Dr. Sharon Pitcher Dr. Gilda Martinez Dr. Elizabeth Dicembre With input from Dr. Montana McCormick & Dr. Darlene Fewster Literacy Needs of Adolescents in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area: A Multiple-Case Study Intended to Inform the Community
Rationale: • Approximately eight million students in fourth through twelfth grade are reading below grade level in the United States. • The National Endowment for the Arts (2007) reports that “little more than a third of high school seniors now read proficiently”. • In Maryland, the State Department of Education reports that one-third of their students are reading below grade level. • Fifty percent of those students are from Baltimore City, which neighbors our university.
Rationale: The recent national report, Crisis in the Cities, demonstrates the seriousness of adolescent literacy problems in our metropolitan area: • Forty-seven percent less students graduate from high school in Baltimore City than in the surrounding metropolitan area. • This discrepancy is the highest in the nation.
Research Questions • What types of reading instruction are adolescent students receiving? • What motivates adolescent students to read? • Does the reading instruction match their needs?
Significance of the Study Adolescents in Maryland schools today will be the college students and work force of the future. We are beginning to see: • The top 10% of students coming from Baltimore City Public Schools struggling in freshmen courses. • An increased amount of freshmen needing developmental reading and struggling with writing courses in our university and other colleges in the state, although they have high GPAs in their high schools.
Significance of the Study to the Baltimore Metropolitan Area An important mission of Towson University is to: • respond to our “state’s socioeconomic and cultural needs and aspirations” • “analyze academic trends” and disseminate the results to build bridges between Towson University and educational stakeholders in the Baltimore Metropolitan area. Towson 2010 and the University’s Mission Statement (Available on Towson University’s website, www.towson.edu).
Objective: This study supports Towson University’s mission by developing snapshots to begin a Metropolitan dialogue on the literacy needs of adolescents.
Participants: Seven adolescent students attending the Towson University Reading Clinic in the Spring 2008 session, who were from a variety of school systems in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area, participated in this qualitative multiple-case study.
Researchers For this study, we assembled an investigative team with research experience in: • Adolescent Literacy • English Language Learners • Special Education • Secondary Education • Parent Involvement • Curriculum Development to look at the data from different perspectives.
Data Collected: Students were • tested in reading using several assessments • interviewed Their parentswere • interviewed, using questions that paralleled the student interview, to gain a richer description of the students’ reading abilities, motivation, and instruction being provided.
Reading Assessments: The following individually administered assessments were used: • Qualitative Reading Inventory IV (assesses word identification in and out of context, comprehension, and listening capacity.) • Lexia Comprehensive Reading Test (computer assessment assessing same understandings as the QRI) • Metacognitive Assessment (assesses how students think about reading) • Adolescent Motivation to Read Survey (assesses value, instructional approaches and self concept of reading)
Student and Parent Interviews Questions for both the students and the parents were similar. The following are some examples from the student interview: • What kind of difficulties are you having when you read? • Are you taking a reading class in school right now? • In what class do you have the most problems reading the assignments? • In what classes do you like reading the most? • Do you spend much time on the computer? • Is reading ever a problem on the computer?
Data Analysis • The assessments, surveys and interviews were coded to study similarities and differences noted among these students and their parents, and compared to reveal like themes that emerged from the individual cases (Flick, 2002). • Key words included: motivation, comprehension, instruction, understanding • Parent and student interviews were also reviewed to see how they defined reading.
Case Studies Among the students: • Three girls • Four boys • Two students from Baltimore City • Three students from Suburban County school systems • One student from a parochial school • One student being home schooled
Case #1: Tamika’s Background • 6th grade– attends public school • English Language Learner, originally from South Africa • She does not receive extra help in reading, other than having been placed in a reading intervention class using Language! • Most common method of instruction she encounters in content area classes – read and answer questions
Case #1: Tamika’s Perspective • Enjoys math class best because there is not much reading involved • Spends around 5 hours a day on the computer for enjoyment, reading and writing emails, updating her website, and playing games (and has no problems reading on the computer) When asked, “What kind of difficulties are you having when you read?” Tamika responded, “Understanding what the topic is about.” She knew where she needed help.
Case #1: Tamika’s Parent’s Perspective • Explained that Tamika’s greatest difficulty in reading is comprehension: “The difficulties my daughter is having is the comprehension part. She can read, she can spell, but the comprehension part for some reason is hard for her.” Tamika was not receiving comprehension instruction in school.
