by chew8 » Thu Jul 02, 2009 9:49 am

Maizie - I had been thinking that might like to make use of the passage and will send it to you forthwith.

I can report only on what I've seen at first hand. In the time that I've been involved with this junior school, I've taken some trouble to use the school's own standardised test results (reading and spelling) to check the Key Stage 1 test results with which the children arrive and the KS2 results with which they leave. I've found a few discrepancies, but not enough to make me feel that the national system of testing is as unreliable as some people think. I have now run an additional subjective check in the form of the Susannah of the Mounties exercise, and this, too, has been reassuring. If the reading age required for this passage is indeed 10.92 years, as Jim's formula suggests, then children aged 10+ to 11+ who read it with reasonable fluency, accuracy and expression probably do deserve to be regarded as having reached the 'expected level' when transferring from primary to secondary school.

I can now add another snippet. Nearly two years ago, I reported working intensively for 8-10 weeks with the four children who were the weakest readers on entry to the junior school in Year 3. After that, my only involvement with them was hearing them read once a week as they continued to get extra teaching, including good phonics, from the excellent special needs teacher. The very weakest of all was a virtual non-reader when he arrived at the school in 2007 - he didn't even know sounds for all 26 letters, let alone any digraphs, and he couldn't read CVC words by sounding and blending. He is now 9 and is finishing Year 4. Yesterday, I gave him part of the Susannah passage, including the timed bit. He wasn't fast (he took 130 seconds to read the 101 words), but he managed to read almost all the words by himself, needing help only with 'stirred', 'laughing' and 'ceremony' - one other error was that he read 'unable' as 'unnible' (stress on first syllable and schwa in second syllable), but this was a reasonable decoding attempt. He was in fact better than at least 6 of the weakest Year 6 readers, and, with another two years to go before he leaves primary school, he will almost certainly deserve to get Level 4. This is really heart-warming, but it's also annoying that he didn't get the kind of teaching which he should have had at infant school and which could have got him to his current level on entry to junior school. As it was, he got that teaching only in his 4th year at school, and has needed enormous small-group and one-to-one input in order to get where he is now.

Jenny C.

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