This past year, the NJ ASK was phased out in favor of the PARCC test. One of the major changes in the test scope and material is critical reading content, namely in the category of informative reading.
What is informative reading?
Every grade has different metrics, but the core principles of informative reading are consistent:
- Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).
- Describe the logical connection between particular sentences and paragraphs in a text (e.g., comparison, cause/effect, first/second/third in a sequence).
- Compare and contrast the most important points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic.
A clear drop in scores.
All testing — whether the most recent NJ ASK, the PARCC tests, and eventually the 2016 Redesigned SAT – is shifting towards informative reading.
Since this shift, there has been a noticeable drop in student performance. The main factor is weakness in informative reading. The reason for this is that students are underprepared: most often because of a lack of exposure to high-level readings.
For example, 4th and 5th graders are avid readers. However, they make reading selections based on their personal preferences; most of the books they choose are fantasy, adventure, and mystery. These are the complete opposite of the skills required within informative reading.
When these students take tests such as the PARCC, their self-esteem diminishes. They read a lot, but are not able to understand why their test score fails to reflect the amount of content they read.
From entertainment to information.
For fifteen years, until January 2014, MEK Review held a program called Reading’s So Great. We had a vast selection of books in our library (over 4,000) and exercises linked to each title to test a student for comprehension and knowledge.
When we anticipated the changes in testing, we ended the program because it would not prepare our current and future students for the kind of tests they would face. The difficulty level had to rise.
NEW: Our focus is now to develop two programs to help students overcome “boring” texts:
Vocabulary Class (grades 2-8)
- Develop stronger critical thinking skills by defining words … in context.
- Develop dictionary skills.
- Practice application and utilization of words.
Non-Fiction Reading (grades 3-7)
- develops students’ skill and affinity for research
- exposes students to read robust, content-rich texts
- activates students in information gathering, summary, application, and presentation
- acclimates students to public speaking and classroom presentations
Research skills: In school, the only time students do research is when a project is assigned. A research project is about more than just the final presentation. Research is about the process the student endures to arrive at the final product. When students become more skilled in the process, their future projects (and grades) will soar.
Personal discovery: Every student has his or her own unique preferences and learning styles. At this early age of development, your child should be exposed to a wide range of reading materials to discover interests. He or she will discover academic preferences early on, which is a vital key to interest and involvement in future educational pursuits.
A micro and macro approach to learning: We view Vocabulary Class as a “microscope.” Students start by focusing on a small component of their education, namely a vocabulary word. As he or she develops the skills to decipher the word in context, the skills of inference and drawing conclusions are developed. Over time this skill blossoms into applications for other educational pursuits.
We view Non-Fiction reading as a “laser” that teaches students to gather and hone large amounts of information into a tight, focused presentation. Your child will learn to prepare with focus, deliver with confidence, and speak with power. The two classes complement each other perfectly.
It’s time to take informative reading seriously.
MEK Review has built a powerhouse curriculum to help your child develop a skill (and passion) for informative reading, improve test performance, and earn better grades.