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Early Grade Reading and Writing Assessment of

Grades 2, 3 and 4 Students in


Selected Schools of the AmharaRegion

Box Plot of Fluency Levels by Grade


Median; Box: 25%-75%; Whisker: Non-Outlier Range
120

100

80

60

40

20 LPM
Outliers
Extremes
0 WPM
Outliers
Extremes
CWPM
-20 Outliers
4 3 2
Extremes
grade

Submitted to Emanuel Development Association


July 2011
Early Grade Reading and Writing Assessment of
Grades 2, 3 and 4 Students in
Selected Schools of the Amhara Region

Prepared by:

Zewdu Gebrekidan
Fromseas Education and Training Consultancy Services

July, 2011

Addis Ababa
Table of Contents
Table of Contents ........................................................................................................................ i
List of Tables .............................................................................................................................ii
List of Figures ............................................................................................................................ii
Executive Summary ................................................................................................................. iii
1 Introduction ........................................................................................................................ 1
1.1 Background ................................................................................................................ 2
1.2 Objective .................................................................................................................... 5
2 Design and Methodology ................................................................................................... 6
2.1 The Participants ......................................................................................................... 6
2.2 Instruments ................................................................................................................. 6
2.2.1 Reading .................................................................................................................. 6
2.2.2 Writing ................................................................................................................... 6
2.2.3 Questionnaires........................................................................................................ 6
3 Results and Discussion ...................................................................................................... 7
3.1 Student level variables related to early grade reading and writing ............................ 7
3.2 School level variables related to early grade reading and writing ............................. 9
1.1 Observation of School Compounds and Classrooms ............................................... 10
3.3 Reading .................................................................................................................... 11
3.4 Fluency Levels ......................................................................................................... 11
3.4.1 Fluency by Grade ................................................................................................. 12
3.4.2 Fluency by Grade and Sex ................................................................................... 13
3.4.3 Fluency by Grade and Location ........................................................................... 14
3.4.4 Fluency by School................................................................................................ 15
3.4.5 Reading Comprehension ...................................................................................... 17
3.4.6 Reading Comprehension by School ..................................................................... 20
3.4.7 Listening Comprehension .................................................................................... 21
3.4.8 Listening Comprehension by School ................................................................... 23
3.5 Hand Writing ........................................................................................................... 25
3.5.1 Copying Words .................................................................................................... 25
3.5.2 Labeling Diagrams ............................................................................................... 25
3.5.3 Copying Connected Words .................................................................................. 26
3.6 Comparison with EGRA Ethiopia ........................................................................... 27
3.7 Students‘ Background Variables and Achievement Levels ..................................... 27
3.7.1 Multiple Regression Analysis Reading Comprehension ..................................... 27
3.7.2 Multiple Regression Analysis .............................................................................. 28
4 Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations ............................................................... 29
4.1 Summary .................................................................................................................. 29
4.2 Conclusions .............................................................................................................. 34
4.3 Recommendations .................................................................................................... 35
Bibliography ............................................................................................................................ 36

i
List of Tables
Table 1. Student‘s background variables related to reading and writing ................................... 8
Table 2. Student‘s school experiences ....................................................................................... 8
Table 3. Descriptive Statistics.................................................................................................. 11
Table 4.Percentile Score .......................................................................................................... 11
Table 5. Mean and SD of Fluency by Grade ........................................................................... 12
Table 6. Fluency by Grade and Sex ......................................................................................... 14
Table 7. Fluency by Grade and Location ................................................................................. 15
Table 8. Fluency by School ..................................................................................................... 16
Table 9 Reading Comprehension Item Statistics ..................................................................... 18
Table 10 Listening Comprehension Item Statistics ................................................................. 21
Table 11 Copying Words Item Statistics ................................................................................. 25
Table 12 Labeling Diagram Item Statistics ............................................................................. 26
Table 13 Copying Connected Words Item Statistics ............................................................... 26
Table 14. Multiple regression analysis reading comprehension .............................................. 28
Table 15. Multiple regression analysis listening comprehension ............................................ 28

List of Figures
Figure 1. Bar Charts Showing Fluency Mean Score by Grade ................................................ 12
Figure 2. Box and Whisker Plots of Fluency Levels by Grade ............................................... 13
Figure 3. Bar Graphs Showing Mean Fluency Scores by Grade and Sex ............................... 14
Figure 4. Bar Graphs Showing Mean Fluency Scores by Grade and Location ....................... 15
Figure 5. Bar Graphs Showing Mean Fluency Scores by School ............................................ 16
Figure 6. Reading Comprehension Item Characteristic Curve ................................................ 18
Figure 7. Reading Comprehension Item person dual plot ....................................................... 19
Figure 8. Reading Comprehension Parameter Estimates ......................................................... 19
Figure 9. Recursive Partitioning Analysis of Reading Comprehension by School ................. 20
Figure 10. Listening Comprehension Item Characteristic Curve ............................................ 22
Figure 11. Listening Comprehension Item Person Dual Plot .................................................. 22
Figure 12. Listening Comprehension Parameter Estimates ..................................................... 23
Figure 13. Recursive partitioning analysis of listening comprehension by school .................. 24

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Executive Summary
Nothing else affects a child's future in quite the same way as learning to read. All other
schoolwork depends on the ability to read fluently and with understanding. Children who
enjoy reading usually get the practice they need to become fluent readers. Their skill in
reading makes all the rest of their schoolwork easier. It is commendable that Emanuel
Development Association took this initiative to assess the reading level of the students in
North Shewa Zone of the Amhara Region.

This Early Grade Reading and Writing Assessment of Grades 2, 3 and 4 students in Amhara
Region was carried out at Deberiberhan and its environs in May 2011. The main purposes of
the study were to determine the reading and writing levels of the students at each grade,
compare subgroups in particular rural and urban schools, and identify in-and-out- of school
factors that resulted in variations within and between groups.

The Sample: This Early Grade Reading and Writing study was carried out in Grades 2, 3
and 4 students in Amhara region around Debirbirhan where EDA is operating. A sample of
359 students drawn from 6 schools (3 urban and 3 rural), their teachers and the schools‘
directors participated in the study.

Instrumentation: Students took tests on reading and writing which were administered on a
one-to-one basis by trained data collectors familiar with the area. Students, teachers and
school directors also responded to questionnaires and interviews.The reading test was
adapted from EGRA Ethiopia and was composed of five parts: identifying letters, word
reading, story reading, reading comprehension, and listening comprehension. The first three
parts were measuring fluency and timed to one minute each: Letter Per Minute (LPM), Word
Per Minute (WPM) and Connected Word Per Minute (CWPM). The remaining two measured
the understanding level of the students.The hand writing test was composed of three parts:
copying words, labeling diagrams and copying sentences.

Fluency Levels:The minimum number of letters or words read in each case was 0 and those
who read the maximum number were able to read all the letters and words. The mean LPM
was 75.1 (SD=23.72), the mean WPM was 39.2(SD=39.2) and the mean CWPM was 41.4
(17.2). The standard deviations were found very high in each case indicating the existence of
wide variation. The top 10% of examinees were able to read almost all letters and words in
one minute while the bottom 10% were able to read at most 39 LPM, 18 WPM, and 16
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CWPM. The median score shows that 50% of examinees were able to read at least 80 LPM,
49 WPM, 45 CWPM in each case. The mean LPM, WPM and CWPM were 75.1, 39.1 and
41.4 respectively. The mean fluency levels of Grade 2 (64.2, 31.4 and 31.6) were found
below the grand mean. In each case the standard deviation in Grade 2 was found highest
indicating the presence of wide variations at lower grade levels.

Fluency by Sex:The mean fluency levels of girls were found higher than that of boys in all
cases at all grade levels. The standard deviations in both cases were high indicating the
existence of wide variations within the group. The variation between boys is wider than that
of girls. Unlike previous studies conducted in Ethiopia, the performance of girls was found to
be better than boys. Looking at grade levels, mean LPM increased from lower to higher grade
levels while the standard deviation decreased.

