Learner Scores 5/5 for Reading Skills When He Cannot Read

How does a learner score 5/5 (80%-100%) for reading skills at the end of Grade 2 if he cannot read? We don’t know, but it happens, and more often than you think. This is Zwi’s story:

Zwi completed Grade 1 and Grade 2 at an expensive remedial learning centre that offers Grade 1 to Grade 12, using a well-known CAPS-based curriculum.

Below is Zwi’s report card, end of Grade 2 (2016). According to Zwi’s report his reading skills were excellent. He scored 5/5, which translates to a distinction (80%-100%):

Assessment at Edublox

Zwi, now in Grade 3, was assessed at Edublox Pretoria East on 5 May 2017 on the Essi Reading and Spelling Test. This test aims at determining the sight word vocabulary of a learner, as well as his spelling ability. Norms for the tests, available for each term, have been calculated in the form of stanines and percentile ranks.

Of children doing the test on grade and term level,

4% score a stanine of 1 (VERY POOR)
19% score a stanine of 2 or 3 (POOR)
54% score a stanine of 4, 5 or 6 (AVERAGE)
19% score a stanine of 7 or 8 (GOOD)
4% score a stanine of 9 (VERY GOOD)

Assessed on the Essi Reading Test, on a Grade 3, 2nd term level, Zwi scored a stanine of 1 (VERY POOR). Assessed on a Grade 1, 3rd term level, Zwi scored a stanine of 2 (POOR). He could read only two of the Grade 1 words.

Assessed on the Essi Spelling Test, on a Grade 3, 2nd term level, Zwi scored a stanine of 1 (VERY POOR). This is Zwi writing “frog”, “game”, “wife”, “rain”, “lion” and knife”:

How is this possible?

Zwi’s case is upsetting, and the only way to start fixing this kind of problem would be to know the cause.

So, is it the CAPS syllabus? CAPS has been under scrutiny since its inception. “The biggest issue I picked up on in the CAPS curriculum is that most subjects jump from topic to topic, with no time for consolidation,” says remedial therapist Marina Goetze. “Very few children are able to cope with the hopping around of concepts. Once again it does not allow for depth of knowledge to form and it confuses any child that has average to below average processing skills. The majority of children need concepts to be consolidated, and not just once.” Is another big issue perhaps that CAPS conceals learning difficulties?

Is it perhaps the school or centre that charges exorbitant fees and therefore wants to look good?

Should we blame Zwi’s teacher? The problem is that teachers are part of a bureaucracy with no real control over what to teach and how to teach. Teachers don’t control curricula, standards or testing. They have to make do with whatever materials, worksheets and curricula they are given, even if they believe that they are ineffective.

Perhaps we should blame the ESSI Reading and Spelling Test. This test was standardised on 34,000 South African learners around 1997, which is not old for a reading test, but maybe the world has changed so much over the last two decades that it is no longer valid in a world where SMS language has become the new standard…

One person that is not to be blamed is the child. Watch Zwi’s remarkable progress in just 9 days after joining Edublox on 8 May 2017 for an intensive programme that combines reading lessons and our online program, Edublox Online Tutor.

A follow-up

Zwi reading 16 days, 40 days, and 4 months after joining Edublox.


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September 18, 2017

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