Why is assessment important?
 Reading is a complex activity
 Teachers must know:
 where skills break down
 how to address problems
Value of daily observations
 Informal observations are useful, but should not be
a teacher’s only form of assessment
 Observations can supplement assessment, but not
substitute for it — too unsystematic
Process of assessment across school year
 Screening assessments identify kids who may have
problems with language
 Diagnostic tools give specific information to plan
 Progress monitoring gives teacher feedback on
whether lessons and interventions are working
 Outcome measures at the end of the year help us
accumulate information across classrooms and schools
Assessing motivation
 Raises teacher awareness about what
motivates certain kids
 Allows teacher to:
 identify areas of interest
 connect frustrated readers with books that help
them overcome a reluctance to read
Finding time for assessment
 Myths:
 Assessment is very complicated
 Assessment is the job of special educators or
 Facts:
 Assessment can be quick and effective with the
right toolkit
 Assessment information is useful when collected
What makes a good assessment?
 Goes beyond identifying the problem and gives
specific information about what to do next
 Can be informal and quick, as long as it is
 Gives teacher feedback about whether
teaching practices are working
Timed assessments
 It’s not a race!
 Tester’s job to make sure timing aspect is de-emphasized
 Timing keeps assessments efficient — high quality
information in a short amount of time
 Measures student’s level of confidence with particular
 Student may have knowledge of skill but lack mastery,
need additional practice
 All measured skills are steppingstones to higher level
skills, so fluency and mastery are important
Assessing students with learning disabilities
 Distinguish between measures of time and power
 Are we looking at what the child knows, or how quickly
they can complete a task?
 Minimize impact of the disability
 Have a clear sense of the purpose of the assessment
 When measuring comprehension, offer multiple types of
comprehension exercises. Don’t confuse poor decoding with
poor comprehension skills!
 Targeted error analysis
 Find strengths and identify how to support learning
Metzger Elementary School, Portland, OR
Tiered instruction approach
 Students with greater needs get higher levels
of intensity
 Monitor progress to track improvement rate
The child is always right
 Metzger school district basic belief: we must teach all
children to read
 Weekly monitoring helps them ensure that progress is
adequate to reach literacy goals
 Inadequate progress means more support is needed
 If we want all children to reach the same goals, we have
to provide more support to some children than we do to
Good assessment can lead to better readers
 Evidence shows: Waiting doesn’t work!
 Children do not generally mature into good
 When a child is not making adequate progress,
action is needed to change trajectory
Assessment-driven instruction
 To be workable, it must be:
• Get maximum information in smallest amount of time
• Assess in order to make a decision — don’t spend six
weeks assessing!
• Tie assessment to a decision-making model
 Reliable and valid measures can lead to
improved outcomes
Challenges for teachers
 Student has been assessed — now what?
 Linking assessment results to appropriate intervention
 Student is receiving intervention but still not improving
 Knowing how to change intervention if it’s not working
 Professional development and coaching are essential
to provide answers to these challenges
Assessing struggling readers
 Identifying students at risk is easier than judging a
student’s progress
 We tend to think if we are teaching our hardest, progress is
being made
 Assessments tell us when students are not making progress
and we have to do something different
 Research shows that regular progress monitoring and
adjusted teaching methods can improve outcomes
 Bonus: Tracking progress regularly can be a motivating
factor for struggling readers!
Assessing stronger students
 Check in on these students regularly, but less
 Make sure advanced readers are not missing a
foundational skill
 Students missing essential skills can become at
risk later
Role of technology
 Technology plays a role in testing and in interventions
 Hand-held computers can:
Help perform assessments
Record progress for individual students
Synchronize to a database
Provide reports to teacher, principal, superintendent
Analysis software can:
• Show itemized student responses
• Suggest appropriate targets for instruction
• Suggest appropriate interventions
High stakes testing
 Legitimate need of stakeholders (parents, policymakers,
etc.) to see how effective teaching efforts are
 Tail wags the dog: To avoid being penalized, schools
spend class time preparing for high stakes tests
 Lost instructional time
 Test results are not useful for planning instruction, meeting
individual student needs
Parent role in assessment process
 Parents have unique knowledge of their child
 Knowledge of home life, cultural background
 Knowledge of child’s interests
 Gut-level concerns about child’s skills
 Treat parents as partners
 Share concrete examples from class work and assessments
 Invite parents to share observations
 Share your plan for helping this child — lay out the roadmap!