Fluency by Location:The average LPM for urban schools is 79.12 and found higher than in
the rural schools which is 71.1. The standard deviations in both cases were high indicating
the existence of wide variations within the group. Looking at grade levels, mean LPM
increased from lower to higher grade levels while the standard deviation decreased.

Fluency by School:The average LPM, WPM, and CWPM for the highest performing school
were 83.2, 39.1 and 41.4 respectively and for the least performing school were 67.9, 35.7 and
36.9. High standard deviations were observed in most cases indicating the existence of wide
within group variations.

Reading Comprehension:The reading comprehension was composed of five items based on


the passage, which contained 62 words targeted at Grade 2. The mean item difficulty was
0.59 with the range of 0.29 to 0.74.The recursive partitioning analysis of the comprehension
score by school shows that the differences in school accounted for 6.8% (R2= 0.068) of the
variations in reading comprehension score. Schools in the urban setting were relatively
performing better than those in the rural settings. The mean score for the highest performing
school was 75.7% while that of the lowest performing school was 52.3%. The multiple
regression model was able to explain 51.5% of the variations in reading comprehension score
and the strongest factors were availability of books other than textbooks and attendance of
preprimary classes.

Listening Comprehension:The listening comprehension was composed of five items based


on the passage which contains 38 words targeted at Grade 2 level. The item and test analysis

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of the listening comprehension questions shows that the reliability of the test was low
(Cronbach‘s Alpha = 0.482). The mean item difficulty was 0.701 with the range of 0.33 to
0.96. The mean scaled score was 3.5 with a standard deviation of 1.36.The recursive
partitioning analysis by school shows that the differences in school accounted for 13.8% (R2=
0.138) of the variation in listening comprehension score. Schools in the urban setting
performed better than those in the rural settings. The mean score for the highest performing
school was 87% while that of the lowest performing one was 61%. The same school
which performed best in the reading comprehension also performed bestin the listening
comprehension.

Writing:Students were asked to copy four separate words and almost all of them were able to
copy the words with legible handwriting. The mean item difficulty was .96with the range of
.95 to .98. The mean scaled scored was 3.86 with a standard deviation of .634.Students were
asked to write the names of diagrams. The mean item difficulty was .96 with the range of .95
to .96. The mean scaled scored was 2.86 with a standard deviation of .299. Most students
were able to write the caption to the familiar diagrams they were asked to label.The mean
item difficulty was .787with the range of .588. The mean scaled scored was 12.58 with a
standard deviation of 3.58. Most students were able to copy connected words (sentences).
The main problems observed in this case were inability to break words using spaces and the
use of punctuation marks. The difficulty level of the use of end of sentences punctuation
marks were 0.49 for four points (full stop) and 0.37 for question marks.

Note on the Disparity between the Results of This Study and National and Regional
EGRA: There is a significant disparity in the results achieved by the students who took part
in this study, compared with the results achieved by average students in the Amhara region
on the National EGRA. On the whole, students in this study performed significantly better
than students in the National Study, where almost 50% of 2nd graders were unable to read a
single word on the Reading Comprehension test. Though some differences in testing
methodology existed between the two studies, based on one-to-one discussions with students,
teachers and school administrators, the ongoing activities of EDA in these schools and
communities were identified as a significant contributing factor to the positive outcomes.
Further consultation with teachers and administrators suggested that schools in the rural areas
not heavily served by EDA activities would probably not have achieved similar results.

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Students’ Related Factors that Affect Reading and Writing: Almost all students have the
Amharic Text book and 89.4% use it regularly in their class. 66.9% of the students have
someone who helps them in their studies at home. In 86.4% cases there is at least one other
person who is currently enrolled in school, in 60.2% cases their mother or a female guardian
can read and write while 79.8% said their father or a male guardian can read and write. About
53.2% said they have books other than their textbooks in their house and 72.4% said they
read books other than their textbooks, 51.5% discuss the books they read with their friend,
67.1% said there is someone who reads books to them at home and in 55.3% of cases, parents
tell them short stories or fables.

In relation to their school experiences, about 39.8% of the students were absent from school
for more than five days this academic year. Only 3.9% of the students prefer to stay at home
than to go to school and 4.7% are not encouraged by their parents to pursue their education.
In 54.9% of cases, the students attended preschool education.

Some schools have libraries, while other schools do not. In schools where there are libraries,
students in the early grades have limited accesses. In one of the schools there are enough
books that are written for children while in others there are few. In all the schools each
student has the Amharic textbook and teachers have a Teacher‘s Guide. Experts in the field
advise that one of the strongest predictors of reading achievement is the availability of print
materials in schools and at home. It is good that each student has a textbook; however books
written for children are equally important and they should be abundant.

The time allocated for Amharic is four periods a week and out of this, in most cases, not
more than an hour is used for reading. Researches show that at the early grade levels, a
school should allocate a minimum of one hour per day for reading. The time allocated for
teaching the mother tongue including reading, writing and other communication skills in the
schools relative to other subjects is relatively low, suggesting again an underestimation of the
critical nature of these skills. One need not, however, lose sight of the critical roles of these
two skills in learning other skills. When students learn these two skills, they are also learning
a method of learning other subjects. Tailored teachers trainings, time on reading and
abundance of print in the school are believed to enhance reading levels in young children.

School Related Factors that Affect Reading and Writing:According to the directors and
teachers, the major problems related to teaching and learning how to read were the absence of

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clear standardized guidelines for teachers on how to teach reading and writing, a poor culture
of regular reading, limited access to print materials, lack of parental support, limited time
allocated to the Amharic subject and no time allotted for reading to improve the reading
skills.

The school leadership and teachers are trying to address some of the problems they
encountered by providing tutorial sessions, but creating corners for mini libraries and
differentiating students into age groups were not observed. To address the problems
mentioned above, they also suggested: a provision of targeted continuous professional
development support for teachers by experts in the field, that reading centers beestablished at
schools as well as in the community, that print materials for children be made abundant and
that children should pass through preprimary classes and be fully prepared before they join
Grade 1.

In almost all cases, teachers and directors did not get any special training on how to teach
reading and writing in early grades. One normally assumes that the training of teachers and
directors in these fields affects their practices. If teachers and directors had some training
(either in pre-service or in-service or both programs) in teaching early grade reading and
writing, it follows that students would have better skills in reading and writing. Teachers and
directors who had received training claimed that their pre-service or in-service training was
short and insufficient. Teachers were not trained in reading skills in the teachers training
institute before they joined the teaching practice in pre-primary, lower and upper grades.

Print materials were not observed to be found in sufficient quantity either at the school or the
classroom level. In some cases, words displayed on school walls were observable, but only in
limited numbers. In some classrooms, only teaching materials, such as, textbooks, teacher
guides, teacher-written letters (on classroom walls), etc., were noticeable, yet not in sufficient
quantities. It is only in limited cases that student works, such as, student‘s written letters or
words and writing examples (such as, newspapers, posters, maps, etc.) were displayed on
bulletin boards or on school or classroom walls. In many cases these materials are deposited
in pedagogical centers as a form of storage.

Furthermore students were not observed reading individually or in groups within the school,
or anywhere else. The absence of student work and independent or shared reading suggest
that teacher centered education is prominent in the observed schools.

