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Assessment and Reading Paradigms: A Response to John Luckner

From: American Annals of the Deaf
Volume 158, Number 4, Fall 2013
pp. 399-405 | 10.1353/aad.2013.0034

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I am writing to respond to John L. Luckner’s article, “Using the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills With Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Perspectives of a Panel of Experts,” which was published in the Spring 2013 issue of the Annals (158[1], 7–19).

Assessment, the gathering of data about children’s knowledge of reading and writing, is a critical part of a child’s literacy education (Morrow & Smith, 1990; Pearson, 2006; Teal et al., 2009). Luckner, a teacher-educator and reading researcher in deaf education, provides the field with a detailed description of one assessment for early literacy—the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, or DIBELS. According to Luckner, the DIBELS is composed of seven subtests: Letter Naming Fluency, Initial Sound Fluency, Phonemic Segmentation Fluency, Nonsense Word Fluency, Oral Reading Fluency, Retell Fluency, and Word Use Fluency. He gave the DIBELS to a panel of published reading experts in deaf education and had them comment. With these data, he then provided recommendations for teachers and researchers for the use of the DIBELS with students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Luckner points out that while the test was designed for hearing children, both he and his expert panel support its use with deaf children, particularly those with residual hearing and who use auditory technology such as digital hearing aids and/or cochlear implants. In his implications for practice section regarding use of the DIBELS, Luckner presents a balanced perspective. He echoes the sentiments of the notion expressed by Paul (2013) and Moores (2013) that “ones size does not fit all.” According to Luckner, “It may be more appropriate to use other assessments tools and/or procedures with students who use sign as their primary mode of communication” (p. 15). In his article, Luckner also comments on the importance of applying evidence-based practices (EBPs), along with adhering to the five recommendations of the National Reading Panel (NRP, 2000) for teaching reading in deaf education and using the suggestions of the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) for early literacy interventions.

My commentary on Luckner’s article has three parts. First, I add to the compelling reasons he has cited as to why we need to do a better job of teaching literacy to deaf children. Second, I invite Annals readers to consider other reading scholars’ views on emergent literacy and early literacy assessment, focusing particularly on their consensus on the importance of conducting reading assessments that are imbedded in specific instruction rather than providing assessments apart from a teacher’s literacy lesson. I also discuss the notion of EBP and the NRP findings related to reading education and deaf education and the WWC recommendations for early literacy interventions. I link Luckner’s emphasis on a sound-based phonology and the role of phonemic awareness in the early reading assessment of deaf children as carried out through use of the DIBELS to the clarion call by Paul (2013) and Moores (2013) for the acceptance of multiple pathways in the study of literacy and deaf children.

Compelling Reasons to Teach Literacy

Luckner cites five compelling reasons why being able to read and write is critical. First, he states that learning to read is essential for school achievement.

Second, he claims that literacy is important to being an informed citizen. In my work testing inmates and suspects in the courts and prisons, I have found that most do not have the language skills in reading and writing to be informed citizens; nor do they have the literacy skills to work with a lawyer, participate in their trial, and read legal documents such as the Miranda warning and the guilty plea questionnaire, among others. Nor can they read the inmate handbook while in prison or follow probation and parole guidelines when they are released (Andrews, 2011; Vernon & Andrews, 2011). In short, it is often impossible to provide them their constitutional rights, with or without a sign language interpreter (Andrews, Vernon, & LaVigne, 2007; LaVigne & Vernon, 2003).

Third, Luckner states that reading is critical to succeeding in a career. Fourth, he points out that skilled readers can obtain access to more information; thus, they can make better-informed...

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