Developing a Test of Early Arabic Literacy Skills

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In recent years, stronger literacy development has emerged as a critically important issue in Arabic speaking nations. Results of international assessments indicate that most of the participating Arab countries are near the bottom of achievement levels. Additionally, recent studies indicate the prevalence rate of reading disability ranges from between 5 − 18%, which means that approximately one in six students may be at risk for poor reading outcomes. A necessary first step toward improving instructional programming that increases reading achievement is the development of standardized assessments that: 1) align with the construct of reading, 2) inform instructional planning, and 3) identify students potentially at-risk for poor reading outcomes. This manuscript presents the theoretical framework and a synthesis of the research that is guiding the development of the Test of Early Arabic Literacy Skills (TEALS), the first standardized measure of early literacy skills for students in grades 1 through 3. The TEALS will assess students’ reading ability across four areas: 1) word reading, 2) phonological processing, 3) orthographic processing, and 4) morphological processing. There are currently no standardized measures of Arabic reading available, and this constrains our ability to better understand reading development, and to improve reading instruction.