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).
- 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).
- Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP)
- 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).
- 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.
- Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM)
- Gray Oral Reading Test IV (GORT - 4)
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).
- Degrees of Reading Power (DRP)
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.