Case #1: Tamika’s Parent’s Perspectivecontinued • Stated the teachers did not invite them to a parent conference because she was doing “okay” • Explained that Tamika is not challenged in her reading intervention Language! class, but was placed in it as a result of a test (they were notified via mail of this placement)
Case #1: What we found out about Tamika in clinic • Strengths – sight word identification, word recognition, before and after reading strategies, is aware of her needs • Needs – vocabulary instruction, during reading strategies • Reading comprehension is on a 2nd grade level; word recognition is on grade level • Writing – uses capital letters appropriately, complete sentences, correct spelling, but does not elaborate on a given topic • Brought student to the Reading Clinic because she was not motivated to read; and according to her mother now enjoys reading as a result
Case #2: Karl’s Background • 7th grade – attends home school • Student diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder • When he was in public school, he had an I.E.P. • Enjoys reading on his porch • Keeps up with current events using Google
Case #2: Karl’s Perspective • Spends about 3 hours a day on the computer emailing friends, using myspace, reading the news (has no problems reading on the computer) When Karl was asked, “Is reading ever a problem on the computer?” His response was simply, “Uh, no.”
Case #2: Karl’s Parent’s Perspective • He is home-schooled to ensure instruction matches his needs • His mother uses the Beckham curriculum (which consists of reading and answering questions) and supplements it with reading and researching online • Stated self-selected readings and journaling are helpful in reading class • Believe Karl needs to improve his writing skills
Case #2: What we found out about Karl in clinic • Strengths – motivation to read self-selected texts • Needs – decoding,vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency instruction • Word recognition and reading comprehension are on a 2nd grade level • Writing – needs instruction in grammar, punctuation, and how to expand ideas • Does not use before, during, or after reading strategies • Attended the Reading Clinic to improve overall reading skills. He improved in making connections while reading, thinking aloud, and visualization.
Case #3: Kathy’s Background Case 3: Kristen • Is an eighth grade student in a public school in a suburban school system bordering Baltimore. • Was diagnosed with Autism at a young age. • Has an IEP and is receiving small group reading instruction. • Does not receive reading support in Social Studies or Science. • Enjoys playing the piano and basketball, horseback riding and acting in a theater group. • Wants to be a librarian when she grows up.
Case #3: Kathy’s Perspective Kathy’s Perspective • Really liked reading in elementary school because she could read books she liked but middle school is very different. • Enjoys making bookmarks as presents using the Internet to find pictures and designs. • Uses the Internet to search topics she is interested in and to shop. • Uses the computer to write letters to pen pals. • Seems to understand more of what she reads on the computer. • Has the most problems reading in Science. • Likes going to the library the most in school because she can choose books she likes.
Case #3: Kathy’s Parents’ Perspective • Researched autism, sought professional help, and have a strong understanding of her strengths and needs. • Believe Kathy needs a very visual /kinesthetic learning approach. • Realized that “Kathy’s vocabulary is limited” but she needs to make connections with the words in context rather than “just reading a definition on paper” (Kathy’s mom shared). • Are frustrated that the school refuses to let Kristen use the computer in school because they feel it would be distracting to her.
Case #3: Kathy’s Parents’ Perspective continued • Tried to share with the school how well she learns on the computer but the school ignores them. • The father shared“…Here’s the window to this child and no one can take advantage of it. At three years old, we sat her down in front of the computer and now she writes her own stories.”
Case #3: Kathy’s Parents’ Perspective continued Her father: • Serves on an advocacy group for parents of children in Special Education. • Discovered that the reading program her school uses is not research-based, focuses on word identification with a weak comprehension component, is predominantly auditory based, and has no computer component. When he shared this with teachers, he got “the deer in the head lights stare”. • Shared that they want to partner with Kathy’s school but constantly receive resistance from the school’s faculty. He remarked that “they can’t answer the hard questions”.
Case #3: What We Learned About Kathy in Clinic • Her word recognition level is on Grade 6 but her instructional comprehension level is on Grade 1. • Her writing demonstrated understanding of complete sentences, correct punctuation, capitalization and grammar. • When her metacognitive understanding of reading strategies were assessed, she could not verbalize any strategies.
Case #3: What We Learned About Kathy in Cliniccontinued Her Reading Clinic teacher reported: • Kathy responded very positively in Clinic when strategies were taught using pictures, writing and story maps. • Teaching her explicitly to make connections when reading with visual organizers was very successful. • Expanding her vocabulary was an important part in improving her comprehension.
Case #4: Leon’s Background • 7th grade student in a K-8 School • Lives in Baltimore City • Has never been retained or received extra academic help in school and has been placed in gifted/talented classes • Does attend a voluntary coaching class after school • He likes to play football and basketball • His mother is a Baltimore City school teacher • His father once played for a professional football team and Leon would like to do the same
Case #4: Leon’s Perspective • Likes to read when he has a choice of what he reads • Likes to play games on the computer but has had some problems reading directions • Does not like to read aloud because he had trouble stuttering when he was younger, but this is often done in his classes
Case #4: Leon’s Perspective Continued • Has the most problem reading in science class • Understood that he has a comprehension problem. He shared that “Before I started the Towson Clinic, I really didn’t understand what I read. Yes, I feel like I can understand a lot more than I did before. Yes.”