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Conclusions: Based on the findings of the study the following conclusions are made:
There exist variations in the achievement levels within and between schools. This is
in line with other studies conducted in Ethiopia at different levels.
Students in the urban schools were performing better than their counterparts in rural
schools. Special attention should be given to rural schools, from pre-primary to early
grades, to equip students with the necessary reading skills.
Girls are performing better than boys and this is quite different from other large scale
studies conducted in Ethiopia, including EGRA 2010.
Teachers and directors are not trained to overcome reading difficulties.
Teachers are not getting continuous support and follow up from reading experts.
Students are not getting the necessary support required to excel in basic literacy.
The reading culture within and outside the school is poor.
There are limited print materials targeted to young children available in schools and
homes.
Sufficient time is not allotted for independent and shared reading.
Parental support is limited and students come to school without the necessary
preparation.
Partnership and collaboration between community, teachers and school leadership is
necessary to enhance reading skills and improve the quality of education

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Recommendations: Based on the findings of the study and other best practices, quick and
sizeable gains are possible, if the following recommendations are applied:

Establishing preprimary classes in the rural areas to enhance reading preparedness;


Focusing attention on rural areas; lower primary and ECD program in the Northern
shoa administration or zones.
Establishing reading corners and mini-libraries in schools and in the community;
Producing culturally relevant supplementary reading materials targeted to age and
grade levels;
Making sufficient amounts of print materials for students to practice with and take
home;
Providing teachers and school directors with tailor–made, intensive trainings on how
to teach reading and writing skills at early grades;
Provision of relatively short and defined courses on reading fundamentals, with
specific speed and accuracy objectives;
Placement of the better teachers in the lower grades wherever possible and supplying
scripted lesson plans and materials that teachers of limited education can easily
follow;
Intensive supervision, systematic visits and informal reading assessments;
Use of additional instructional time for reading, creating community awareness of
reading needs and monitoring;
Introducing adult literacy program in the rural areas and creating a conducive
environment where children can practice reading with their parents; and
Establishing close links between parents and teachers by strengthening Parent Teacher
Associations.

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1 Introduction
The goal of quality education is to facilitate optimal cognitive development of the pupil
through schooling (UNESCO, 2005). Research demonstrates that there is a continuum of
interrelated connections between language and cognition, moving from the development of
‗social language proficiency‘ to ‗academic language proficiency‘ and then to academic
achievement. In preschool through third grade, schools must attend, first and foremost, to the
crucial mission of early education: teaching children to read and write.

Children and young adults develop literacy by having a variety of real literacy experiences
and a considerable amount of direct or explicit instruction. They begin by developing oral
language (listening and speaking) and then later develop reading and writing. All of the
elements of literacy namely: speaking, listening, reading, writing and thinking, continuously
develop together (Wilkinson & Silliman, 2000).

Literacy is not subjects per se; rather it is foundational skill that students use in all subjects. If
students do not possess basic literacy skills, then they are less likely to experience success in
other subject areas. Literacy achievement is considered the best predictor of student
achievement in other subjects. If students have not developed the literacy skills considered
typical for their phase of development, it is less likely that they will be able to experience
success in other learning areas. Literacy achievement is considered the best predictor of
student achievement in other subjects.

Reading is often thought of as a hierarchy of skills, from the processing of individual letters
and their associated sounds to word recognition to text-processing competencies. Skilled
comprehension requires fluid articulation of all these processes, beginning with the sounding
out and recognition of individual words to the understanding of sentences in paragraphs as
part of much longer texts. There is instruction at all of these levels that can be carried out so
as to increase student understanding of what is read.

If reading came naturally, teaching reading would be a much easier job. Children would learn
to read as readily as they learn to speak and teachers would only need to give students the
chance to practice their skills. But children don't learn to read just from being exposed to
books. Reading must be taught. For many children, reading must be taught explicitly and
systematically, one small step at a time. That's why good teachers are so important. Although
children go through a series of predictable steps on their journey to becoming readers, many

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things can derail them, such as having inadequate exposure to language at home or having a
learning disability. Teachers who know the art and science of teaching reading are able to
provide skillful, effective reading instruction, and can help students to overcome the obstacles
to becoming readers.

ThisEarly Grade Reading and Writing Assessment was conducted in May, 2011 in Amhara
Region at Grades 2, 3 and 4 in Debrebirhan and its environs. The main purpose of the study
was to establish a baseline data for future intervention. A sample of students from selected
schools took tests in reading and writing administered on a one-to-one basis.

The report is organized into four chapters. Chapter One contains the background and
justification for the research. Chapter Two provides an overview of the design and
methodology and describes how the assessment was implemented in the course of this study.
Chapter Three presents the results and discussion of the survey. Chapter Four summarizes the
findings and suggests implications and future directions for research into early-grade reading
assessment practice and interventions.

1.1 Background
There are many definitions of literacy (Harris & Hodges, 1995). Over the years, most
definitions have focused on just reading and writing (Venezky, 1995). However, in recent
years discussions of literacy have broadened the term to include listening and speaking and
other types of literacy such as mathematical literacy and technological literacy. This
broadened concept of literacy makes it a term that includes all of the communication and
calculation skills needed to survive in today‘s society. In this paper the focus is on the
communication aspect of literacy and is defined as the ability to read, write, speak and listen
language in a way that allows people to communicate with each other and to make sense of
the world around them.

Reading is the foundation of other learning activities in the classroom. The point of reading is
comprehension; and the point of comprehension is learning. Children who fail to learn to read
in the first few grades of school are handicapped in later grades as they must absorb
increasing amounts of instructional content in print form. Poor readers cannot develop proper
writing skills and become self-guided learners in other subject areas. The basic reading skills
necessary to become ―literate‖ do not develop naturally; we have to learn to adapt the part of
our brain that recognizes images to be able to recognize written letters and words (Wolf,

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2007). As has been confirmed by scholars working to understand reading acquisition in
multiple languages (Jimenez and O‘Shanahan Juan, 2008; Linan-Thompson and Vaughn,
2007; Abadzi, 2006; Sprenger-Charolles, 2003; Chiappe et al., 2002), in almost any
alphabetic language in which print can be decoded into sounds, being able to read well
requires a grasp of five basic skills(National Reading Panel, 2000):

phonemic awareness: focusing on, manipulating, breaking apart, and putting


together sounds orally;
phonics: linking written letters to their sounds and forming spelling patterns;
fluency: achieving speed, accuracy, and expression in reading;
vocabulary: knowing words (both oral and written) and their meaning; and
comprehension: understanding the concepts read or heard.

All children can, and should, learn to read within the first few years of schooling. No two
children will develop their reading skills in exactly the same way, in the same time frame, but
all readers will progress through a series of phases in their reading development, some
simultaneously.

Reading for success means much more than deciphering words in a text. It means accessing,
evaluating, and synthesizing information, and it therefore creates a foundation for learning
across all academic domains, including math, science, and social studies. It is inextricably
linked to overall academic success. Effective reading is at the heart of being an engaged,
global citizen who is able to grapple with complex issues. The skilled reader works in shades
of gray, confronts problems that can only be solved by integrating ideas from multiple
resources; he understands a wide range of concepts, and he has interdisciplinary knowledge
to access and apply(Graves, 1998). When we read successfully we absorb literature and
nonfiction for pleasure, to acquire information, and to broaden our horizons. Skilled readers
also have the sophisticated oral and written communication skills needed to respond to ideas,
whether presented on screen, in print, or via audio, and to generate new thinking.

Reading words, then, is necessary but not sufficient to support text comprehension. To read
effectively and make meaning from text, one has to bring much to each reading experience
Snow (2002). A reader must be engaged in the process and motivated to work through each
sentence, paragraph and page. But interest alone will not ensure comprehension. She must
have knowledge of the code—the way sounds are associated with letters and blended together
to make words—coupled with the ability to read them quickly enough to retain what is read

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from the beginning of the passage to the end(Chall, 1996). As she reads these words, she
must also successfully recognize the concepts they represent to make meaning of the
text(Scarborough, 2001). To do this, the reader draws on her background knowledge,
constantly applying what she already knows about the reading process and the text‘s topic
while making her way through the word-covered pages. Ultimately, she is advancing her
knowledge (Kintsch, 1994). But if the words and/or the topic are completely unfamiliar or
just too difficult to grasp independently, then sounding out the words may look like
―reading,‖ but it is simply an exercise, unsupportive of learning.

The process of becoming an effective reader is a dynamic and complex one that must begin at
birth and continue into adulthood. ―Reading‖ at age 3 is not the same as reading for a 5-year-
old, which is not the same as skilled reading for a 9-year-old, and none looks similar to
skilled reading for a college student(Chall, 1996). A reader‘s ability has to keep pace with the
changing demands of the context and the purpose for reading, and that demands continual
growth. This growth depends upon strong and supportive interactions among adults and
children, to build up children‘s language and knowledge, and to increase the amount of time
their eyes spend on print. Throughout the day and throughout the early years especially (birth
to 9), that means asking questions, starting conversations, telling stories, and singing songs. It
means listening to stories via audio, drawing letters, writing names as well as writing stories,
letters and essays. It means visits to local parks, libraries, and museums. It means teaching
children to read independently and it also means everyone reading together. It is these
interactions and everyday activities, in homes and communities, early education and care
settings, and schools, that foster an orientation toward learning and inspire children‘s sense of
curiosity about the world and greater understanding of it, while simultaneously promoting
their language abilities and their thinking(Dickinson & Tabors, 2001).

