K. Hachey

University of Ottawa (CANADA)
Large Scale Assessments of student achievement in education serve a variety of purposes such as comparing educational programs, providing accountability measures, and assessing achievement on a broad range of curriculum standards (Taylor & Tubianosa, 2001). For those reasons, they have become a compulsory part of the educational system as they enable the documentation of student achievement through provincial, national and international means (Taylor & Tubianosa, 2001). Key examples of international large-scale assessments include the Programme for International Student Assessment, which is governed by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, as well as the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, which are both administered by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. These international assessments examine educational systems across countries to see whether or not students have the knowledge and skills required to participate in society (IEA, 2007). The Pan-Canadian Assessment Program, which is a national assessment in Canada, examines cross-provincial educational system differences. Finally, the Educational Quality and Accountability Office assessment, which is a provincial assessment in Canada (Ontario), provides yearly comparable results in relation to the knowledge and skills required by the Ontario curriculum (EQAO, 2009).

Large-scale assessments evaluate several areas of the curriculum. For example, one area of the curriculum that is widely assessed within schools regionally, nationally and internationally is reading. Reading is a large part of students’ and adults’ lives because it is included in a variety of context areas (McKown & Barnett, 2007) and it is a fundamental part of the learning process. The development of valid reading comprehension assessments is crucial because of their potential impact on school systems, classroom practices, teachers and students (Chudowsky & Pelligrino, 2001). Even if large-scale assessments evaluate reading, they may not be explicit as to which theory of reading they are derived from as there are many that have been developed (Sadoski & Pavio, 2007).

Although there are large-scale assessments that evaluate reading, there is no consensus as to the theory of reading (Sadoski & Pavio, 2007). Over the years, there have been a range of reading theories developed including ones based on statistical models (Carver, 1977-1978a, 1977-1978b, 1998; Cunningham & Fitzgerald, 1996; Grundin, 1980; Sadoski & Paivio, 2007; Williams, 1973) and ones based on cognitive models (Kintsch, 1988). However, although some take into account previous experience or knowledge, most stress the importance of knowledge rather than the process of learning or assume a limited view of thinking skills.

The goal of the current study is to review the present theories of reading, as well as describe the potential impact the different theories would have on large-scale assessments that evaluate reading. The presentation will include a review of the theories of reading, their impact on assessments of reading, as well as a preliminary examination of the Education Quality and Accountability Office assessment, which assesses reading in the province of Ontario, Canada.