Case #4: Leon’s Parent’s Perspective His mother: • Felt her son had a problem with comprehension but he always scored “Advanced” on the Maryland State Assessment • Was concerned that the school does not do “a lot of in-depth studies and research” and that her son is not learning “higher order thinking” skills • Is concerned that her son is in overcrowded classes with “new teachers who come and go”
Case #4: Leon’s Parent’s Perspective continued • Knows that her son needs a more hands-on approach like he is getting in Clinic where he is using visual organizers and able to “synthesize and evaluate all levels of thinking” • His school does not provide tips on how parents can help their children and has not explained what type of curriculum they are using
Case #4: Leon’s Parent’s Perspective continued • Shared that she wanted her son to go to a well-known private school in the city next year, but they wanted him to repeat 7th grade, which surprised her • Her son was very excited about coming to the Clinic; he does his work for Clinic without being reminded and “is finally starting to put things together”
Case #4: What We Learned About Leon in Clinic • Reading comprehension level was three grades below his grade level on two different assessments • The only strategies he was able to verbalize were sounding out and predicting • Although his word identification was higher than comprehension, it was still two grade levels below his grade level
Case #4: What We Learned About Leon in Clinic continued • He read higher orally than silently but is very self-conscious reading aloud because of his early stuttering • His self-concept as a reader was higher than his value of reading when he started Clinic
Case #4: What We Learned About Leon in Cliniccontinued • Responded best in Clinic when his interests were considered in selecting reading materials • Did well when comprehension strategy instruction included hands-on activities such as visual organizers and writing notes while reading • Over the course of ten weeks of instruction of one hour per week he improved his reading approximately three grade levels
Case #5: Sam’s Background Enrolled in grade 6 in a public school in Baltimore City No chronic illnesses, vision or hearing problems Loves sports, especially basketball Father describes him as a gifted athlete Makes good grades in school Received support from a one-on-one reading specialist two days a week in grade 5
Case #5: Sam’s Perspective Does not read for pleasure States that sometimes he does not understand what he reads Believed reading was easier when he was 6 years old and he had pictures to help him Described his reading class as consisting of a drill, “talking about something, reading a book, and finally doing tests on the book”
Case #5: Sam’s Perspective continued Indicated that the reading strategies he uses are reading aloud, rereading, and taking notes Likes reading class best when they get to talk about what they read When asked, “When do you like reading the most?” Sam responded, “ When I like the book and it’s about what I like . . . like basketball.”
Case #5: Sam’s Parent’s Perspective Expressed concern about Sam’s reading based upon observations made at home when he is reading to complete his homework Believe Sam has a limited vocabulary and difficulty understanding what he reads Stated that Sam has always tested on grade level
Case #5: Sam’s Parent’s Perspective continued Stated that Sam does not understand the value in working at something Stated that Sam does not spend much time on the computer Stated that Sam has “difficulty with comprehension wherever – whether in print or on the computer, in retelling important story events in order
Case #5: What we found out about Sam in clinic Reading comprehension at 5th grade level Strengths – phonics and decoding, knowledge and use of before reading strategies, motivated to succeed, positive attitude toward to school and clinic Needs – during and after reading strategies, vocabulary development
Case #6: Stacy’s Background • Enrolled in the sixth grade in a private school in Baltimore County, Maryland • Lives with biological parents and two siblings • Is an avid reader • Enjoys trips to bookstores and the public library • Is involved in many extra-curricular activities • Basketball and softball • Girl Scouts
Case #6: Stacy’s Perspective • Stacy reports that • She reads chapter books in class and a choice is offered to students • She “likes working on the computer in reading class” • She likes reading in one content area, math • In class, she reports • “no one really reads with me” • “It’s not like a one-on-one thing” • “I like to read books”
Case #6: Stacy’s Parent’s Perspective • Areas of difficulty for Stacy • “comprehension and motivation” • “can read but has trouble with comprehension”
Case #6: Stacy’s Parent’s Perspective continued • Comments showed a concern that there is a disconnect between the reading instruction that Stacy receives and her reading needs • “Stacy has a positive self-concept about her reading”
Case #6: What we found out about Stacy in clinic • Word identification is on grade level and reading comprehension is on a 2nd grade level • She has a very high self-concept as a reader (however, she did not realize that she was not understanding what she was reading) • Needs • “during” and “after” reading strategies • Retelling story details • Identifying the main idea • Decoding multisyllabic words