How to Use the Science of Reading for Student Assessment
In 2019, trends in student literacy were already a concern for educators, as the Nation’s Report Card found that approximately two-thirds of U.S. students could not read proficiently. Then, the pandemic happened.
The economic and health hardships of the past few years have caused many children to miss out on mastering fundamental reading skills, which has further widened existing gaps in older students’ literacy skills. Along with all the chaos, the disruption in testing and assessments has contributed to student learning loss and made it more difficult for teachers to meet students where they are.
Now that we’re starting to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical educators integrate evidence-based assessment techniques to ensure their students find success when learning to read.
What Does the Science of Reading Have To Do With Assessment?
The science of reading is a culmination of evidence from decades of research about reading acquisition and instruction that was conducted using gold-standard methodologies. This body of research has shown that learning to read and write is not a natural act—rather, this undertaking requires explicit, systematic, and cumulative instruction.
Assessing students—whether through testing or in-class monitoring—is one of the most important ways for educators to get a comprehensive understanding of their students’ skill levels. Through assessment based on the science of reading, educators can individuate instruction and also implement reading intervention strategies or programs for students who need it.
Using the Simple View of Reading
The Simple View of Reading is a formula based on the science of reading that represents reading comprehension as a combination of decoding and language comprehension.
Both of these categories include the following sub-categories:
- Decoding (or Word Recognition)
- Linguistic Comprehension
This equation is represented as Decoding multiplied by Linguistic Comprehension equals Reading Comprehension. Students need to be proficient in both of these areas to be successful readers. A failure to grasp one skill could lead to overall reading failure.
Using the Simple View of Reading as a starting point, educators can use assessment to identify individual students’ reading profiles. One study examined four types of student profiles:
- Students with good or adequate language comprehension and good or adequate decoding skills. These students are likely to be at or above grade level in reading.
- Students with good or adequate language comprehension skills, but poor decoding skills. These students are categorized as students with specific word recognition difficulties (SWRD).
- Students with good or adequate decoding skills, but poor language comprehension skills. This profile is referred to as specific comprehension difficulties (SCD).
- Students with poor language comprehension and decoding skills. This profile is referred to as mixed reading difficulties (MRD)
After getting a sense of a student’s reading abilities using the Simple View of Reading, educators can do more in-depth assessments to determine a student’s specific strengths and weaknesses.
Different Forms of Assessment
According to the University of Oregon’s Center on Teaching and Learning, there are four types of assessments that should be included in an effective, comprehensive reading program.
1. Screening Assessments
Screening assessments are usually administered to all students either at the beginning of the school year or at a particular grade level. This form of assessment isn’t used to diagnose specific gaps in learning or skills, but instead, serves to identify students who “may be at high risk for delayed development or academic failure and in need of further diagnosis of their need for special services or additional reading instruction.”
This type of assessment should be quick, and won’t go into in-depth learning issues that a student might have; its purpose is to provide a snapshot of a student’s reading skills and determine if they might need intervention. Research has shown early identification and intervention are critical for students who struggle with reading, and screening assessments can help ensure these students receive the support they need.
2. Diagnostic Assessments
Diagnostic assessments are more comprehensive than screening assessments; they’re used to assess specific reading skills or components of reading like phonemic awareness, phonics, or fluency. Typically, diagnostic assessments are administered to students who have been identified as at risk for reading difficulties, and the results can be used to inform targeted instruction and intervention programs.
3. Progress-Monitoring Assessments
Progress-monitoring assessments are designed to track a student’s reading progress over time; they determine if students are making timely progress on foundational literacy skills. These assessments can be administered at regular intervals, and serve to provide teachers with regular insight into their students’ reading abilities. This form of assessment helps educators determine if a student’s intervention is working, and it can further inform instruction and intervention planning.
Outcome assessments are used to measure a student’s reading abilities against a specific standard or criterion. These assessments are usually administered at the end of a program, and are used to determine if the student has met that program’s goals and/or to evaluate the effectiveness of that particular intervention program.
Assessment Without Testing
All of these forms of assessment are valuable, but school leaders are starting to look for ways to provide teachers with ongoing data and insight into their students while also minimizing classroom disruption. A great way to do this is through Assessment Without Testing®; a form of assessment that can be found in high-quality curriculum programs, such as Lexia® Core5® Reading.
These types of programs are designed to provide educators with ongoing performance data and student-specific resources to help them guide individual and small-group instruction. Embedded assessment is a critical part of teaching students how to read, as their performance on activities today will end up informing how new topics are taught tomorrow. While screening, diagnostic, and outcome assessments are an incredibly important aspect of getting information about student reading levels, ongoing assessment provides educators with real-time data that can inform their teaching throughout the year.
Programs that incorporate ongoing, embedded assessments based on the science of reading are key to ensuring students find success in reading. Along with that, this form of assessment makes it easier to quickly identify students who might need extra support in the form of reading interventions. To learn more about assessments and adapting instruction to student needs, you can take a look at this white paper, which explains the benefits adaptive blended learning brings to teachers and students alike.
You Might Also Like
Three Steps You Can Take Now to Expand Cultural Equity in Your Classroom
Students should see their lives, experiences, and families represented in the curriculum. How can teachers ensure students feel welcome in a way that expands cultural equity? With authentic resources, teachers can apply research to literacy instruction and help all students achieve growth.
Funding After ESSER
With pandemic relief funding approaching its final year, Jon Hummell, Lexia’s national manager of state initiatives, shares how ESSER allows schools to make investments, including via multiyear contracts, to extend the benefits of ESSER funding into the future.
3 Clear Benefits of Social-Emotional Learning Programs
Providing tools that help educators to improve the social-emotional well-being of their students measurably improves the classroom experience as a whole. Explore how the benefits of social-emotional learning programs kick-start positive student outcomes.