Experts assess early grade reading assessment results
Curriculum and language experts converged for a one day workshop to determine the implications of the results of the nationwide early grade reading assessment (EGRA) conducted in February 2014. RTI International, through its USAID-funded project PhilEd Data II, organized the event in partnership with the Philippine Department of Education (DepEd) on 23 July 2014 at SEAMEO INNOTECH, Quezon City.
Nearly a hundred participants took part in small group discussions that focused on the following: (1) factors that could have influenced the assessment results; (2) implications of the results to mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB-MLE); (3) and recommendations on how to influence policy and improve future assessment results.
EGRA is an orally-administered test to determine basic reading skills, such as letter-sound identification, word and non-word decoding, and reading comprehension. It has provided educators with a quick and easy-to-interpret feedback on the literacy levels of students in primary schools.
Under the EdData II Project, RTI International worked with DepEd – Bureau of Elementary Education, and TNS Global in conducting baseline assessments to support the Philippines’ MTB-MLE program using contextualized EGRA instruments. In 2013, randomly selected Grade 3 students from 40 schools were assessed based on their reading performance in English and Filipino, while nearly 500 Grade 1 students were sampled for their reading proficiency in Ilokano.
This year, approximately 400 Grade 1 students and another 400 Grade 2 students, both randomly selected, were assessed to determine reading proficiency in four languages—Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Sinugbuanon Binisaya, and Maguindanaon. Teachers were interviewed and classroom observations were also conducted to serve as contextual input on the implementation of MTB-MLE program and to determine other factors that could be related to the reading outcomes.
The results of the assessment, as presented by RTI International’s senior education advisor Joseph De Stefano during the workshop, suggests that there are gaps in productive teaching methods, which may be associated with achievement. For example, in letter-sound identification—a skill that should be automatic to readers—10-25% of the surveyed children could not identify a single letter sound correctly. The reason for this was instead of saying the sound, the children were saying the letter name. In reading fluency, while the average scores are increasing from Grade 1 to Grade 2, many children still cannot read a single one- or two-syllable word correctly, even after two years of schooling. Comprehension scores are also weak, and, depending on the language, between 8% and 38% of the students cannot read a single word of a short story.
Data from teacher interviews and classroom observations showed that mother tongue is used as medium of instruction in Grade 1 and Grade 2 reading lessons and other subjects. However, not all support are in place to allow for the most effective instruction possible in MT. For instance, no more than 30% of the teachers have had specific training in teaching reading in MT for early grades. It was noted that teachers did not regularly employ techniques that would reinforce reading in MT, and the instructional approach was teacher-centered. During reading lessons, many teachers spent little or no time on reading activities, and students rarely demonstrated productive speaking, listening, or writing.
Based on RTI International’s analysis, differences in the reading outcomes per language may be attributed more to demographic and socio-economic factors like how well-resourced the schools are, rather than on factors related to the language itself or the MTB-MLE implementation. The degree of exposure to reading and a culture of learning in school and at home also seem to contribute greatly to the differences in achievement.
Presented with these findings, the workshop participants, representing various groups from the government, private, and non-government sectors, discoursed on the implications of the EGRA findings. Recommendations were then formulated on how to improve the implementation of the MTB-MLE program in line with the K to 12 basic education reform. Some of the more notable recommendations include strengthening the pre-service training of teachers, particularly in beginning reading; re-tooling of school heads and teachers on teaching reading in mother tongue; strengthening the school-based learning action cell; and improving the literacy environment inside and outside the school.
DepEd Undersecretary for Programs and Projects, Dina S. Ocampo also participated in the workshop and gave a briefer on the state of the country’s mother tongue-based multi-lingual education (MTB-MLE) and DepEd’s efforts to improve reading.