Reading is the cornerstone of academic success and also central to a child‘s overall health.
There is a limited window of time in which to prevent reading difficulties and promote
reading achievement; for most children what happens (or doesn‘t happen) from infancy
through age 9 is critical. By third grade, reading struggles are strongly linked to later school
difficulties, as well as behavioral problems, depression, and dysfunctional and/or negative
peer relationships (Gregg etal., 1996). What‘s more, research indicates that 74 percent of
children whose reading skills are less than sufficient by third grade have a drastically reduced
likelihood of graduating from high school (Fletcher & Lyon, 1998). As a result, these

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children are unlikely to develop the skills essential for participating fully in this knowledge-
based economy and for experiencing life success (Fletcher & Lyon, 1998).

The greatest gift we can give to children is education. An important part of a well-balanced
education is for children to be able to read, write and understand basic mathematics. The
focus on learning has been progressively shifting from input to outcomes in view of learning
achievement. Past educational reforms mainly used to emphasize educational structure,
curriculum and teacher training, in a view to realize quality. But this trend began to give way
to issues related to the improvement of learning achievement, school effectiveness,
management and accountability. Consequently, decentralization, school-based management
and learning assessment became the area of focus in the efforts related to educational reforms
of the 1990s. In the view of Kellaghan and Greaney (2001), global economic competition has
resulted in the critical importance of quality human resources, and the demand for new
competencies in the modern information society. All of these demands have therefore, made
the educational system, schools, and individual students to be under increasing pressure to
perform and work hard. In short, assessing students‘ learning achievements has instigated due
attention and a necessary focus to be made for the former.

When children are not given the appropriate opportunities to learn, both the individual and
society suffer. The costs of childhood reading failure include increased public expenditures
coupled with decreased revenue and human capital. Undoubtedly, low reading starkly
reduces the potential both of individuals and of a society.

1.2 Objective
The main purpose of the study was to collect a baseline data in Grades 2, 3 and 4 in reading
and writing levels. The specific objectives were:

determining the level of achievement in reading in Grades 2, 3 and4 students,


determining the level of achievement in writing in Grades 2, 3 and 4 students,
identify possible factors that brought variations in the achievement levels of the
students, and
compare the level of achievements across subgroups (sex, grade, location, school and
selected background variables).

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2 Design and Methodology
This part describes the data collecting instruments, sample design and the data collecting
procedures. The data analysis technique is also briefly addressed.

2.1 The Participants


The target populations of the study were Grades 2, 3, and 4 students currently enrolled in six
schools around Debrebirhan. Three schools from the rural area where EDA has been
operating and three schools from Debrebirhan town were selected, and 20 students from each
grade level responded to the tests and questionnaires. Teachers and directors also responded
to interviews and participated in focus group discussions.

2.2 Instruments
The data collecting instruments were reading and writing tests meant to measure basic
literacy skills targeted at grade two level. The tasks measuring basic literacy skills in each
case were incremental in their complexity. Each task was presented to the child on a one–to-
one basis. Questionnaires were also administered to the students.The reading test was adapted
from Early Grade Reading Assessment(EGRA) Ethiopia administered in May, 2010 at the
national level.The writing test was targeted to address the minimum competency level at
Grade 2.

2.2.1 Reading

The reading task started with letter recognition followed by reading separate words, and a
passage (connected words). These were all timed to one minute each.The passage was
followed by reading comprehension questions. In addition, a listening comprehension test
based on a short passage was administered.

2.2.2 Writing
The writing test was composed of four parts: copying letters, words and connected words and
writing captions for visual cues.

2.2.3 Questionnaires

The questionnaires were administered to the students on a one-to-one basis, while interviews
were conducted with teachers and directors. The items were composed of background
questions, attitude towards learning and perceptions.

6
3 Results and Discussion
This section presents the findings of the study, starting with overall findings followed by
details of each part across different levels and groups. A variety of statistical procedures were
followed to present the findings. Initially student and school level variables believed to affect
reading are discussed based on the responses of the questionnaires and interviews
administered to students, directors and teachers.

3.1 Student level variables related to early grade reading and writing
Learning to read typically begins much earlier than many people think. It begins with
children being read to and importantly with activities that emphasize that letters are a kind of
―code‖ that captures the sounds of words. When children are read to, several important things
happen. First, the children are learning that the squiggles on a page are a way of capturing
language that can be comprehended. Second, activities that focus on letters and the sounds
that letters make are teaching children what is called the ―alphabetic principle.‖ The
alphabetic principle is the notion that words can be coded into alphabetic characters and that,
through the process of reading, the letters can then be decoded to get back to the words.

Students were asked a range of questions about themselves and their school experience
(Table 1). Almost all students have the Amharic Text book and 89.4% use it regularly in their
class, 66.9% of the students have someone who helps them in their studies at home. In 86.4%
cases there is at least one other person who is currently enrolled in school, in 60.2% cases
their mother or a female guardian can read and write while 79.8% said their father or a male
guardian can read and write. About 53.2% said they have books other than their textbooks in
their house and 72.4% said they read books other than their textbooks, 51.5% discuss about
the books they read with their friend, 67.1% said there is someone who reads books to them
at home and in 55.3% cases parents tell them short stories or fables.

7
Table 1. Student’s background variables related to reading and writing

No Yes

Do you have Amharic Textbook? 1.4% 98.6%


Do you use the Amharic Text regularly in your class? 10.6% 89.4%
Is there anyone who helps you in your studies at home? 33.1% 66.9%
Is there anyone currently attending school from your home? 13.6% 86.4%
Does your mother or female guardian reads and write? 39.8% 60.2%
Does your father or male guardian reads and write? 20.2% 79.8%
Do you have books other than textbooks at home? 46.8% 53.2%
Do you read books other than textbooks at your home? 27.6% 72.4%
Do you discuss about the books you read with your friends? 48.5% 51.5%
Is there anyone who reads books to you at home? 32.9% 67.1%
Do your parents tell you short stories or fables? 44.7% 55.3%

In relation to their school experiences, about 39.8% of the students were absent from school
for more than five days this academic year. Only 3.9% of the students prefer to stay at home
than to go to school and 4.7% are not encouraged by their parents to pursue their education.
In 54.9% cases the students attended preschool education.

Table 2. Student’s school experiences

No Yes

This year have you been absent from school for more than five 60.2% 39.8%
days?
Do you prefer staying at home to going to school? 96.1% 3.9%
Do your parents encourage you to pursue in your education? 4.7% 95.3%
Is there anyone at home who does not want you to continue 93.3% 6.7%
your education?
Have you attended any preschool program before you join 54.9% 45.1%
Grade 1?

Many children learn to read just fine, but their success is not accidental. It is dependent on
experience that starts before they enter school and continues through the early grades when
they are in school. Early experience that leads to reading success starts with parents reading
to their children, teaching them the letters of the alphabet, and working with them on letter-

8
sound correspondences so that the children develop an appreciation of the fact that letters
produce sounds that map onto the sounds we hear in speech.

3.2 School level variables related to earlygrade reading and writing


The school directors and teachers were asked about factors that are believed to affect reading
levels at the early grades and their responses are summarized in the paragraphs that follow.

There are libraries in some schools, but not in others. In schools where there are libraries
students in the early grades have limited access. In one of the schools there are enough books
that are written for children while in others, such books are limited.In all the schools each
student has the Amharic textbook and teachers have Teacher‘s Guide. Experts in the field
advise that one of the strongest predictors of reading achievement is the availability of print
materials in schools and at home. It is good that each student has a textbook; however books
written for children are equally important and they should be abundant.

