April 28, 2016

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

Amanda Barlow, Mara Charles, April Ward Win First Place Honors at Georgia Speech-Language-Hearing Association Annual Convention

Pictured from left to right are Amanda Barlow, Mara Charles, and April Ward.

VALDOSTA — Amanda Barlow, Mara Charles, and April Ward’s “Readability and its Effects on Standardized Assessment Outcomes” won first place in the undergraduate research student poster competition at the 2016 Georgia Speech-Language-Hearing Association Annual Convention.

Barlow, Charles, and Ward are students in Valdosta State University’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. All three will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Education, with a major in communication disorders, on Saturday, May 7.

Describing the award-winning research, Charles said, “Readability describes a reader’s ease in understanding written text. When the readability of text on standardized measurements does not match the intended grade level, results cannot be considered accurate. Therefore, the students’ knowledge of particular content may be misinterpreted, which could result in an incorrect diagnosis concerning reading ability. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the readability level of passages on three standardized measurements — the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), the Gray Oral Reading Test (GORT), and the Georgia Milestones Assessment System (GMAS). Three readability tools were used to measure readability levels — Microsoft Word, an online readability calculator, and calculation by hand using a readability formula.”

The results indicated that the readability level on each standardized assessment varied, coming in at either above or below the fifth grade level as opposed to on the fifth grade level.

“Some results showed that the readability level was too high or too low for children in the fifth grade, but most proved to be too high,” Barlow said. “This lead us to believe that these high stakes standardized tests may not be reliable for testing children in the fifth grade if the child is unable to read a passage on the test. Further research should be conducted in order for readability level concerns to be eliminated from influencing student performance on these high stakes standardized assessments that … (are used to determine whether or not a student passes) to the next grade.”

Barlow, Charles, and Ward’s research was guided by three faculty members from the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders — Dr. Corine Myers-Jennings, professor and department head; Dr. Ruth Renee Hannibal, associate professor; and Dr. Crystal Randolph, assistant professor.

“It is an incredible feeling when you realize your hard work has paid off,” Ward said. “We spent a great deal of time on this research poster, so hearing our names called for the best poster award was truly rewarding.”

During the three-day Georgia Speech-Language-Hearing Association Annual Convention, Barlow, Charles, and Ward were able to expand their knowledge base by listening to nationally, state, and locally recognized experts from the speech-language pathology, audiology, occupational therapy, and assistive technology fields. They were also able to network with educators and professionals in their chosen career field and learn about the latest research being conducted by students at colleges and universities around the state.

The Georgia Speech-Language-Hearing Association is a professional association of individuals specializing in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of communication, swallowing, and hearing disorders. It advocates for the professional interests of its members and the individuals they serve and provides a forum for the exchange of professional information and ideas.

Barlow, 21, is a member of the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association and a Relay for Life volunteer. She also enjoys serving her community through CrossPointe Church of Valdosta. She earned the Best Poster Award for the James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education and Human Services at VSU’s 2015 Undergraduate Research Symposium and the college’s 2016 Outstanding Undergraduate Student Research Award. She is the daughter of Brian and Stephanie Barlow of Woodbine, Georgia.

Charles, 22, is a member of the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association; Sigma Alpha Pi: The National Society of Leadership and Success; the National Residence Hall Honorary, where she served as vice president of administration in 2015; Alpha Lambda Delta Freshman Honor Society; and the Honors Student Association, where she served as sophomore class representative from 2013 to 2014, vice president in 2015, and treasurer from 2014 to 2016. She previously served as treasurer of the Reade Hall Council from 2012 to 2013 and a member of the Residence Hall Association, where she represented VSU as a delegate at the South Atlantic Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls Regional Conference in 2012, National Association of College and University Residence Halls National Conference in 2013, and the Georgia Residence Hall Organization State Conference in 2014 and 2015.  She has volunteered her time in service to Second Harvest Food Bank, the VSU Society for International Students International Dinner, Rivers Alive, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the VSU Move-In Day Crew, and Moody Air Force Base’s Child Expo, as well as Relay for Life, where she was a team captain in 2015 and 2016. She has earned the 2013 VSU Girls Rock Award for Most Philanthropic, the 2014 and 2016 Outstanding Leadership and Service Award from VSU’s National Residence Hall Honorary, the 2014 Literary Guild Book Award from the VSU Honors College, the Best Poster Award for the James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education and Human Services at VSU’s 2015 Undergraduate Research Symposium, the 2015 Dorothy Dewar Service Scholarship, the 2016 Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award from VSU’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, the 2016 President’s Award for Academic Excellence for the Dewar College of Education and Human Services, and a 2016 American Association of University Women Award. She was nominated for First-Year Student of the Month in 2013 and was honorably mentioned by the selection committee for the 2015 Bartram Award for Intellectual Exploration, presented by the VSU Honors College. She is the daughter of Boisy and Marcella R. Charles of Savannah, Georgia.

Ward, 22, is a member of the National Residence Hall Honorary, Sigma Alpha Pi: The National Society of Leadership and Success, and Kappa Delta Pi: International Honor Society in Education and vice president of the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association. She has volunteered her time in service to VSU’s Dance Marathon, which benefits the Children’s Miracle Network’s Shands Children’s Hospital at the University of Florida, and as a team captain for Relay for Life. She has earned the Outstanding National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association Student of the Year Award, the Robert A. Hull Memorial Scholarship, and the Best Poster Award for the James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education and Human Services at VSU’s 2015 Undergraduate Research Symposium. She is the daughter of Randolph Ward Jr. and Irene S. Ward of Richmond Hill, Georgia.

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