Early Reading Assessment: A Guiding Tool for Instruction

How do you choose the best method for measuring reading progress? This brief article describes which assessments to use for different reading skills so that you can make sure all students are making progress towards becoming readers!

Assessment is an essential element of education used to inform instruction (Wren, 2004). The first step in implementing good reading instruction is to determine student baseline performance. Students enter the classroom with diverse backgrounds and skills in literacy. Some students may enter the classroom with special needs that require review of basic skills in reading, while other students may have mastered the content a teacher intends to cover. Due to these various student levels, it is necessary to design literacy instruction to meet the individual needs of each student. Individual needs can be determined by initial and ongoing reading assessments.

These assessments provide teachers with the information needed to develop appropriate lessons and improve instruction for all students, including students with disabilities (Rhodes & Shanklin, 1993). The information gained from appropriate assessment enables teachers to provide exceptional students with improved access to the general education curriculum. The following information is an overview of the purpose and benefits of early reading assessment, examples of data collection methods, and considerations for selecting a measure for students.

Assessment examples for specific areas of reading

There are various ways to gather assessment data (Rhodes & Shanklin, 1993). Teachers can test students, analyze student work samples, observe students performing literacy tasks, or interview students on their reading skills. Teachers can gain the most information by administering all of these methods to collect data. The following information describes various types of assessments for different areas of early reading. Each assessment identified is described in the resources section of this brief.

Letter knowledge: the ability to associate sounds with letters

One example of an assessment for letter knowledge is to present a student with a list of letters and ask the student to name each letter. Another example is to have a student separate the letters from a pile of letters, numbers, and symbols. Students can also be asked to separate and categorize letters by uppercase and lowercase (Torgesen, 1998; Wren, 2004).

The following list is a sample of assessment measures to test letter knowledge skills:

  • Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS)
  • Early Reading Diagnostic Assessment (ERDA)

Phonemic awareness: the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words

These assessments examine a student's knowledge of how sounds make words. A student can be asked to break spoken words into parts, or to blend spoken parts of a word into one word. Additionally, a student can count the number of phonemes in a word to demonstrate understanding, or a student can delete or add a phoneme to make a new word (Torgesen, 1998; Wren, 2004).

The following list is a sample of assessment measures to test phonemic awareness skills:

  • Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP)
  • ERDA
  • Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)
  • Phonological Awareness Test (PAT)
  • Texas Primary Reading Inventory (TPRI)

Decoding: the process of using lettersound correspondences to recognize words

An assessment that examines a student's decoding skills looks at a child's reading accuracy. One example of this type of measure is to have a student read a passage of text as clearly and correctly as possible. The teacher records any mistakes that the student makes and analyzes them to determine what instruction is needed. Another example of an assessment of decoding skills is to present a student with isolated words and ask them to read each word aloud (Wren, 2004).

The following list is a sample of assessment measures to test decoding skills:

  • ITBS
  • PAT
  • TPRI
  • Test of Word Reading Efficiency (TOWRE)

Fluency: the automatic ability to read words in connected text

The most common example of an assessment for fluency is to ask a student to read a passage aloud for one minute. Words that are skipped or pronounced incorrectly are not counted. The number of correct words read is counted and this total equals a student's oral reading fluency rate.

The following list is a sample of assessment measures to test fluency skills:

  • Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM)
  • Gray Oral Reading Test IV (GORT - 4)
  • TPRI

Reading comprehension: the process of understanding the meaning of text

There are many types of reading comprehension assessments. One type involves a student reading a passage that is at an appropriate level for the student, and then having the student answer factual questions about the text. A second type involves a student answering inferential questions about implied information in the text. A third type involves a student filling in missing words from a passage. A fourth type is to have a student retell the story in their own words (Fuchs & Fuchs, 1992; Wren 2004).

The following list is a sample of assessment measures to test reading comprehension skills:

  • Degrees of Reading Power (DRP)
  • ERDA
  • GORT4
  • ITBS
  • TPRI


There are a variety of measures that can be used to gather data for each area of early reading. Assessment is a central element for any teacher and should be implemented regularly. Through its implementation, teachers will be able to help students access the skills and content they need from the general education curriculum. This will allow all students to achieve to their highest potential.

Note: It is important to follow all guidelines for implementing assessments. Some measures require specific training. Therefore, always read the instructions for each assessment carefully and follow all recommendations.

Resources for additional information

Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM):
A progress monitoring assessment tool for lettersound, word-identification, and passage reading fluency. Use in K-6. Administered individually.

Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP-2):
Assesses phonological awareness, phonological memory, and rapid naming. Use in K-12 for student performance. Administered individually only.

Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS):
A set of standardized measures of early literacy development designed to monitor the development of prereading and early reading skills. Use in K-3. Administered individually only.

Degrees of Reading Power (DRP):
Assesses reading comprehension. Use in grades 1-12. Administered individually or group.

Early Reading Diagnostic Assessment (ERDA):
Evaluates early reading skills to help teachers plan instruction targeted to the specific reading needs of a student. Use in K-3. Administered individually only.

Gray Oral Reading Test IV (GORT4):
A measure of growth in oral reading. Use with ages 6-18. Administered individually only.

Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS):
Assesses the reading areas of vocabulary, word analysis, and reading comprehension. Use in K-8. Administered individually or group.

Multiple Intelligences (MI):
A theory that eight intelligences should be used to assess students' strengths and weaknesses.

Phonological Awareness Test (PAT):
Measures five phonemic awareness tasks including segmentation, isolation, deletion, substitution, and blending, as well as sensitivity to rhyme, knowledge of graphemes, and decoding skills. Use in K-3. Administered individually only.

Test of Word Reading Efficiency (TOWRE):
A measure of word reading accuracy and fluency. Use in K through Adult. Administered individually only.

Texas Primary Reading Inventory (TPRI):
An assessment tool that provides a comprehensive picture of a student's reading development. Use in K-2. Administered individually only.


Click the "References" link above to hide these references.

Armstrong, Thomas (1994). Multiple intelligences in the classroom. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Balanced Reading.com. Retrieved November 16, 2004, from: http://www.balancedreading.com/assessment.html

Big Ideas in Early Reading, University of Oregon. Retrieved November 16, 2004, from: http://reading.uoregon.edu/cia/assessment/index.php

DeBruinParecki, A. (2004). Evaluating early literacy skills and providing instruction in a meaningful context. High/Scope Resource: A Magazine for Educators, 23(3), 510.

Fuchs, L. S., & Fuchs, D. (1992). Identifying a measure for monitoring student reading progress. School Psychology Review, 21(1), 4559.

Gardner, Howard (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic.

High-stakes assessments in reading: A position statement of the International Reading Association. Retrieved November 16, 2004, from: http://www.reading.org/pdf/high_stakes.pdf

Rhodes, L. K., & Shankin, N. L. (1993). Windows into literacy: Assessing learners K8. Heinemann: Portsmouth, NH.

Skiba, R. J., Simmons, A. B., Ritter, S., Kohler, K. R., & Wu, T. C. (2003). The psychology of disproportionality: Minority placement in context. Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners, 6, 2740.

Torgeson, J. K. (1998). Catch them before they fall: Identification and assessment to prevent reading failure in young children. Retrieved November 16, 2004 from: http://www.readingrockets.org/article.php?ID=411

Wren, S. (2004, November). Descriptions of early reading assessments. Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. Retrieved November 16, 2004 from: http://www.balancedreading.com/ assessment/assessment.pdf

The Access Center: Improving Outcomes for All Students K-8. (2005). Early Reading Assessment: A Guiding Tool for Instruction. The Access Center: Washington DC.


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In the article, Early Reading Assessments: A Guiding Reading Tool for Instruction, the author define and discusses the many benefits of assessing students in reading. This article also addressed the how, where, and when of assessing our students regularly. This article was really good and answered lots of questions while informing me of more valuable tools to use when assessing the student in my school community.

I like that the author discussed the following types of assessments: formative, summative, evaluative, and diagnostics and how to utilize each to drive daily instructions.

The article showed the importance of assessments. It allows the teacher to see areas of weakness. By assessing alphabetical awareness, phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency, and comprehension it shows the teacher where the student needs extra instruction. It is also important to consider language and cultural barriers that can affect assessments.

It is really very interesting. It really provides the best methods of improving the reading skills in early level students.

Thank you so much. This article is very informative , very helpful and useful

We monitor the progress every day but formative assessment ever week and every 3 months The data is to implements new reading strategies to help the student needs

Student’s base line performance must be determined during an assessment. Assessments should be research proven and on-going. What I find most interesting is students should be taught according to their ability. Through assessments we can identify students reading skills and monitor their progress. It also assists teachers guiding their instruction and determining the effectiveness and improvement of instruction.Teaches can increase their information by administering reading assessment tests to collect data on their students’ reading abilities. In return, students may be tested on, letter knowledge, phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency, and reading comprehension. Emerging practice evidence is not supported by research and further is needed.Being a teacher, I believe not all assessments will accommodate all students. Some assessments should be formal while others should be informal. However, assessments should be instructionally relevant, focusing on student skills. This will allow students to achieve at their highest potential.

