Sunday, October 01, 2006

On the Importance of Formative Assessments

I went to a conference on Read Naturally over the summer (read all about it here) where they gave us some neat new assessment tools to use with our kids. I've been going over the results this weekend, and it's giving me a lot to think about.

The first test I gave was Letter Naming Fluency using Read Naturally's Reading Fluency Benchmark Assessor. It's very comparable to the LNF test that comes with DIBELS, but being able to do it on the computer and get the results printed out for you is pretty slick. Of my 24 kids it showed 5 at level 2 (some risk) and 2 at level 1 (at risk) on the three-tier intervention model that's all the rage nowadays. With the two kids on level 1 one of them is IEPed for developmental delays, which makes me worry quite a bit aabout the littler girl who only scored one point better than he did.

After that I had one of my moms who used to be a teacher give the kids a test called the Quick Phonics Screener, which looked at letter names, letter sounds, and sounding out short vowel words. It confirmed what I'd already been told by the RFBA and also showed some other kids who were stumbling with blending especially.

Tomorrow I'm giving all the kids the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) which measures fluency and accuracy. After it's done, I think I'll have more than enough information to set my reading groups up the right way.

It's always fun to take this beginning of the year information and see how far they go by the time the year ends. It's also disheartening to see some of the kids not make the growth they should, and it's really depressing when you get to the end of the year and there are kids who have only grown barely, if at all. It's important, though.

There's a myth out there that teachers are anti-test. It's not true. All teachers test and assess; the difference is in what we do with the information. If you're going to judge a teacher by how their kids perform on a test on a day, you're going to make incorrect conclusions if you don't also look at where the kids started and where they are now. This is why the WASL isn't really a good assessment of kids--it doesn't show what they've learned or where they need help with nearly enough precision.

I like tests. They may frustrate me and the kids on occasion, but they're a tool that can help learning measurably.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree about tests. I use them all the time.

However, I don't confuse them with the Ten Commandments.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Michele at AFT said...

Interesting post--we promoted it on our blog this week.

11:28 AM  
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5:11 AM  

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