Many problems present themselves when thinking about how to support struggling readers. For my study I chose to focus on the fact that upper elementary and middle school students do not get the amount of time needed for explicit reading instruction and practice reading simple texts, at their independent reading level, because of the demand of the general education curriculum. One piece of evidence that points to this is that in our school district, on the CSAP/TCAP 72.01% of third graders are proficient or advanced. This percentage lowers, with some fluctuation, through the older grades and reaches a low of 66.52% of eighth graders that are proficient or advanced. In our school, on the CSAP/TCAP 21.6% of 6,7, and 8th graders with IEPs (Individualized Education Plan(s)) caught up with their peers in reading assessments, as compared to the 33.7% 4th and 5th graders with IEPs who could do so. These numbers suggest that, as the grade levels increase, there not only is there a decline in the ability to reach those struggling students, the number of struggling students increases, as well. This may be because there are no Common Core Standards that address Foundational Reading Skills, such as phonics, word recognition, and fluency past grade 5. One can read through the standards and see the after grade 5, the focus turns to close reading and comprehension fictional and informational texts.
In addition, my early research indicated that students with reading disabilities struggle more than their peers to read fluently. This may be due the fact that their decoding and automatic word recall is not as strong as students who learn to read at a normal rate. One article I read, titled “Balanced, Strategic Reading Instruction for Upper-Elementary and Middle School Students with Reading Disabilities: A Comparative Study of two Approaches” (Mansett-Williamson, Nelson, 2005) studied the importance of explicit instruction when teaching reading strategies and skills to struggling readers. Another article, titled “Literacy Learning Cohorts: Content-Focused Approach to Improving Special Education Teacher’s Reading Instruction” (Brownell, Kiely, Haager, Boardman, Corbett, Algina & Urbach, 2017), studied a professional development model; the results of which also pointed to the benefits of explicit instruction. Both articles have not only confirmed the fact that fluency is an important and learned skill that is difficult for struggling readers to attain, but also that instruction needs to be explicated and targeted for students to reap full benefits. These will, therefore, be the areas that I hope this study will be able to address. I believe that in conduction this study, I will be able to examine the effect that being placed in a mentor position has on struggling readers. I am hoping that it affects not only their fluency, but that it also positively affects their reading engagement. Students learn more from teaching others, my hope is that by monitoring and providing feedback to younger students on fluency passages, they will be more aware of their own accuracy and fluent reading.
Questions That I Am Hoping My Research Will Answer:
- How can struggling readers in fourth and fifth grade, and middle school get regular reading practice and instruction in addition to grade level content?
- What is the best way to increase decoding, word identification and fluency in fourth, fifth and middle school readers with deficits in these areas?
- Will being a peer tutor increase fluency and reading engagement in struggling readers?
- How can peer tutors be used to increase reading instruction time?