I enjoyed read this article because in the next few weeks, I am about to take the TEXES, it really explain explicitly things that I know are going to be in the test such as formal and informal assessment, phonics awareness, phonological awareness etc.. it also can help teachers who teach early grades to improves their students reading skills. This is a great article.

I found the articles very helpful pertaining to the variety of assessments discussed throughout the module. In teaching we use assessments to help guide student learning. Assessments can be very insightful by identifing where the students ability levels are currently and where they need to be for future outcomes.

This article was very interesting. I thought it broke down assessments very well for those who do not have knowledge of assessments and knowledge on what assessments we need to use when testing our students. It gave me a great understanding on how essential assessments are for myself as a teacher and for the students we serve in the classroom. I really like how they broke down the assessments and letting us know which assessment test is best for each assessment. This article gave me great incite on how formative assessments are help in us learn more about our students and help us to better ourselves as well. This is knowledge that I will use and take with me to the classroom.

I teach dyslexic students and totally agree with this article's mention of multiple intelligences. The reading comprehension measures are many that I have used and the assessment instruments listed for phonemic awareness, decoding and fluency were very informative.

The article was very useful me to design a tool for my institute. Thanks

I found the article to be very interesting and informative. It really expanded on the use of assessment and how to improve reading for students. The way that it linked both teachers and students together was good.

I found the article interesting. It is filled with many clever ideas on how to use assessment to improve reading and to increase educational growth for both teachers and students. It's worth rereading it.

Each and every teacher who is teaching in early grade learners should read it to know how to improve readng efficiency

I enjoyed this article and thought is was really informative. The writer does a great job giving lots of different examples of data collection methods, and considerations for selecting a measure for students. An effective reading program includes assessments of certain reading concepts for several purposes.The purpose is to identify skills that need review, to monitor student progress, to guide teacher instruction, to demonstrate the effectiveness to provide teachers with information on how instruction can be improved. I think it's really scary that research has provided evidence that early literacy concepts can predict young students later reading achievement.

I found all of this information to be a great review as I am definitely rusty on my reading assessments knowledge. I can really relate to this information because my daughter is bringing home her reading assessments that were recently conducted at school and I am understanding them more and more as this class progress and I learn more about testing reading skills and the order of which reading skills are taught.

I found the, "The purpose and benefits of assessment" section that listed the five purposes to be helpful. I think it lays out clearly why it is important to use early reading assessments.

This article was very informative. As a high school teacher I struggle to find ways to assess my students on the different levels and disabilities that they all have. This article gave me some ideas as how to assess and to keep record of how my students are doing. This is such a good article, I would recommend this to several co-workers.

This article was very informative for me as a high school special education teacher. Having practical ways of testing students in my classroom will help me to assist my students specific needs. The ability to look at the different characteristics will also assist me in communicating with my peers about the students in my classroom. At the beginning of the article it talk some about how the students present day ability's were able to predict the students future ability's. My personal belief on that is how do we know what kind of instruction each student is getting, how do we know they don't have individual attention for students with low ability in one of the sub categories. In special education I just think it would be hard to really predict how capable they are.

This article was very helpful for me being a High school resource special education teacher. The knowledge I now have will give me the ability to assist students that come into my room with particular skills. Like teaching decoding or reading comprehension specifically. I also thought it was interesting when they said that you could gauge a students future ability's based on their present knowledge. It seems like their are so many factors that could come into play when discussing future and present day skills.

This article brought out some good points for examples: Decoding skills, which helps students develop reading fluency. I like the fact by doing an early reading assessment will help teachers identify skills that need to be review with students to meet their individual needs.

Being a Speech-Language Pathologist, I love reading these types of articles. They are refreshers to the process of literacy intervention we were taught in grad school. They are also great reminders on the process and tools available. Using multiple, research based assessments is a part of any area we SLP's address. Monitoring and periodic reassessment are also familiar to SLP's. Personally I have always thought multiple, research based assessments were necessary to obtain a more accurate, overall idea of the student's abilities. Students are no different than adults and they have good days and bad. Giving them the opportunity to perform during multiple sessions gives them a chance to demonstrate their true abilities. Periodically reassessing is a great way to not only monitor progress, but as the article mentioned, it is a great way to monitor your teaching techniques and tweak your own performance to best meet the student's needs as well. Love this article! What a great refresher!

