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Which assessment should I use to measure reading progress?

Whether your students are five or in fifth grade, it’s important to listen to them read. This most-basic assessment could be as simple as asking a student to read a 100-200-word text with you at your table. During this time together you’ll get a sense of how fluent he is and what skills he’s using or neglecting. If you have professional assessment resources available, these tools can play an important role in determining each students’ reading level. But selecting the best assessment system will depend on your school’s budget, your teachers’ experience, and the breadth of reporting teachers want from the assessment. Here’s an overview of three leading assessments that can help you monitor progress in reading:

Fountas & Pinnell Assessments

Fountas and Pinnell have a benchmark assessment system that features all the bells and whistles you might need to monitor student progress. Their system includes benchmarks for primary and intermediate grades (levels A through Z), along with running records tied to a selection of leveled informative text and literature. The Fountas and Pinnell kit also includes ways to assess isolated word knowledge, letter ID or phonemic awareness, sight words, and more. A set of resources costs around $400.

Jan Richardson’s Assessment System

Another excellent option is Jan Richardson’s system, Next Step in Guided Reading Assessment, published by Scholastic. Richardson is well known for her work with guided reading, and her assessment materials are all about how to decide what to teach, and then how to guide students to try new skills. Her assessment system includes a K-2 and 3-6 version and features leveled texts and assessment forms. It provides charts and graphs to help you show student growth, but does not provide the variety of assessments offered by Fountas and Pinnell.

Reading A-Z

If you’re already familiar with Reading A–Z, then you know that it also provides passages. You can print those off, and then use their running record page to assess your readers. If your school already subscribes to Reading A—Z, this is an economical choice.

Making Time for Assessments

One of most common objections to formal reading assessments, is the time that it takes to administer. And while no classroom has extra time for unnecessary activity, assessment is important. We have to intentionally plan what to teach our students, and when used effectively, professional assessments offer the guidance we need to make our planning pay off.
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