Book Lists Too Tough, Parents Say Fryer to Investigate Reading Program

Article excerpt

A new $250,000 reading program used by Duval County public schools provided some students with a personalized list of books to read this summer that many adults would struggle through.

Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace was suggested to a 13-year-old. A high school sophomore was told he has the literacy abilities of a college junior and should read The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton and Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes.

Parents say the books are too hard. And yesterday, Superintendent John Fryer said he has begun an investigation into the new literacy program, called Lexile Framework.

The problem likely started in April, when students took an exam to measure their reading abilities and determine at what grade level they read. The scores were used to create an individualized list of books students should read this summer to improve their skills.

Middle and high school students who correctly answered at least 90 percent of the questions were awarded the highest possible score, Fryer said. It is not known how or why that occurred.

But as a result, some high school students were told they read at the level of a junior in college, and certain middle school students were told they have the literacy skills of a high school senior.

Fryer is discussing the problem with the test manufacturers, North Carolina-based MetaMetrics.

"The test may not be hard enough and we will be in discussions to make it more difficult," Fryer said.

Officials with MetaMetrics could not be reached for comment. They did not return telephone messages left Wednesday and yesterday.

The school system plans to give the test again in September. …