This article provided great insight on the importance of assessment. Being a special education teacher their are several assessments and data collections that takes place throughout the school year. I have seen how important it is to determine the students baseline performance before you can plan instruction and help that student succeed. All of my students have changed in some area from when the last assessment was given. I like how the article has given different types of assessments that are used for certain areas and knowing that every assessment will not be appropriate for all students. Also the assessment must be instructionally relevant and focused on essential skills. Properly implementing the right assessment for each of my students will allow them to achieve to their highest potential.

Just this week I have started doing some research with what tools to use to best assess my students. I have several who can read on or above grade level but have no comprehension of what they have read. Is this really reading? I have several who read below grade level but do understand and make connections with the text. This article has given me some insight on several assessments to look deeper into. I am excited to see what I maybe able to use with my students.

I enjoyed reading this article. Just this week I have been considering what type of assessments to do with my students. I have several who can read and decode words but have no comprehension of what they have read. I have other students who read below grade level but do understand what they have read. These students must be taught differently. I am not familiar with most of the assessments in the article. I plan to look closer at a few in hopes of using them with my students to get a better assessment of what they need. At least in what areas they need more differentiated instruction.

This article has been very informative and helpful, assessing students is one of the most important ways to find out what the students know and have learned and what the student needs more help with, what they are struggling with. This article explains different assessments that can be given. These different assessments are very help for me to use when testing my students.

I think the article did a great job of stating multiple ways to assess students abilities including hands on activities, expressive and receptive means. Every student has varying abilities, so we should use varying assessments in order to produce the most reliable results.

I thought that this article was very informative on how to assess learning and the different assessments available. I like how it stated that not every student should be assessed with the same tests because, just like the individuals, the tests vary in who they should be used upon. A student cannot be expected to succeed if they are not given to proper tools to do so.

After reading the article I found the article describing how assessments manage the ingenious of a student skillful inspirational leadership. The child optimistically progress the highest potential curriculum base measurements in the mist of the teacher monitoring an effective motivational coaching philosophy. Though teachers aspire to make critical thinking a primary objective of their instruction to develop educators as thinkers, students have to master through stages of development in critical thinking. As the teacher I would appreciate to recognize the assessment levels of intellectual expansion that students go through as they improve as thinkers. Let’s try to believe that practicality of assessment is best tested in the classroom and in everyday life educating in lieu of global society. The student ought to be expressively aware the teacher is approaching the human mind exclusively commencing a scholarly perspective, not a psychological standpoint. And too I retrieve it is essential for the thinker to acknowledge that success in instruction is deeply connected to the academic quality of ability and that regression is possible in developing challenged to master. I’d like encourage, a very practical and much expanded article on assessments.

Good article very informational on how to handle readers on different levels and the best way to teach to a classroom of students in an effective way. I strongly believe that if an assessment can be done early on in the school year it can and will determine the learning plans of student who may be advanced or those who struggle and allow the progress to be monitored correctly.

I think this article did a great job in explaining the importance of assessments in education. I feel assessment are important to check the student's progress, it gives insight to let the teacher know what the student are learning, and it helps teachers design future lessons and test. I thought it was important how the article mentioned a student's IEP. I have many that need their read literature read aloud to comprehend it better.

I found this article to be very informative regarding student assessments. Teaching to an entire classroom of students who are at different levels of learning can be a challenge to teachers. By assessing the reading of each student, teachers can be certain that they are meeting the needs of all students. The purpose and benefits of assessment listed in the article were clearly stated and important to teachers. By identifying student skills that need work and monitoring their progress, teachers can modify teaching methods and change as needed. Also, understanding the different assessment methods and which ones work the best for a student is also important.

This article is a great piece of information because it gives many examples of different assessments teachers can use with their reading students. I am a special education teacher and I know first hand how important these assessments are. If a student is working on more than they can comprehend that is asking for failure. The importance of the assessments are to see where the student stands in their reading. This allows the teacher to know where to begin in their reading program. I love this article and will use these assessments in the future.

I like how this article describes the benefits of assessments. It does a good job of explaining which assessments are good to test the students' reading abilities. Also, being a teacher, I use a lot of these different assessments when determining my student's reading level. I definitely believe in using assessments especially with my students. They all have IEP’s and most of the IEP’s state the students are on one level, when in fact, when they are tested, their levels have changed or they do not meet the level stated on the IEP. This makes preparing for instruction so much easier for each student when assessments are used.