The time allocated for Amharic is four periods a week and out of this, in most cases, not
more than an hour is used for reading. Research shows that at the early grade levels, a school
should allocate a minimum of one hour per day for reading. The time allocated for teaching
the mother tongue including reading, writing and other communication skills in the schools
relative to other subjects is relatively low suggesting an underestimation of the critical nature
of these skills. One need not, however, lose sight of the critical roles of these two skills in
learning other skills. When students learn these two skills, they are also learning a method of
learning other subjects. Tailored teachers trainings, time on reading and abundance of print in
the school are believed to enhance reading levels in young children.

The major problems related to teaching and learning how to read according to the directors
and teachers were the absence of clear, standardized guidelines for teachers on how to teach
reading and writing, a poor culture of regular reading, limited access to print materials, a lack
of parental support and limited time allocated to the Amharic subject.

The school leadership and teachers are trying to address some of the problems they
encountered by providing tutorial sessions, creating book corners and mini libraries and
differentiating students into groups. To address the problems mentioned above, they also
suggested: a provision of targeted continuous professional development support for teachers
by experts in the field, that reading centers be established at schools as well as in the

9
community, that print materials for children be made abundant and that children should pass
through preprimary classes and be fully prepared before they join Grade 1.

In almost all cases teachers and directors did not get any special training on how to teach
reading and writing in early grades. One normally assumes that the training of teachers and
directors in these fields affects their practices. If teachers and directors had some training
(either in pre-service or in-service or both programs) in teaching early grade reading and
writing, it follows that students would have better skills in reading and writing. Teachers who
had been trained claimed that their pre-service or in-service training was short and
insufficient.

There is a gap in planning the teaching of the two skills, reading and writing, when compared
with their absolute importance relative to other subjects. This indicates there is a need to
change the time structure of teaching early grade students. More time may be added to
teaching reading and writing and the other communication skills.

1.1 Observation of School Compounds and Classrooms


Print materials were not found in sufficient quantity either at the school or the classroom
level. In some cases, words displayed on school walls are observable but only in limited
numbers. In some classrooms, only teaching materials, such as, textbooks, teacher guides,
teacher-written letters (on classroom walls), etc., are noticeable, yet not in sufficient
quantities. It is only in limited cases that student works, such as, student written letters or
words or writing examples (such as, newspapers, posters, maps, etc.) is displayed on bulletin
boards, or school and classroom walls. In many cases these materials are deposited in
pedagogical centers in the form of storage.

Furthermore students were not observed reading individually or in groups in or outside of


school. The absence of student work and independent or shared reading suggest that teacher
centered education is prominent in the observed schools.

10
3.3 Reading

The reading test was composed of five parts: identifying letters, word reading, story reading,
reading comprehension, and listening comprehension. The first three parts measured fluency
and were timed to one minute each: Letter Per Minute (LPM), Word Per Minute (WPM) and
Connected Word Per Minute (CWPM). The remaining two measured the understanding level
of the students.

3.4 Fluency Levels

Table 3presents the summary descriptive statistics for the first three tasks. A total of 359
students took the test and the minimum number of letters or words read in each case was 0
and those who read the maximum number were able to read all the letters and words. The
mean LPM was 75.1 (SD=23.72), the mean WPM was 39.2(SD=39.2) and the mean CWPM
was 41.4 (17.2). The standard deviations were found very high in each case indicating the
existence of wide variation.

Table 3. Descriptive Statistics

Task N Minimum Maximum Mean Std. Deviation


LPM 359 .00 100 75.1 23.72
WPM 359 .00 100 39.2 13.81
CWPM 359 .00 62 41.4 17.29

Table 4shows the percentile scores of the three tasks at five key marker points. The top 10%
of the examinees were able to read almost all letters and words in one minute while the
bottom 10% were able to read at most 39 LPM, 18 WPM,and 16 CWPM. The median score
shows that 50% of the examinee were able to read at least 80 LPM, 49 WPM, 45 CWPM in
each case.

Table 4.Percentile Score

Percentiles LPM WPM CWPM


10th 39 18 16
25th 62 33 30
50th 80 46 45
75th 96 49 56
90th 99 50 61

11
3.4.1 Fluency by Grade

Table 5, Figure 1 and Figure 2 present the mean fluency levels and the distribution of the
scores by grade. The mean LPM, WPM and CWPM were 75.1, 39.1 and 41.4 respectively.
The mean fluency levels of Grade 2 (64.2, 31.4 and 31.6) were found below the grand mean.
In each case the standard deviation in Grade 2 was found highest indicating the presence of
wide variations at lower grade levels.
Table 5. Mean and SD of Fluency by Grade
Connected
Letter Per Word Per Word Per
Grade Statistics Minute Minute Minute
Two Mean 64.2 31.4 31.6
Std. Deviation 26.61 16.15 18.73
Three Mean 76.9 40.7 41.2
Std. Deviation 21.05 10.91 15.17
Four Mean 84.1 44.9 51.3
Std. Deviation 18.56 7.64 11.26
Total Mean 75.1 39.1 41.4
Std. Deviation 23.72 13.26 17.29

Figure 1. Bar Charts Showing Fluency Mean Score by Grade

12
Letter Per Minute
100 Word Per Minute
Connected Word Per
Minute

80

60

40

20

Two Three Four


Grade

Figure 2. Box and Whisker Plots of Fluency Levels by Grade

3.4.2 Fluency by Grade and Sex

Table 6and Figure 3present the mean LPM, WPM and CWPM levels by grade and sex. The
mean fluency levels of girls were found higher than that of boys in all cases at all grade
levels. The standard deviations in both cases were high indicating the existence of wide
variations within the group. The variation between boys is wider than that of girls. The
performance of girls was found better than boys unlike other studies so far conducted in
Ethiopia. Looking at grade levels mean LPM was found increasing from lower to higher
grade levels while the standard deviation was decreasing.

13
Table 6. Fluency by Grade and Sex

Connected
Letter Per Word Per Word Per
Grade Sex Minute Minute Minute
Female 68.2 35.3 34.6
Two Male 60.4 27.9 28.8
Total 64.2 31.4 31.6
Female 80.6 42.6 42.2
Three Male 73.2 38.8 40.3
Total 76.9 40.7 41.2
Female 85.4 45.7 53.0
Four Male 82.8 44.0 49.6
Total 84.1 44.9 51.3
Female 78.2 41.3 43.4
Total Male 72.0 36.8 39.4
Total 75.1 39.1 41.4

Figure 3. Bar Graphs Showing Mean Fluency Scores by Grade and Sex

3.4.3 Fluency by Grade and Location

Fluency was a timed task and Table 7and Figure 4present the average number of letters,
words and connected words per minute by grade and location. The average LPM for urban
schools is 79.12, which was higher than 71.1 found in the rural schools. The standard
deviations in both cases were high, indicating the existence of wide variations within the

14
group. Looking at grade levels, mean LPM increased from lower to higher grade levels while
the standard deviation decreased.

Table 7. Fluency by Grade and Location


Connected
Letter Per Word Per
Grade Location Statistics Word Per
Minute Minute
Minute
Mean 57.9 27.4 25.8
Rural
Std. Deviation 25.75 16.47 18.10
Two
Mean 70.6 35.5 37.6
Urban
Std. Deviation 26.14 14.89 17.55
Mean 73.6 38.3 37.6
Rural
Std. Deviation 20.34 10.72 14.95
Three
Mean 80.3 43.1 44.8
Urban
Std. Deviation 21.38 10.64 14.65
Mean 81.7 44.5 49.4
Rural
Std. Deviation 18.83 7.73 11.14
Four
Mean 86.5 45.3 53.3
Urban
Std. Deviation 18.12 7.59 11.14
Mean 71.0 36.8 37.6
Rural
Std. Deviation 23.87 14.00 17.78
Total
Mean 79.2 41.3 45.3
Urban
Std. Deviation 22.93 12.11 15.92

Figure 4. Bar Graphs Showing Mean Fluency Scores by Grade and Location

3.4.4 Fluency by School

Table 8and Figure 5present the average number of letters, words and connected words per
minute by school. The average LPM, WPM, and CWPM for the highest performing school

15
were 83.2, 39.1 and 41.4 respectively and for the lowest performing school were 67.9, 35.7
and 36.9. High standard deviations were observed in most cases indicating the existence of
wide variations within groups.

