Inspiration for the Project
A huge challenge that is seen in education across grade levels and across disciplines is finding a way to effectively teach academic vocabulary for student understanding and remembrance. Academic vocabulary is prevalent in more than just English classes, and continues beyond schooling. With the rise of Common Core, academic vocabulary has increased in priority for the College and Career Ready Standards. Some of the Common Core State Standards referring to academic vocabulary include “Interpret technical, connotative, and figurative meanings of words and phrases” (Reading Anchor Standard 4) and “Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases” (Language Anchor Standard 6).
The students in my study have a combined 64% vocabulary comprehension in the Read 180 intervention program, measured by daily computer software use. This affects reading fluency and the ability to answer comprehension questions, therefore, many of their other test scores are low as well. This issue with low vocabulary scores from lower level students needs to be addressed in order to find new ways to adjust teaching these students to maximize time, opportunities, and increase vocabulary comprehension.
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress Reading Assessments for 8th grade, average vocabulary scores directly correlate to reading comprehension levels (Figure 1). Nationwide, students with higher vocabulary scores also tended to have higher reading comprehension levels. Furthermore, for 8th grade, the state of California had lower test scores in vocabulary and comprehension than the nation’s average.
Figure 1: NAEP Reading Assessments for 8th Grade
Figure 2 shows data from the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) for Napa Valley Unified School District, the participating students’ district. According to this assessment, the district’s middle school grades have very low percentages of students that are above state standard for reading comprehension. The majority, roughly 80%, of each grade level is only at, near, or below standard.
Figure 2: California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress Middle School Scores
Figure 3 shows the data from the CAASPP for the participating students’ school, American Canyon Middle School. This data shows the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the standards for the school, compared to the district, and compared to the state. Less than half of the students from the school and the district meet the standards for literacy.
The participating students at American Canyon Middle School have vocabulary and comprehension test scores from the computer software used daily in their classroom. The students get tested during every segment they complete. The class has a combined 64% vocabulary score, and a 62% comprehension score. This data could imply a greater need for vocabulary interventions for the state of California and its districts.