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NEW REPORT BY INSTITUTE FOR ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE SAYS RESULTS OF NATIONAL READING TESTS ARE PREDICTABLE:

Problem is Not How to Teach Reading, but the Amount of Time Students
 Practice Reading


MADISON, Wis., March 7 /PRNewswire/ -- The average high school student spends about as much time practicing reading as the average kindergartner, according to a new study released today by the Institute for Academic Excellence, a Madison, Wisconsin-based educational seminar and consulting group. Entitled "Patterns of Reading Practice," the study provides disturbing evidence that children in America's schools don't spend enough time practicing reading.

The study, which examined reading performance data on more than 650,000 students in 13,000 schools, documents the importance of in-school reading practice and concludes that the amount of literature-based reading students do explains their varying reading performance on tests, including NAEP tests.

Other key findings of the report include the following:

-- Students in grades K-12 spend an average of just seven minutes a day reading literature-based books.

-- While daily reading practice increases until fourth and fifth grade, it declines steadily afterwards. By grade 12, students are averaging just over three minutes a day of literature-based reading, about the same average as for kindergartners.

-- Students in small schools (populations of 200 or less) read more than twice as much as students in large schools (1,000 or more).

-- Students in private schools practice reading 67% more than students in public schools.

-- Students in the highest performing states in the NAEP Reading Study engaged in 59 percent more reading practice than states in the bottom quartile.

According to Terrance Paul, Chair of the Institute of Academic Excellence, and the study's author, the results indicate that much of the debate regarding reading instruction in this country is off-track. "The decline of reading test scores among students documented by the NAEP Report is a regrettable but predictable result of the way in which reading is taught in most American schools. It's clear from these data that our problem is not how we teach the mechanics of reading. Our problem is that students aren't spending enough time practicing the reading skills they've learned."

Researchers used the Accelerated Reader, a computer-based reading software program published by Advantage Learning Systems in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., to examine differences in reading practices across grades, between small and large, public and private schools, and between states. The Accelerated Reader assigns a point value to each book based on its length and difficulty. Once a student reads a chosen book, he or she takes a computerized test on the book's content. The computer scores the test, awards points based on test results, and maintains a complete record of each student's progress. The AR management system accurately measures quantity of words being read and comprehended, and therefore, is an accurate measure of reading practice.

"Schools should focus on helping students acquire what reading specialists call 'automaticity' -- the skill of reading well, reading fluently with comprehension," Paul says. To acquire automaticity, the Institute recommends 60 minutes daily of TWI practice -- reading to or with students or allowing them to read independently. This amount of in-school reading practice time can essentially double the rate of reading growth for the average student, and triple the rate for disadvantaged students, the study reports.

"Sixty minutes is not only possible," Paul maintains, "but we also know that by giving students adequate time to practice this essential skill, math scores will go up, critical thinking improves, discipline and absenteeism improves, and students will like reading and school more."

The Institute for Academic Excellence was founded in 1993 to conduct research on effective teaching techniques and to provide training and consulting to educators.

Copies of "Patterns of Reading Practice: How Differences in Reading Practice Explain Differences in Schools and Students," can be obtained by calling Advantage Learning Systems, Inc. at 800-338-4204.
 -0- 3/7/96


/CONTACT: Kristin McHugh of Advantage Learning Systems, Inc., 800-338-4204; Carol Halstead or Marilynne Herbert of College Connections, 212-734-2190/

CO: Institute for Academic Excellence; Advantage Learning Systems, Inc. ST: Wisconsin IN: SU:

NT-MS -- NYTH095 -- 1323 03/07/96 16:57 EST
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Date:Mar 7, 1996
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