Table 8. Fluency by School

Connected
Letter Per Word Per
School Statistics Word Per
Minute Minute
Minute
Mean 77.7 40.7 42.0
Baso
Std. Deviation 23.5 11.8 14.1
Mean 67.9 35.7 36.9
Faji
Std. Deviation 24.4 13.4 17.9
Mean 75.9 37.3 37.8
Genet
Std. Deviation 26.2 14.5 18.4
Mean 76.5 40.1 44.4
Tebase
Std. Deviation 24.8 13.7 18.2
Mean 69.4 37.4 38.2
Zanjira
Std. Deviation 20.3 14.2 17.3
Mean 83.2 43.1 49.5
Zeryaqob
Std. Deviation 20.0 10.7 14.6
Mean 75.1 39.1 41.4
Total
Std. Deviation 23.7 13.3 17.3

Figure 5. Bar Graphs Showing Mean Fluency Scores by School

The foundation for skilled reading begins at birth. When we are born we come prepared to
capture the sounds that make up the initial language we are exposed to. Those sounds (called

16
phonemes) form the building blocks for the spoken language we learn, and they map onto the
written language we will learn to read.

During the period from year1 to around year 3, we learn to speak. Typically, between 4 and 6
years of age, we begin to learn the alphabet. The first skill that is mastered is the ability to
recognize and name letters and this is followed by the development of the ability to attach
speech sounds to letters. Learning letter names and letter sounds typically produces two skills
that are critical for normal reading development. The first skill is the recognition that the
sounds of the language we speak can be decomposed into individual sounds that map onto the
sounds that letters make. The realization that there is a relationship between the sounds
making up spoken words and the sounds that letters make is called the 'alphabetic principle.'
The second skill that must be developed is called phonological awareness. Phonological
awareness is the recognition that the words we speak can be broken into individual sounds
(phonemes) and these sounds can be combined in many different ways to form other words.

The next phase of reading development involves the acquisition of automatic, low-level
skills. Low level skills are letter and word recognition. A skill is automatic if the skill can be
performed rapidly without thought. Skilled readers don't think about letters when they read
and they typically don't think about words (unless they are unusual). When a skilled reader
reads, all he or she is aware of is the meaning of the words being read. Automatic letter and
word recognition is the product of reading practice. Automatic word recognition is also
facilitated by the ability to sound out letter sequences so that we can recognize them as
words. Some children learn to sound out on their own but others require systematic
instruction (commonly called phonics instruction) in how to attach sounds to letters and to
then blend those sounds to form words. As reading skill develops, the normal reader relies
less on sounding out (a conscious thought process) and more on automatic word recognition
(learn more about developing automatic skills).

3.4.5 Reading Comprehension

The reading comprehension was composed of five items based on the passage which contains
62 words targeted at Grade 2. Students at this grade and age levels are expected to read one
word per second and be able to comprehend what they read aloud or silently. Item and test
analysis of the comprehension questions are presented in this section.

17
The reliability of the test was moderate (Cronbach‘s Alpha = 0.652). The mean item
difficulty was 0.59 with the range of 0.29 to 0.74 (Table 9).

Table 9Reading Comprehension Item Statistics


Item Mean Std. Deviation N
1 .69 .465 359
2 .70 .458 359
3 .53 .499 359
4 .74 .439 359
5 .29 .453 359

The item characteristic curves (Figure 6), the item person dual plot (Figure 7), and the
parameter estimates(Figure 8)based on the IRT producers show a mix of results where Item 4
perfectly fits a normal Ojive shape dividing the low achievers from the high achievers into
two groups. While Items 1 and 2 were easier for both groups and Items 4 and 5 were favoring
high achievers.

Figure 6. Reading Comprehension Item Characteristic Curve

18
Figure 7. Reading Comprehension Item person dual plot

Figure 8. Reading Comprehension Parameter Estimates

19
3.4.6 Reading Comprehension by School

The recursive partitioning analysis of the comprehension score by school shows that the
differences in school accounted for 6.8% (R2= 0.068) of the variationsin reading
comprehension score (Figure 9). Schools in the urban setting performed relatively better than
those in the rural settings. The mean score for the highest performing school was 75.7%
while that of the least performing one was 52.3%.

Figure 9. Recursive Partitioning Analysis of Reading Comprehension by School

20
3.4.7 Listening Comprehension

When a solid foundation of automatic word recognition has developed we move into the
period where we can readily comprehend what we are reading. Reading comprehension at its
simplest is decoding (identifying written words) plus listening comprehension. There is solid
research evidence that we activate the speech areas of the brain when we read, and in essence,
what we are doing is listening to ourselves talk when we read. We don't realize this because it
typically happens so fast that we are not aware of the speech part of the process. However, try
reading material that is very complicated in wording or dense in thoughts and you will often
find that you talk to yourself as you read. Reading comprehension is closely tied to learning.
If we read text that is about familiar information, we read easily and with good
comprehension. When we move to new content though (like reading about molecular
biology) we are back to reading comprehension being an effortful process. This means that
reading with comprehension can be a continuous process if we are learning new content.

The listening comprehension was composed of five items based on the passage which
contains 38 words targeted at Grade 2 level. Item and test analysis of the listening
comprehension questions are presented in this section.The reliability of the test was low
(Cronbach‘s Alpha = 0.482). The mean item difficulty was 0.701 with the range of 0.33 to
0.96 (Table 10). The mean scaled score was 3.5 with a standard deviation of 1.36.

Table 10Listening ComprehensionItem Statistics


Std.
Mean Deviation N
Item 1 .96 .194 359
Item 2 .70 .459 359
Item 3 .73 .446 359
Item 4 .33 .472 359
Item 5 .78 .413 359

The item characteristic curves (Figure 10), the item person dual plot (Figure 11), and the
parameter estimates (Figure 12) based on the IRT producers show a mix of results where
Item 1 was found list discriminating Item 5 fits a normal Ojive shape and Item 4 was found
favoring high achievers.

21
Figure 10. Listening Comprehension Item Characteristic Curve

Figure 11. Listening Comprehension Item Person Dual Plot

22
Figure 12. Listening Comprehension Parameter Estimates

3.4.8 Listening Comprehension by School

The recursive partitioning analysis by school shows that the differences in school accounted
for 13.8% (R2= 0.138) of the variations in listening comprehension score (Figure 13).
Schools in the urban setting performed better than those in the rural settings. The mean score
for the highest performing school was 87% while that of the lowest performing one was 61%.
The school which performed best in the reading comprehension also performed best listening
comprehension.

23
Figure 13. Recursive partitioning analysis of listening comprehension by school

24
3.5 Hand Writing

A child's writing development parallels its development as a reader. Print awareness develops
in young children as a result of being read to by adults and having other literacy experiences.
Part of print awareness is the realization that writing is created with instruments such as pens,
pencils, crayons and markers. Children begin to imitate the writing that they see in the
environment. At first glance, the efforts of a young child may look like meaningless scribble,
but a closer look at these early attempts at writing will reveal something more. Young
children move through a series of stages as they are learning to write. The stages reflect a
child's growing knowledge of the conventions of literacy, including letters, sounds and
spacing of words within sentences.

The hand writing test was composed of three parts: copying words, labeling diagrams and
copying sentences.

3.5.1 Copying Words

Students were asked to copy four separate words and almost all of them were able to copy the
words with legible handwriting. The reliability of the test was very high (Cronbach‘s Alpha =
.889). The mean item difficulty was .96with the range of .95 to .98 (Table 11). The mean
scaled scored was 3.86 with a standard deviation of .634.

Table 11Copying WordsItem Statistics


Std.
Mean Deviation N
ደብተር .96 .187 359
መጽሀፍ .98 .148 359
ተነስ .96 .207 359
ተሰበረ .96 .194 359

3.5.2 Labeling Diagrams

Students were asked to write the names of diagrams. The reliability of the test of labeling
diagrams was very high (Cronbach‘s Alpha = .835). The mean item difficulty was .96with the
range of .95 to .96 (

25
Table 12). The mean scaled scored was 2.86 with a Sd of .299. Most students were able to
write the caption to the familiar diagrams they were asked to label.