This article does a very good job of describing the purposes and benifits of a good reading assessment. It is important for a teacher to understand the level that their students are on to gain a better understanding of how to best teach them. This article give great discriptions of the various assessment that could be age appropriately used.

This article has been very helpful and useful reading about the different assessments that can be used to test and know the baseline of a student. It also can help the teacher as well as the students. It will let the teacher know what needs to be reviewed and what is mastered.Montioring students will help adn be helpful to parents,and teachers to help the student read and success

This article was extremely informative pertaining to literacy and reading assessments. It is a necessity for teachers to design their lesson plans and implement instructions to meet the need of students. Student’s base line performance must be determined during an assessment. Assessments should be research proven and on-going. What I find most interesting is students should be taught according to their ability. Through assessments we can identify students reading skills and monitor their progress. It also assists teachers guiding their instruction and determining the effectiveness and improvement of instruction.Teaches can increase their information by administering reading assessment tests to collect data on their students’ reading abilities. In return, students may be tested on, letter knowledge, phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency, and reading comprehension. Emerging practice evidence is not supported by research and further is needed.Being a teacher, I believe not all assessments will accommodate all students. Some assessments should be formal while others should be informal. However, assessments should be instructionally relevant, focusing on student skills. This will allow students to achieve at their highest potential.

This article is very helpful. It not only explains the importance of assessment, but lists different types of assessments available. Assessments are an integral part of an educational program. Assessments give teachers the information they need to assist their students to succeed. The information gathered allows teachers to know whether each student's skill level has reached mastery or not. It also allows teachers to improve their instruction by letting them know where students need review or extra instruction.

After, reading this article, I have a better understanding of why we test students so much. When a teacher uses these assesments, teachers can have a better understanding of where the student is struggling. I agree with Kevin, if a student is having issues, we need to know where and how to provide the proper help to the student. When dealing with reading students, we dont need to move on until we can make sure the students are ready. If we leave a student behind, he or she will probley never catch up on their own. When teachers use these assessments, we souldnt be leaving any students behind, but having the understanding of where help is need. I believe the assessments will help me become a better teacher.

I believe using the reading assessments to monitor the students progress in reading will help each student by correcting the problem before it turns into a habit and I think this process will benefit the students, teachers, and the parents in being able to see the students progress as they learn.

I think this article is very helpful because that it links the different assessments to each reading area and gives specific examples. Assessment not only benefits the students, it helps teachers to be quality educators.

This article points to the importance of assessments and how it is benefical to a teacher. For a teacher to not put a heavy emphasis on assesment they could be missing where students are not mastering skills. Which, as the article points to, will come into play as they progress in their acedemic career. I think this article shows strong strenth and support in to how to do assessment and, again, why it is so important to do them for the students, but to help direct a teacher to be a high quality reading teacher.

I think this article about using assessments for students is very beneficial for teachers to read and be informed about. The article mentioned that assessing students provides teachers with information on what skills students have and have not mastered. This is important because a teacher needs to plan their instruction based on what each student needs help with. The assessments should provide information about the skills their students have on the content and strategies they are teaching. Assessments are also beneficial because they monitor student progress. They allow a teacher to see how much improvement their students are having. They also show in which areas the students may not be having as much improvement. Therefore, the teacher may have to alter their instructional strategies based upon the response of their students.

I thought this article about the importance and benefits of assessments was very helpful to show how assessments can provide good reading instruction. As the article noted, an assessment is the first step to determine a student’s baseline performance. Some students will have special needs that require review of basic skills. Performing assessments helps teachers meet individual student’s needs. We do assessments at the middle school where I work, these assessments help us determine what skills need reviewed and what skills the student needs extra work on. At the school I work at, we do assessments every 6 weeks to monitor the student’s progress. These assessments can guide teacher’s instruction and also be able to determine the effectiveness of the instruction. When assessments are given, they can provide teachers with the information on how instruction is working and how it can be improved. There are various types of instruction, such as letter knowledge, phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency, and reading comprehension. The important decision is to know what information you want to gain in order to know what assessment to give to the student. The information you get with each assessment is very different, that is why it is so important to know what information you need. Being a special education teacher, assessments are crucial to seeing what areas our students need support in. Once we are able to see what areas the student is struggling in, then we can come up with a plan for the student and then monitor his or her progress to make sure they are making adequate progress.

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