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Extra Credit

Extra Credit: Letter on Reading Ability Levels Fails Comprehension Test

(By Julie Zhu)
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By Jay Mathews
Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dear Extra Credit:

You printed a letter of mine April 2, outlining questions and concerns I have had since my eldest daughter was given the Degrees of Reading Power test in second grade. I said the letter from the county that comes home with the test results is difficult to understand, and I asked for our kids' national percentile rank to be included with the information we're given.

I also suggested that we be told the average Arlington County raw score instead of, or in addition to, the average national raw score. Finally, I asked why we continue to test kids who score well on the test, when it seems that the test is used strictly to identify candidates for remediation.

In your response, you said county officials agreed with me. "They have resolved to make future communications more parent-friendly," you said. "The grade 4 letter has gotten a combing, with tangled language hopefully removed."

My daughter just finished sixth grade, so she was tested again this spring. I compared the most recent letter from the county with the letters from previous years. The only change was that the word "please" was removed from one paragraph.

I am actually a big fan of Arlington public schools; my kids are thriving in them. I am just trying to help the schools communicate effectively with parents regarding their kids' achievement levels. I don't think what I'm suggesting is even controversial, so it does strike me now as unresponsive for the schools not to change this letter after I've been calling it to their attention for four years. I understand that our new superintendent, Patrick K. Murphy, has a background in evaluation. Perhaps he will be sympathetic.

Karen Lewis


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