This report shows how systemic assessments of student learning that isolate skills like “finding the main idea” encourage teachers to place an unhelpful emphasis on the teaching of these “skills”. Drawing on examples from the United States, the report explains why this approach fails to lead to improvements in student learning. Nevertheless, student assessment can be both aligned with high standards and help to encourage the kinds of effective teaching practice that support student learning. The report concludes by suggesting what a more productive approach to curriculum-aligned student assessment would look like.
The Problem with Finding the Main Idea
The Problem with Finding the Main Idea (January 2019). Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and Learning First.
The Unique Role of Early Spelling in the Prediction of Later Literacy Performance
Researchers examined the predictive value of early spelling for later reading performance by analyzing data from 970 U.S. children whose spelling was assessed in the summer following the completion of kindergarten. The word reading performance of most of the children was then tested after the completion of Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 4, and Grade 9. A computer-scored measure of post-kindergarten spelling was a significant predictor of later reading performance even after taking into account post-kindergarten phonological awareness, reading, and letter-sound knowledge and pre-kindergarten vocabulary. The results suggest that, by the end of kindergarten, spelling is more than just a proxy for phonological awareness and letter-sound knowledge. Given the information that spelling provides, it should be considered for inclusion when screening children for future literacy problems.
Frameworks for Literacy Education Reform
International Literacy Association (2016) Frameworks for Literacy Education Reform [White paper]. Newark, DE
The central tenet of the white paper is that classroom literacy instruction should be grounded in rigorous, peer-reviewed research — not politics, ideology, or speculation. Rather than settling on a specific reform strategy, the white paper offers frameworks for use in drafting or evaluating reform proposals. The frameworks address four key education sectors: literacy learning and teachers; schools and schooling; student support; and families and communities. For each sector, the white paper offers a list of research-validated approaches to literacy advancement, which is designed to function as a rubric to inform, refine, and assess reform proposals. In addition, each framework includes a detailed list of supporting sources to facilitate exploration into the underlying research base.
Improving Reading Outcomes for Students with or at Risk for Reading Disabilities
Connor, C., Alberto, P.A., Compton, D.L., and O'Connor, R.E. (February 2014) Improving Reading Outcomes for Students with or at Risk for Reading Disabilities: A Synthesis of the Contributions from the Institute of Education Sciences Research Centers, U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Special Education Research.
This report describes what has been learned about the improvement of reading outcomes for children with or at risk for reading disabilities through published research funded by the Institute of Education Science (IES). The report describes contributions to the knowledge base across four focal areas: assessment, basic cognitive and linguistic processes that support successful reading, intervention, and professional development.
Don't DYS Our Kids: Dyslexia and the Quest for Grade-Level Reading Proficiency
Fiester, L. (2012). Don't DYS Our Kids: Dyslexia and the Quest for Grade-Level Reading Proficiency. Commissioned by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation in partnership with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
The Nation's Report Card: Vocabulary Results from the 2009 and 2011 NAEP Reading Assessments
National Center for Education Statistics (2012). The Nation's Report Card: Vocabulary Results From the 2009 and 2011 NAEP Reading Assessments (NCES 2013–452). Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.
A National Assessment of Educational Progress report reveals gaps in vocabulary achievement among students from families of different income levels and students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. While the assessment only recently began measuring vocabulary, officials say results already show connections between vocabulary skills and reading comprehension.
Developing Kindergarten Readiness and Other Large-Scale Assessment Systems
Snow, K. (2011) Developing Kindergarten Readiness and Other Large-Scale Assessment Systems. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
The Center for Applied Research at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has developed new guidance to support states' development and implementation of kindergarten readiness assessment systems.
Informing Writing: The Benefits of Formative Assessment
Graham, S., Harris, K., and Hebert, M. Informing writing: the benefits of formative assessment (2011). Vanderbilt University and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Learning to Read: Developing 0-8 Information Systems to Improve Third Grade Reading Proficiency
Bruner, C. (2010). Learning to read: developing 0-8 information systems to improve third grade reading proficiency. Des Moines, IA: Child & Family Policy Center.
This resource guide provides background on the importance of third grade reading proficiency, resources and promising practices for developing information systems to address third grade reading proficiency, and recommendations for next steps at both the state and community levels.
Performance Counts: Assessment Systems that Support High-Quality Learning
Darling-Hammond, L. (2010) Performance Counts: Assessment Systems that Support High-Quality Learning. Washington, DC: Council of Chief State School Officers.
A new white paper written by Stanford researcher Linda Darling-Hammond describes what a student assessment system could look like if built from the principles and best practices found in current research and effective programs in the U.S. and high-achieving countries around the world.
Using Student Achievement Data to Support Instructional Decision Making
Hamilton, L., Halverson, R., Jackson, S., Mandinach, E., Supovitz, J., & Wayman, J. (2009). Using student achievement data to support instructional decision making (NCEE 2009-4067). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/publications/practiceguides/.
