A scholarly examination of the measurement of reading ability.
Education research professor Stenner (Education/Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and clinical psychologist Stone (Psychology/Aurora Univ.) structure their debut book around two questions: “How shall we explain reading ability?” and “Does the reader comprehend the text because the reader is able or because the text is easy?” They address these issues with one overarching aim—to develop an accurate instrument for measuring reading ability. Previous attempts to devise such an instrument, the authors contend, suffered from the absence of a substantive theory; without one, a test maker can’t determine what components of a test item are truly essential, making it impossible to replicate. Ultimately, Stenner and Stone argue for a specific combination of a Rasch psychological-testing model and widely accepted Lexile reading theory, expressed as an equation. Undergirding their entire argument is a desire to more closely model social science on physical science. Along the way, the authors helpfully illustrate their thesis by developing an analogy between reading measurement and temperature measurement: Different thermometers may yield different temperatures of different objects, they note, but the thermometers themselves are accepted as accurate measuring instruments, due to “well-developed construct theory, rigorously established instrument engineering principles, and uniform metrological conventions.” Stenner and Stone have been collaborating on reading and testing issues for more than 40 years, and their cumulative experience and expertise is beyond reproach. Also, the rigor of their work is matched by a pragmatic devotion to actionable results and a deep philosophical ambition to make social science more scientific. That said, this is more a collection of previously published papers than a unified monograph, so there’s a great deal of repetition. The prose is also forbiddingly technical and only other academics with expertise in this particular area are likely to find it digestible.
An exacting study, but one that will likely be inaccessible to lay readers.