26
Table 12Labeling Diagram Item Statistics
Std.
Mean Deviation N
አበባ .96 .194 359
ውሻ .95 .219 359
አህያ .95 .219 359

3.5.3 Copying Connected Words

The reliability of the test of labeling diagrams was very high (Cronbach‘s Alpha = .904). The
mean item difficulty was .787with the range of .588. The mean scaled scored was 12.58 with
a Standard deviation of 3.58. Most students were able to write the caption to the familiar
diagrams they were asked to label. The main problems observed in handwriting were
inability to break words using spaces and the use of punctuation marks. The difficulty level
of the use of end of sentences punctuation marks were 0.49 for four points (full stop) and
0.37 for question marks (Table 13).

Table 13Copying Connected Words Item Statistics


Mean Std. Deviation N
አበበች .96 .194 359
ባዶ ቦታ .74 .439 359
ጎበዝ .96 .194 359
ባዶ ቦታ .71 .454 359
ተማሪ .95 .219 359
ባዶ ቦታ .70 .457 359
ነች .96 .200 359
። .49 .501 359
ወደ .96 .207 359
ባዶ ቦታ .65 .478 359
አገርህ .95 .219 359
ባዶ ቦታ .65 .476 359
መቼ .93 .250 359
ባዶ ቦታ .66 .473 359
ትመለሳለህ .93 .250 359
? .37 .484 359

27
3.6 Comparison with EGRA Ethiopia

This study used the EGRA Ethiopia tools prepared in Amharic with slight modifications.
EGRA Ethiopia was carried out in May 2010 and it was one of the largest in terms of sample
size and design complexity (Piper, 2010). There is a significant disparity in the results
achieved by the students who took part in this study, compared with the results achieved by
average students in the Amhara region on the National EGRA. On the whole, students in this
study performed significantly better than students in the National Study, where almost 50%
of 2nd graders were unable to read a single word on the Reading Comprehension test (Piper,
2010).

Though some differences in testing methodology existed between the two studies, based on
one-to-one discussions with students, teachers and school administrators, the ongoing
activities of EDA in these schools and communities were identified as a significant
contributing factor to the positive outcomes. Though the performance of the students is better
when compared with the previous study this does not mean students achieved the expected
levels. Further consultation with teachers and administrators suggested that schools in the
rural areas not heavily served by EDA activities would probably not have achieved similar
results.

3.7 Students’ Background Variables and Achievement Levels


In this section the result of multiple regression analysis models are presented to explore the
contribution of the background variables to the reading levels of the students.

3.7.1 Multiple Regression Analysis Reading Comprehension


Multiple regression analysis was carried out using the reading comprehension scores as a
dependent variable and several student level factors as independent variables. The regression
model was good fit (R2 = .5154), and the overall relationship was statistically significant
(F19, 339 = 17.97, p < 0.001). It means the regression model was able to explain 51.54% of the
variations observed between the students in the average reading comprehension score
(Table 14).

28
Table 14. Multiple regression analysis reading comprehension
Source SS df MS Number of obs = 359
F( 20, 338) = 17.97
Model 413.914432 20 20.6957216 Prob > F = 0.0000
Residual 389.183061 338 1.15142917 R-squared = 0.5154
Adj R-squared = 0.4867
Total 803.097493 358 2.24328909 Root MSE = 1.073

From the students‘ background variables the two most important factors that strongly
affected the reading comprehension average score were possession of books other than
textbooks and preschool attendance. In addition the contribution of knowledge of letter
names, ability to read connected words and listening comprehension score to the regression
model were also found statistically significant.

3.7.2 Multiple Regression Analysis


Multiple regression analysis was carried out using the listening comprehension scores as a
dependent variable and several student level factors as independent variables. The regression
model was a weak fit (R2 = .1050), and the overall relationship was statistically significant
(F19, 339 = 2.09, p < 0.01). It means the regression model was able to explain 10.5% of the
variations observed between the students in the average listening comprehension score (Table
15).

Table 15. Multiple regression analysis listening comprehension

Source SS df MS Number of obs = 359


F( 19, 339) = 2.09
Model 51.2227904 19 2.69593634 Prob > F = 0.0051
Residual 436.520942 339 1.2876724 R-squared = 0.1050
Adj R-squared = 0.0549
Total 487.743733 358 1.36241266 Root MSE = 1.1348

29
4 Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations
This chapter presents the main findings followed by conclusions made based on these
findings and recommendations.

4.1 Summary
This Early Grade Reading and Writing study was carried out in Grades 2, 3 and 4 students in
Amhara region around Debirbirhan where EDA is operating. A sample of 359 students drawn
from 6 schools (3 urban and 3 rural), their teachers and the schools‘ directors participated in
the study. Students took tests on reading and writing which were administered on a one-to-
one basis. Students, teachers and school directors also responded to questionnaires and
interviews.

The reading test was composed of five parts: identifying letters, word reading, story reading,
reading comprehension, and listening comprehension. The first three parts were measuring
fluency and timed to one minute each: Letter Per Minute (LPM), Word Per Minute (WPM)
and Connected Word Per Minute (CWPM). The remaining two measured the understanding
level of the students. A total of 359 students took the test and the minimum number of letters
or words read in each case was 0 and those who read the maximum number were able to read
all the letters and words. The mean LPM was 75.1 (SD=23.72), the mean WPM was
39.2(SD=39.2) and the mean CWPM was 41.4 (17.2). The standard deviations were found
very high in each case indicating the existence of wide variation.

The top 10% of the examinees were able to read almost all letters and words per minute while
the bottom 10% were able to read at most 39 LPM, 18 WPM, and 16 CWPM. The median
score shows that 50% of the examinee were able to read at least 80 LPM, 49 WPM, 45
CWPM in each case. The mean LPM, WPM and CWPM were 75.1, 39.1 and 41.4
respectively. The mean fluency levels of Grade 2 (64.2, 31.4 and 31.6) were found below the
grand mean. In each case the standard deviation in Grade 2 was found highest indicating the
presence of wide variations at lower grade levels.

The mean fluency levels of girls were found higher than that of boys in all cases at all grade
levels. The standard deviations in both cases were high indicating the existence of wide
variations within the group. The variation between boys is wider than that of girls. The
performance of girls was found to be better than that of boys, unlike previously conducted in

30
Ethiopia. Looking at grade levels mean LPM increased from lower to higher grade levels
while the standard deviation decreased.

The average LPM for urban schools is 79.12, which was higher than the 71.1 found in rural
schools. The standard deviations in both cases were high indicating the existence of wide
variations within the group. Looking at grade levels mean LPM increased from lower to
higher grade levels while the standard deviation decreased.

The average LPM, WPM, and CWPM for the highest performing school were 83.2, 39.1 and
41.4 respectively and for the lowest performing school were 67.9, 35.7 and 36.9. High
standard deviations were observed in most cases indicating the existence of wide within
group variations.

The reading comprehension was composed of five items based on the passage which contains
62 words targeted at Grade 2. Students at this grade and age levels are expected to read one
word per second and be able to comprehend what they read aloud or silently. Item and test
analysis of the comprehension questions presented show that the reliability of the test was
moderate (Cronbach‘s Alpha = 0.652). The mean item difficulty was 0.59 with the range of
0.29 to 0.74.The recursive partitioning analysis of the comprehension score by school shows
that the differences in school accounted for 6.8% (R2= 0.068) of the variations in reading
comprehension score. Schools in the urban setting performed relatively better than those in
the rural settings. The mean score for the highest performing school was 75.7% while that of
the lowest performing one was 52.3%.

The listening comprehension was composed of five items based on the passage which
contains 38 words targeted at Grade 2 level. Item and test analysis of the listening
comprehension questions showed that the reliability of the test was low (Cronbach‘s Alpha =
0.482). The mean item difficulty was 0.701 with the range of 0.33 to 0.96. The mean scaled
score was 3.5 with a standard deviation of 1.36.