This guide offers five recommendations to help educators effectively use data to monitor students' academic progress and evaluate instructional practices. The guide recommends that schools set a clear vision for schoolwide data use, develop a data-driven culture, and make data part of an ongoing cycle of instructional improvement. The guide also recommends teaching students how to use their own data to set learning goals.
Assisting Students Struggling with Reading: Response to Intervention (RtI) and Multi-Tier Intervention in the Primary Grades
Gersten, R., Compton, D., Connor, C.M., Dimino, J., Santoro, L., Linan-Thompson, S., and Tilly, W.D. (2008). Assisting students struggling with reading: Response to Intervention and multi-tier intervention for reading in the primary grades. A practice guide. (NCEE 2009-4045). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/publications/practiceguides/.
This guide offers five specific recommendations to help educators identify struggling readers and implement evidence-based strategies to promote their reading achievement. Teachers and reading specialists can utilize these strategies to implement RtI and multi-tier intervention methods and frameworks at the classroom or school level. Recommendations cover how to screen students for reading problems, design a multi-tier intervention program, adjust instruction to help struggling readers, and monitor student progress.
New Roles in Response to Intervention: Creating Success for Schools and Children
International Reading Association. (2006). New roles in response to intervention: Creating success for schools and children. Retrieved from http://www.asha.org/uploadedFiles/slp/schools/prof-consult/rtiroledefini....
The International Reading Association (IRA) convened a group from the special education and regular education associations to craft a set of fact sheets on the roles of the various professionals and parents who are involved in implementing response-to-intervention (RTI) procedures. The outcome of that effort is a collective set of papers that represent each organization's distinctive constituency and viewpoint regarding RTI.
Recognition and Response: An Early Intervening System for Young Children At-Risk for Learning Disabilities
Coleman, M.R., Buysse, V. & Neitzel, J. (2006). Recognition and Response: An early intervening system for young children at-risk for learning disabilities. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, FPG Child Development Institute: Chapel Hill, NC.
Some young children show signs that they may not be learning in an expected manner, even before they begin kindergarten. These children may exhibit problems in areas such as language development, phonological awareness, perceptual-motor abilities and attention, which are considered precursors of learning disabilities in older children. However, under current state and federal guidelines, these children are unlikely to meet eligibility criteria for having a learning disability. This is because formal identification of a child's learning disability generally does not occur until there is a measurable discrepancy between the child's aptitude and academic achievement, often not until the second or third grade. This report describes a method of addressing those warning signs immediately.
Effective Schools and Accomplished Teachers: Lessons About Primary-Grade Reading Instruction in Low-Income Schools
Taylor, B.M., Pearson, P.D., Clark, K.M., & Walpole, S. (2000). Effective schools and accomplished teachers: Lessons about primary-grade reading instruction in low-income schools. The Elementary School Journal, 101, 121-165.
This study investigated school and classroom factors related to primary-grade reading achievement in schools with moderate to high numbers of students on subsidized lunch. Fourteen schools across the U.S. and two teachers in each of grades K-3 participated. A combination of school and teacher factors, many of which were intertwined, was found to be important in the most effective schools. Statistically significant school factors included strong links to parents, systematic assessment of pupil progress, and strong building communication and collaboration. A collaborative model for the delivery of reading instruction, including early reading interventions, was a hallmark of the most effective schools. Statistically significant teacher factors included time spent in small-group instruction, time spent in independent reading, high levels of student on-task behavior, and strong home communication. More of the most accomplished teachers and teachers in the most effective schools supplemented explicit phonics instruction with coaching in which they taught students strategies for applying phonics to their everyday reading. Additionally, more of the most accomplished teachers and teachers in the most effective schools employed higher-level questions in discussions of text, and the most accomplished teachers were more likely to ask students to write in response to reading. In all of the most effective schools, reading was clearly a priority at both the school and classroom levels.
Beating the Odds in Teaching All Children to Read
Taylor, B., Pearson, P., Clark, K., & Walpole, S. (1999). Beating the odds in teaching all children to read. CIERA Report 2-006. University of Michigan: Ann Arbor.
What schoolwide practices characterize schools in which at-risk learners are beating the odds? What instructional practices are used by the most accomplished primary-grade teachers and by teachers in the most effective schools? The authors used quantitative and descriptive methods to investigate school and classroom factors related to primary-grade reading achievement. Fourteen schools across the U.S. with moderate to high numbers of students on subsidized lunch were identified as most, moderately, or least effective based on several measures of reading achievement in the primary grades. A combination of school and teacher factors, many of which were intertwined, was found to be important in the most effective schools. Statistically significant school factors included strong links to parents, systematic assessment of pupil progress, strong building communication, and a collaborative model for the delivery of reading instruction, including early reading interventions. In all of the most effective schools, reading was clearly a priority at both the building and classroom level.