SCSU works to identify student reading difficulties at St. James

Psychology professors and students from Southern Connecticut State University are assisting St. James School in Stratford and Helen Street School in Hamden, to identify children who have reading difficulties and work with them to improve their skills.

Deborah Carroll, professor of psychology, and Cheryl Durwin, assistant chairwoman of the Psychology Department, are coordinating the pilot project that began this year and involves kindergarten through grade two students at the two schools. They recently received a Connecticut State University grant to continue the program next year, when they will proceed to track those same students.

“Studies show that early identification and remediation are key in enabling children who struggle with reading to become successful readers,” Durwin said.

Although schools use tests to determine students’ reading ability and whether a child has special education needs, some of those tests have questionable reliability and validity, according to Carroll. Others don’t have norms to use as benchmarks of comparison.

“As a result, schools frequently over identify or under identify the number of students who need remedial help at that age level,” Carroll said.

Carroll added that SCSU is able to offer tests that have norms, which helps schools to identify students who need remedial reading help more accurately.

That helps to avoid the pitfalls of having students jump to more advanced reading assignments without mastering the skills that provide the building blocks, according to SCSU.

Carroll stressed the SCSU interns supplement the instruction provided by the schools and enable students to get one-on-one attention that otherwise might not be available regularly.

She added that the interns use various instructional methods when working with individual students, such as word family flash cards and shared book reading to promote vocabulary development and comprehension in early readers.

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