Assessment & evaluation

More on the Instructional Level and Challenging Text

Teacher question:
I’ve read your posts on the instructional level and complex texts and I don’t think you understand guided reading. The point of guided reading placements is to teach students with challenging text. That’s why it is so important to avoid texts that students can read at their independent level; to make sure they are challenged. The Common Core requires teaching students with challenging texts — not frustration level texts.

Shanahan response:

Report Cards and Standards

From a teacher:

I wanted to ask your opinion regarding the structure of report cards for parents of students in grades 3-5. Understanding that ELA CCSS intertwines the areas of reading, language, spelling, writing, and moving toward creating district standards-based report cards in all K-5 grade levels, how do you think students' progress should be reported out to parents via report cards, as we transition? Would you recommend having an ELA grade on the report card or segregating particular areas as a stand alone grade?

Why Research-Based Reading Programs Alone Are Not Enough

From a reader:

Every teacher has experienced this. While the majority of the class is thriving with your carefully planned, research supported instructional methods, there is often one kid that is significantly less successful. We work with them individually in class, help them after school, sometimes change things up to see what will work, bring them to the attention of the RtI team that is also using the research supported instructional methods. But what if the methods research support for the majority of kids don't work for this kid?

Concerns About Accountability Testing

Why don’t you write more about the new tests?

I haven’t written much about PARCC or SBAC — or the other new tests that other states are taking on — in part because they are not out yet. There are some published prototypes, and I was one of several people asked to examine the work product of these consortia. Nevertheless, the information available is very limited, and I fear that almost anything I may write could be misleading (the prototypes are not necessarily what the final product will turn out to be).

A Smarter Balanced PARCC?

By now, it's probably not a surprise that there are two different assessments that states are adopting for their Common Core state test. Many of the comparison studies have proven that the previous state assessments tested students at levels 1 and 2 of the DOK (depth of knowledge). After disaggregating the test-released items for the Smarter Balanced and PARCC assessments, studies have shown the levels of released questions have elevated to the higher tiers: 3 and 4.

Is childhood being hijacked?

How do the realities of our contemporary life mesh with childhood? Have expectations of what a young child should know changed so much that they're not able to be young? What are — or might be — the consequences?

Assessing and learning the letters of the alphabet

Teachers, parents, and researchers often wonder similar things about the alphabet. Specifically, what's the right order to teach letters? How can I best assess what a very young child knows about the alphabet? Should I start by teaching my preschool-aged child the first letter of her name, and then go from there?

Learning outcomes versus teaching tools

Over at Shanahan on Literacy, Dr. Shanahan wrote an interesting post We Zigged When We Should Have Zagged about the lack of comprehension strategies in the Common Core State Standards.

Managing school and test stress

Our younger daughter has always been super easygoing. She makes friends easily and is quick to laugh. Lately though, we've seen her positive attitude slip away. She's become one of those kids who literally counts the days until the last day of school. She's complaining about headaches and classmates, and she'd really rather stay home. The stress of end-of-the year projects and looming state tests is really getting to her.

The 'learning styles' can of worms

The concept of learning styles has been around for a long time. Intuitively, the notion of learning styles makes sense, especially for those who work with struggling readers. Some kids seem to respond better to visual information, others to auditory, and still others to tactile information. Following this train of thought, teachers should present information in a style that is matched to a learner's learning style.


"So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away. And in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall." — Roald Dahl