Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Students' Reading Achievement during the Transition from Primary to Secondary School

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Students' Reading Achievement during the Transition from Primary to Secondary School

Article excerpt

Introduction

Adolescent literacy achievement has been, and continues to be, a hot topic in the educational community, with concerns about students' literacy capabilities consistently dominating the educational landscape. According to national reports and results from high stakes testing, such as the National Assessment Program--Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN), Australia faces a serious issue in terms of of declining literacy achievement (Dugdale & Clark, 2008). Past research and government reports (see Dugdale & Clark, 2008) have proposed that literacy levels in the adolescent years are in decline; so much so that some adolescents fail to achieve the required grade level standards by the time they leave school or drop out of school early without the necessary literacy skills to read or write at a functional level (Snipes & Horwitz, 2008). As a consequence, these students fail to acquire the adequate skills needed for active participation in contemporary society later in their lives (see PISA, 2012; Bronzo, 2009; Greenleaf & Hinchman, 2009; Freebody, 2007). This is concerning as it has been found that entering the workforce or entering further education can become increasingly difficult for indivuals who possess low literacy skills (Ailwood, 2001; Bronzo, 2010; Freebody, 2007; Goiran-Bevelhimer, 2008; Lingard, 2011; Mills, 2003). As a result, many Australian students are in need of significant literacy support during their time in secondary school (Freebody, 2007; Hanewald, 2013; Woolley & Hay, 2011).

Despite there being a number of factors which contribute to a student's literacy development, one particular period that has been identified to present difficulties for students' literacy attainment is the transition phase. This is defined in the context of this research as the move students make from primary school (Year 6) to secondary school (Year 7). Research has identified that the transition period can be problematic for some students, suggesting that as students transition from the primary school years into the secondary school years, their literacy achievement stalls, or in more serious cases, declines to levels below that of their primary school years (Hanewald, 2013). This suggests that transition can have a detrimental impact on students' educational success (Akos & Galassi, 2004; Alspaugh, 1998; Galton, Grey & Ruddock, 1999; Huggins & Knight, 1997; Nield, 2009; Pervin, 2005; West & Schwerdt, 2012; Zeedyk et al., 2003).

Understanding that the transition from primary to secondary school can have negative impacts upon student achievement is not a new revelation, with research in this area dating back to over 40 years ago. In their Scotland based study, Nisbet and Entwistle (1969) investigated the effect transition had on students' academic progress. They concluded that certain groups of students, such as those who already found school a challenge, had low motivation or came from low income backgrounds, were more likely to experience negative outcomes as they transitioned into secondary school. Since this time, numerous research studies have been conducted in the hope of developing further understandings as to why the transition phase can present such difficulties for students. For example, research conducted in the United States by West and Schwerdt (2012) investigated whether transition had an effect on students' achievement as they transitioned into middle school (Year 6 or Year 7) and secondary school (Year 8 to Year 9). The researchers found that the process of transition caused a substantial drop in students' test scores the first year following transition for those students who transitioned from Year 6 (primary school) to Year 7 (secondary school). A small drop in achievement for students transitioning into secondary school from Year 8 to Year 9 was also found, with students experiencing declines in the areas of mathematics and reading, which equated to a loss of between 3. …

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