“Are Standardized Tests and the Joy of Reading Connected?”

North Coast Education Services has earned a strong reputation for teaching students how to read.  Our multi-sensory reading curriculum, Richards Learning Systems®, has won the NorTech Innovation Award and is highly recommended by professionals.  In fact, Richards Learning Systems® has been endorsed by Eric Gordon, CEO of the Cleveland Municipal School District.  (See the video here.)

In her latest article, our executive director and founder — Carole Richards — discusses how several “reading problems” are actually misdiagnosed.


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Are Standardized Tests and the Joy of Reading Connected?
by Carole Richards

Published April 4, 2016


We receive calls from concerned parents about their children’s reading skills.  We do not provide services to families that don’t need our help.  And, some of these kids definitely don’t have a reading problem.

However, it soon become clear that there is a problem: a boredom with school and what they are “learning” or doing in their classrooms.  First, was a second grader whose teacher told the mother that her daughter had a reading comprehension problem.  Yet, at home, she read a book about Abraham Lincoln and understood the book well.

As part of our intake process, we ask, “Does the child read all of the words in books at grade level?”  This doesn’t mean understand the vocabulary; rather, can they “decode” the words.  “Can they spell what they want to write?”  Both of these questions relate to whether a child can actually read and write the printed word.  If a child cannot read the words, his or her ability to comprehend is compromised.

Back to the second grader; mom said, “My daughter can read and spell the words well.”  To explore her reading skills further, we asked, “What fictional books is your daughter reading in school?”  Mom said, “Oh, they don’t read novels; they do worksheets with short passages and questions.”  Wow! If I were seven years old, I would be not be excited about filling out worksheets  every day.  It’s more likely this child has a boredom problem, not a reading problem.

Some our clients tell us their students are no longer reading books in school.  Rather, everything they read is on an iPad.  Since some students cannot bring their iPads home, they aren’t doing as much homework.

Some students are permitted to take the iPads home.  One mother complained that instead of doing homework, her daughter was using the iPad to watch YouTube.  This mom contacted the district and offered to pay to put an app on her daughter’s iPad to restrict her use of YouTube.  The district can’t guarantee her daughter will get the same iPad next year.  Mom would have to repurchase the app again next year.

Some school districts are distributing iPads to help students pass new online Ohio tests.  The theory is that more experience with computers will raise test scores.  So far, there is not enough evidence that the theory is true.

One final positive note, Euclid High School teacher was given 24 iPads for his classroom.  His students were not permitted to take the iPads home.  Using the iPads, his students performed better on the reading and writing portions of the high school graduation test than a control group.  Perhaps there is a place for iPads in the classroom.  However, should they totally replace the printed book?

Ask your child’s teacher:  does this class read for pleasure?  What types of books are your students reading?  Is the school district using iPads to prepare for online testing?  Are most assignments designed to pass the standardized tests?   Do your children read for pleasure?

I’d love to hear from readers.


Carole Richards is president of North Coast Tutoring Services, president/director of the Academic Fun & Fitness Camp at Lakeland Community College, author of Richards Learning Systems®.  She is a frequent guest on radio and TV.  She can be reached at caroler@northcoasted.com.

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Dave Hoffman