Preparing your child for Maryland's Functional Reading Test

March 08, 2001

Preparing your child for Maryland's Functional Reading Test

Teaching your child | By Lisa Tedrick Prejean

Is your child ready for the Maryland Functional Reading Test?

The test will be given Tuesday, April 3, in Washington County public schools to students new to the state of Maryland; students in seventh grade or higher who haven't passed the test previously; and all sixth-graders.

Students may retake the test each year until they pass, but it is a graduation requirement, says Carol Mowen, literacy resource teacher at Springfield Middle School in Williamsport, who this week was named Washington County schools' public information officer.

The Maryland Functional Tests were developed in the 1980s to ensure that Maryland's high school graduates were competent in several areas, according to Maryland State Department of Education's Web site,


The tests were designed to measure basic skills and functional knowledge. Tentatively planned for fall 2003, students entering grade nine will be required to take and pass Maryland High School Assessments as a requirement for graduation. As new high school assessments are required for graduation, these will replace the Maryland Functional Tests.

Parents can help by reinforcing functional reading skills at home.

The reading test measures how well a student reads for information or to perform a task, Mowen says.

"It's everyday reading a person will encounter in his or her life," Mowen says. "Most students pass it the first time through."

Last year, 98.5 percent of students passed the test by the ninth grade, and 99.8 percent had passed by the 11th grade.

There are five parts of the test:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Following directions.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Locating information.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Gaining information from the main idea.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Gaining information from details.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Understanding forms.

Each part has five to 10 questions.

The most difficult part for many students is gaining information from the main idea, Mowen says.

She recommends talking to children about textbook reading assignments and asking them about main ideas. Or, take a work-related memo home and ask your child to determine the main idea. Find the main idea in a video store rental, car rental or service agreement.

Here are other suggestions from Mowen:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Read location maps at shopping malls and doctors offices with your child. Identify the map's features. Talk about ways to orient yourself and how to find information. Ask your child how to get from the entrance to a particular shop or office.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> While looking at a driving map, ask your child to plan a trip from Hagerstown to Baltimore. Which way is north, south, east, west? Talk about the difference between state roads and Interstate highways. Which Interstate should be taken? What beltway goes around the hub of the city?

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Read together labels for prescription and over-the-counter medications. What does the word dosage mean?

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Practice locating information in a glossary or dictionary. Look at an index for a magazine and ask your child where to find specific information.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Bring home forms from work. Talk about the meaning of terms such as spouse, occupation and mother's maiden name.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Talk about how to set up a checkbook, read a recipe and plan a grocery shopping trip.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Tell your child to carefully read directions for each question on the test. Also make sure he or she gets enough rest the night before and eats breakfast that morning.

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