The World Bank commissioned the National Council of Educational Research and Training (New Delhi) in February 1995 to assess the readability of primary level text-books in collaboration with CIIL (Mysore). Six states were covered: Assam, Haryana, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. The results were published in IER: Special Number 1995.
The analysis was based on the assumption that ‘if 20 per cent of the children score above 75 per cent of the marks and less than 16 per cent of the sample score below 25 per cent of marks, the book could be considered fairly appropriate in terms of readability’. “This rationale is based on,” the report says, “(a) the assumption of normal distribution, and (b) the principle followed in textbook writing of pitching the level a little higher than the average.”
J. Charles Alderson discusses the several techniques for testing reading in his book titled Assessing Reading. Frederick J. Kelly’s multiple-choice questions and Wilson Taylor’s cloze procedure are two of the popular techniques. These tests are easy to administer and it has been found that there is a mathematical relationship between the scores obtained by each of them.
The average syllable has three letters, of which two are usually consonants and one is a vowel. Alderson points to the fact that the English consonants convey more information than the vowels. “Thus it is easier to restore vowels in distorted words than the consonants: _n _ngl_sh th_ c_ns_n_nts _r_ m_r_ _nf_rm_t_v_ th_n v_w_ls.” Why shouldn’t this fact be used to test reading? We will call this the vocalic cloze procedure.
By deleting all the vowels in a sample of 100 words, the vocalic cloze procedure may be administered to a class of students, whose task is to fill in the blanks till time is called. Fifteen minutes may be more than sufficient for the test. Count every word that is completely filled and ignore the rest. The text from which the sample is drawn may be considered suitable for the class if: a) At least 20 per cent of the students score more than 75 marks; and b) Less than 16 per cent of them score below 25 per cent.
If the class takes a test on at least three samples from the text, then the scores would make the vocalic cloze procedure more reliable.