Kelsie Syverson, EngEd 370, Chapter 6: Assessing Reading Performance

Trends in Assessment

High-Stakes Testing

Consequences of this testing, good or bad, are based only on the performance on the test. This test is intended to provide the public with a guarantee that students can perform at a level necessary to function in society and in the work force. Relied on to improve instruction and benefit the students and not to punish schools or students.

Authentic Assessment

Students are doing reading and writing tasks that look like real-life tasks and students are primarily in control of the reading and writing tasks. Students develop ownership, engage thoughtfully, and learn to assess themselves.

Retelling can be part of this. Narrative retelling encourages young children to think about stories and begin reasoning skills. Children begin retelling a story by telling the audience about their favorite parts of the story. They will then gradually move from discussing preferences to discussing identifiable and important parts of the story.

Information gathered from assessment should be useful in planning classroom instruction and guiding students to become reflective in order to help them assess their own strengths and weaknesses. This assessment becomes formative assessment. The information gathered is used to adapt instruction to meet students’ needs.

Formative assessment helps readers to think about their own learning and use self-assessment strategies. Students will answer questions such as:

  • Where am I going?
  • Where am I now?
  • How can I close the gap?

Having students take an active role in the assessment process broadens the view of literacy development.

Some tools to help teachers authentically assess students include:

  • observation techniques
  • anecdotal records
  • checklists
  • interviews
  • conferences and conversations with students
  • writing folders
  • portfolios

Formal Assessment

Pressures for accountability have led many school districts and states to use formal reading tests as a means of assessment.

Standardized Tests

Standardized reading tests are machine-scored tests that sample reading performance during a single administration. These are useful in making comparisons among individuals or groups at the local, state, and national level. A normal referenced test is constructed by administering it to a large group of students in order to develop a norm. Norms represent average scores of a sampling of students selected for testing according to factors such as age, gender, race, grade, or socioeconomic status.

All assessments have a reliability and validity to them. Reliability refers to the stability of the test. The validity refers to how well the test measures what it is designed to measure.

Types of Test Scores

A raw score reflects the total number of correct items on a test. A grade equivalency score provides information about reading performance as it relates to students at various grade levels.

Types of Assessment

Survey tests represent a measure of general performance only. It does not yield precise information about an individual’s reading ability. Diagnostic tests are a type of formal assessment intended to provide more detailed information about individual students’ strengths and weaknesses.

Criterion-Referenced Tests

The mastery of reading skills should be assessed in relation to specific instructional objectives. Performance on a criterion-referenced test is judged by what a student can or cannot do with regard to the skill objectives of the test. The test taker isn’t compared to anyone else. This type of test is used to make instructional decisions about reading skills development.

Informal Assessment

Informal assessment also doesn’t compare the performance of a tested group or individual to a normative population. Instead, informal assessments may be given throughout the school year to individuals or groups for specific instructional purposes. One of the best uses of informal assessments is to evaluate how students interact with print in oral and silent reading situations.

Informal Reading Inventory (IRI)

An individually administered reading test. Usually consists of a series of graded word lists, graded reading passages, and comprehension questions. IRI information can lead to instructional planning that will increase students’ effectiveness with print.

Determining Reading Levels

The following reading levels can be determined for individual students by administering an IRI:

  • Independent Level: The student reads fluently with excellent comprehension
  • Instructional Level: The student can make progress in reading with instructional guidance
  • Frustration Level: The student is unable to pronounce many of the words or is unable to comprehend the material well

Analyzing Oral Reading Miscues

Oral reading errors are also called miscues. Miscues are a deviation or difference between what a reader says and the word on the page. Miscue analysis can be applied to graded passages form an IRI or to the oral reading of a single passage that presents the student with an extended and intensive reading experience. To analyze miscues, you should ask at least four critical questions:

  1. Does the miscue change the meaning?
  2. Does the miscue sound like language?
  3. Do the miscue and the text word look and sound alike?
  4. Was an attempt made to correct the miscue?

Running Records

An assessment system for determining students’ development of oral reading fluency and word identification skills and strategies.

Analyzing Running Records

In order to determine appropriate material connections and instructional decisions from running records. The teacher calculate the words read correctly, analyze the student’s errors, and identify pattern of errors. The teacher pays close attention to self corrections. Running records provide insights into students’ strengths and weaknesses by allowing teachers to analyze patterns of miscues.

Other Informal Assessments

Words Correct Per Minute assessment involves students reading aloud for one minute from materials used in their reading lessons. The teacher also crosses off any words that were read incorrectly.

Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills includes a series of oral reading skill assessments. This includes:

  • letter naming fluency
  • initial sound fluency
  • phoneme segmentation fluency
  • non-sense word fluency
  • oral reading fluency

Portfolio Assessment

Portfolios are collections that document the literacy development of a student and include evidence of student work in various stages. The following elements may be included in a portfolio:

  • Varied types of work, often completed over time
  • Written and artistic responses to reading
  • Writing in various genres
  • Teacher-assigned and student-generated work
  • Notes in a reading log or response journal
  • List of books read, updated regularly
  • Students’ self-reflections

Anecdotal Notes

These capture the gist of an incident that reveals something the teacher considers significant to understanding a student’s literacy learning. Anecdotal notes are intended to safeguard against the limitations of memory. Will aid the teacher in classifying information, inferring behavior, and making predictions about individual students or instructional strategies and procedures.


A checklist consists of categories that have been presented for specific diagnostic purposes. They can be relatively short and open-ended or longer and more detailed.


Through interviewing, the teacher can discover what students are thinking and feeling. Periodic student interviews can lead to a better understanding of:

  • Reading interests and attitudes
  • How students perceive their strengths and weaknesses
  • How they perceive processes related to language learning

Vacca, J. L., Vacca, R. T., & Gove, M. K. (2012). Reading and learning to read (8th ed.). New York: Longman.

Classroom Application

There were so many different types of assessment listed in this chapter that I will use in my classroom some day. The informal assessment options were very interesting because they will be something I have more control over choosing instead of formal assessments which seem to be chosen more by the school district. Running records and observations will probably be the two assessments I use most.

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