 Give parents ways to help at home
 Invite parents to share concerns, ideas
Arlington Intake Center, Arlington, VA
 Assesses English language learners before they enter school
 Health
 Family background
 Past schooling
 Literacy level and academic background
 Background knowledge in native language
 English language skills
Reading assessment for English language
 Challenge: Assessing primary language skills in hundreds
of different languages
 Check for strong primary language platform to build
English literacy skills
Rich language base?
Reading skills?
Print awareness?
Family literacy?
 Bilingualism sometimes treated as a deficit rather than an
 Bring positive approach to language learning!
Language of assessment
Assessment in primary language:
 Taps into child’s ability to gather information
and express ideas
 Gives teacher a sense of child’s interests and
 Helps teacher make learning relevant for that
Assessing preschoolers
 The earlier we identify a child’s needs, the better equipped
we are to address them
 Waiting jeopardizes emerging literacy platform —
problems don’t fix themselves
 Early failure eventually impacts child’s self image and self
• May begin to see lack of motivation, behavior problems
 Goal of early assessment is to identify strengths, needs,
and create environment for success
 Recognize and respond — not assign labels!
Recognition and Response model
Response-to-Intervention approach (originally designed for
school age students) used with younger children
Goal: Secure a high quality learning environment for all
 Tier 1: ‘High-Velcro environment’ — many places for kids
to connect with meaningful ideas and information
 Tier 2: For children who are not thriving, find out why —
use diagnostic tools to identify strengths, gaps in
knowledge, misconceptions
 Tier 3: Strategic, individualized approach for student who
is still not making progress — special education, speech
language services
How would this approach look in schools?
As it emerges, we will see:
 More dynamic classrooms
 Assessment embedded in daily activities
 Data and observations linked to instruction
 Assessment that forms a bridge between child
and content
 Bridge is explicit, systematic, and crossed
How are we doing now?
 Dramatic improvement in the last five years
 Approaching goal of every child being on track
with three tiers of support
 Becoming an expectation for schools
 Successful schools:
 Differentiate instruction based on systematic
collection and interpretation of data
 Utilize literacy coaches to help interpret data
 Requires new way of thinking about teaching
and learning
Talking to students about assessment
Getting kids on board
 It’s rewarding and empowering for students to
see their progress
 Self-assessment is important
 Who am I as a learner?
 What are my learning needs?
 What are my learning goals?
 Formative assessment gives students
opportunity to track and share accomplishments
 Make sure assessments are not punitive! —
meant to provide recognition and support
Formal vs. informal assessments
 Myth: “Real” assessments are norm-referenced, one-onone tool that requires training
 Fact: Quick, informal assessments can provide very
useful information!
 Key is to be systematic and purposeful
 Involve kids — de-mystify the process
 Explain why you’re giving assessment
 Make them participants in the process of reaching their
Formal vs. informal assessments
 Difference between formal and informal is
beginning to blur
 Variety of data sources
 However you do it, make sure to use data to
improve student outcomes
Isolating skills in reading assessment
 Divide reading proficiency roughly into:
 Language
• Vocabulary and background knowledge
• Verbal reasoning
 Beginning analysis: Can child go from text to language?
 Offer variety of formats, so that weak decoding does not
impact assessment of language skills
 Select familiar topics so that insufficient background
knowledge does not impact assessment of comprehension
 Build prior knowledge before reading
Can the average teacher do all this?
 Requires altered mindset and time to learn,
but amount of assessment required is fairly
 Be less assumptive about student progress
 Implement with efficiency
Final thoughts: Dr. Michael McKenna
 Dispel the following myths:
 Reading assessment in the classroom is not
 Should be left to specialists whose materials will
meet all students’ needs
 Implement strategies in a three-tiered approach,
allowing for differentiation
Final thoughts: Dr. Roland Good
 Essential role of assessment:
 Tells educators where student is and where they
need to be
 Helps chart a trajectory and rate of progress to get
 Lets us know when to adjust teaching strategies
 Most important thing: Do something with
assessment information!
Final thoughts: Dr. Mary Ruth Coleman
 Remember diversity of students
 Purpose of assessments:
Help students grow, learn, and be successful
Thanks for watching!
For more information,
visit www.ReadingRockets.org

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