The recursive partitioning analysis by school shows that the differences in school accounted
for 13.8% (R2= 0.138) of the variations in listening comprehension scores. Schools in the
urban setting were found performing better than those in the rural settings. The mean score
for the highest performing school was 87% while that of the least performing one was 61%.
The same school which performed best in the reading comprehension also performed best in
the listening comprehension.

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The hand writing test was composed of three parts: copying words, labeling diagrams and
copying sentences. Students were asked to copy four separate words and almost all of them
were able to copy the words with legible handwriting. The reliability of the test was very high
(Cronbach‘s Alpha = .889). The mean item difficulty was .96with the range of .95 to .98. The
mean scaled scored was 3.86 with a standard deviation of .634.

Students were asked to write the names of diagrams. The reliability of the test of labeling
diagrams was very high (Cronbach‘s Alpha = .835). The mean item difficulty was .96 with
the range of .95 to .96. The mean scaled scored was 2.86 with a standard deviation of .299.
Most students were able to write the caption to the familiar diagrams they were asked to
label.

The reliability of the test of labeling diagrams was very high (Cronbach‘s Alpha = .904). The
mean item difficulty was .787with the range of .588. The mean scaled scored was 12.58 with
a standard deviation of 3.58. Most students were able to write the caption to the familiar
diagrams they were asked to label. The main problems observed in handwriting were
inability to break words using spaces and the use of punctuation marks. The difficulty level
of the use of end of sentences punctuation marks were 0.49 for four points (full stop) and
0.37 for question marks.

This study used the EGRA Ethiopia tools prepared in Amharic with slight modifications.
There is a significant disparity in the results achieved by the students who took part in this
study, compared with the results achieved by average students in the Amhara region on the
National EGRA. On the whole, students in this study performed significantly better than
students in the National Study, where almost 50% of 2nd graders were unable to read a single
word on the Reading Comprehension test. Though some differences in testing methodology
existed between the two studies, based on one-to-one discussions with students, teachers and
school administrators, the ongoing activities of EDA in these schools and communities were
identified as a significant contributing factor to the positive outcomes. Even if the
performance of the students is better when compared with the previous study this does not
mean students achieved the expected levels. Further consultation with teachers and
administrators suggested that schools in the rural areas not heavily served by EDA activities
would probably not have achieved similar results.

Looking at the background variables, almost all students have the Amharic Text book and
89.4% use it regularly in their class, 66.9% of the students have someone who helps them in

32
their studies at home. In 86.4% cases there is at least one other person who is currently
enrolled in school, in 60.2% cases their mother or a female guardian can read and write while
79.8% said their father or a male guardian can read and write. About 53.2% said they have
books other than their textbooks in their house and 72.4% said they read books other than
their textbooks, 51.5% discuss about the books they read with their friend, 67.1% said there is
someone who reads books to them at home and in 55.3% cases parents tell them short stories
or fables.

In relation to their school experiences, about 39.8% of the students were absent from school
for more than five days this academic year. Only 3.9% of the students prefer to stay at home
than to go to school and 4.7% are not encouraged by their parents to pursue their education.
In 54.9% cases the students attended preschool education.

In some schools there are libraries and in others they do not have. In schools where there are
libraries students in the early grades have limited accesses. In one of the schools there are
enough books that are written for children while in others there are few. In all the schools
each student has the Amharic textbook and teachers have Teacher‘s Guide. Experts in the
field advise that one of the strongest predictors of reading achievement is the availability of
print materials in schools and at home. It is good that each student has a textbook; however
books written for children are equally important and they should be abundant.

The time allocated for Amharic is four periods a week and out of this in most cases not more
than an hour is used for reading. Researches show that at the early grade levels a school
should allocate a minimum of one hour per day for reading. The time allocated for teaching
the mother tongue including reading, writing and other communication skills in the schools
relative to other subjects is relatively low suggesting again an underestimation of the critical
nature of these skills. One need not, however, lose sight of the critical roles of these two
skills in learning other skills. When students learn these two skills, they are also learning a
method of learning other subjects. Tailored teachers trainings, time on reading and abundance
of print in the school are believed to enhance reading levels in young children.

The major problems related to teaching and learning how to read according to the directors
and teachers were the absence of clear, standardized guidelines for teachers on how to teach
reading and writing, a poor culture of regular reading, limited access to print materials, a lack
of parental support and limited time allocated to Amharic subject.

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The school leadership and teachers are trying to address some of the problems they
encountered by providing tutorial sessions, creating book corners and mini-libraries and
differentiating students into groups. To address the problems mentioned above, they also
suggested: a be provision of targeted continuous professional development support for
teachers by experts in the field, that reading centers be established at schools as well as in the
community, that print materials for children be abundant and that children should pass
through preprimary classes and be fully prepared before they join Grade 1.

In almost all cases teachers and directors did not get any special training on how to teach
reading and writing in early grades. One normally assumes that the training of teachers and
directors in these fields affects their practices. If teachers and directors had some training
(either in pre-service or in-service or both programs) in teaching early grade reading and
writing, it follows that students should have better skills in reading and writing. Teachers
who had received training claimed that their pre-service or in-service training was short and
insufficient.

Print materials were not observed to be found in sufficient quantity either at the school or the
classroom level. In some cases, words displayed on school walls are observable but only in
limited numbers. In some classrooms, only teaching materials, such as, textbooks, teacher
guides, teacher-written letters (on classroom walls), etc., are noticeable, yet not found in
sufficient quantities. It is only in limited cases that student works, such as, student written
letters or and writing examples (such as, newspapers, posters, maps, etc.) are displayed on
bulletin boards and school and classroom walls.

Furthermore students were not observed reading individually or in groups inside or outside
the school. The absence of student work and independent or shared reading suggest that
teacher centered education is prominent in the observed schools.

34
4.2 Conclusions
Based on the findings of the study the following conclusions are made:

There exist variations in the achievement levels within and between schools this is
in line with other studies conducted in Ethiopia at different levels.
Students in the urban schools were performing better than their counterparts in
rural schools.
Attendance of preprimary classes strongly determined the reading comprehension
score
Availability of books other than textbooks determined the reading comprehension
score
Girls are performing better than boys and this is quite different from other large
scale studies conducted in Ethiopia including EGRA.
Teachers and directors are not trained to address with techniques that help to
overcome reading difficulties.
Teachers are not getting continuous support and follow up from reading experts.
Students are not getting the necessary support required to excel in basic literacy.
The reading culture within and outside the school is poor.
There are limited print materials targeted to young children in schools and at
home.
Sufficient time is not allotted for independent and shared reading.
Parental support is limited and students come to school without the necessary
preparation.
Students in urban school, and communities where EDA has directed it actions
seem to be much more advanced than students in rural areas, where EDA has not
been active.

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4.3 Recommendations

In this study most students from rural schools as well as the urban ones were found struggling
to recognize words and read sentences targeted at the level of Grade 2. The study showed that
teachers lack support and basic content knowledge of how to teach reading, instructional time
for reading is minimal, students have few interactions with print, and students did not get the
necessary parental support.

Researches show that a special area in the brain becomes active when students start reading
faster. When that area is activated, reading becomes effortless and automatic. Students‘
progress from decoding individual letters to perceiving entire words and turn their attention
to the meaning of texts rather than the letters. The prerequisite for activating the visual word
form is practice. Based on the findings of the study and other best practices quick and
sizeable gains are possible, if the following recommendations are applied:

Establishing preprimary classes in the rural areas to enhance reading


preparedness;
Focusing attention on rural schools;
Establishing reading corners and mini libraries in schools and in the community;
Producing culturally relevant supplementary reading materials targeted to age and
grade levels;
Making sufficient amounts of print materials for students to practice and take
home;
Providing teachers and school directors with tailor made intensive trainings on
how to teach reading and writing at early grades;
Provision of relatively short and defined courses on reading fundamentals, with
specific speed and accuracy objectives;
Placement of the better teachers in the lower grades wherever possible and
supplying scripted lesson plans and materials that teachers of limited education
can easily follow;
Intensive supervision, systematic visits and informal reading assessments;
Use of additional instructional time for reading, creating community awareness of
reading needs and monitoring; and
Introducing adult literacy program in the rural areas and creatingconducive
environment where children can practice reading with their parents.

36
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